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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Gamli kanóki, 1. Harmsól, 49 [Vol. 7, 116-17]

[5-8]: Although the essential meaning and content of the second helmingr are clear, previous eds have encountered difficulties in resolving the w.o. and, more particularly, in identifying the God-kenning. At the heart of the problem is the ms. reading søkkva in l. 5, which is not in any doubt. Sveinbjörn Egilsson, followed by Kempff, construes the kenning søkkvi sætrs sunnu, which Kempff (1867, 52) translates ‘creator of the seat of the sun’. No explanation is offered (but see LP (1860): sökkvi), and søkkvi meaning ‘creator’ is not attested elsewhere (see LP: søkkvi), the normal sense being ‘adversary, enemy, slayer’. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B and LP: søkkvi) is unable to make sense of the ms. reading, and emends to harra gen. sg. of harri m. ‘king, lord’. This creates the God-kenning harri sætrs sunnu ‘king of the seat of the sun’, which recalls the similar kennings vísi setrs sunnu (Has 13/6-8) and siklingr setrs sunnu (Leið 13/7-8). Kock (NN §§1057, 1208) takes søkkva as the gen. pl. of søkk, n., which he assumes to be cognate with OE sinc, meaning ‘jewel, treasure’. Neither AEW nor Alexander Jóhannesson 1951-6 gives any etymology for søkk n., and the word is attested in neither Fritzner nor CVC. However, søkk seems to make one (other) appearance in skaldic poetry, in Egill Arkv 8/3V, where it refers to the skald’s eyes. If søkk is understood to mean ‘jewel’, the God-kenning, according to Kock, is then formed by taking vinr from vingjafir in l. 8, and construing either vinr søkkva sunnu sætrs, or søkkvavinr sunnu sætrs ‘the generous lord of the seat of the sun [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]’. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 259-60) takes this one stage further. He accepts Kock’s interpretation of søkk as meaning ‘jewel’ or ‘treasure’, but does not feel that vinr søkkva sætrs sunnu is compatible with other God-kennings in Has. Instead, Jón takes søkk sætrs sunnu to mean ‘the treasure of heaven’, in the sense of the heavenly bodies, which are described in similar terms in 4/2-3 (hnossa himins – see Note). Jón also notes that landreki ‘ruler’ (l. 6) is used elsewhere in Has only in kennings for God, viz. landreki krapta (15/6) and landreki veðrs strandar (61/6): ‘I presume that landreki was originally part of the kenning for “God”, which is found in this half-st. ..., but that a copyist, who believed that the word was used of King David here, altered a dat. landreka to the nom. landreki’ (1935-6, 259). The God-kenning thus becomes landreki søkkva sætrs sunnu ‘ruler of the jewels of the seat of the sun’, which requires only minimal emendation, and fits well with the image-structure of the poem. Further evidence for landreki, rather than vinr, being the base-word here is afforded by the fact that the cpd vingjǫf (l. 8) is also used to describe the grace of God in Pl 28/7 and Heildr 17/8. This suggests that Jón’s resistance to Kock’s interpretation is well-founded.

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