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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Máríudrápa, 4 [Vol. 7, 481-2]

[6, 7, 8] og heiftum fáröflugra djöfla flærða ‘and the malevolence of anger-strong devils of deceit’: Skj B’s emendation to heptum (l. 6) provides full rhyme with -grepti, but causes problems of interpretation. Finnur appears to treat hept- as a synonym of B’s heift ‘war, conflict, feud, malevolence’. He takes heptum as dat. pl., in apposition with flærða (see below) and translates stød al frygt og de vrede-stærke djævles falskhed og forbitrelse med kraft bort fra menneskene ‘drive all fear and the anger-strong devils’ falsehood and bitterness forcefully away from men’. While hefti does not occur elsewhere with this meaning, such a noun might possibly derive from hepta ‘to bind, fetter, restrain, hobble, (metaphorically) to hinder’ (Fritzner: hepta). Kock (NN §1636) approves Finnur’s emendation to heptum, interpreting it with him as the dat. pl. of hefti ‘shaft of a weapon’. He assumes the weapon in question to be an arrow, and takes heftum flærða ‘with the weapons of deceits’ to be a reference to the arrows of deceit, with which devils assail mankind. This is a common motif in Christian exegesis, and probably has its origin in Paul’s account of spiritual armour in Eph. VI.16. Although Kock is correct in asserting that hefti usually refers to the shaft or haft of a weapon, it is invariably used of clutch-weapons, such as axes or knives (see CVC: hepti, heptisax), and is therefore unsuitable to the context he proposes. B’s heiftum (l.6) has been retained here, accepting the less than perfect rhyme, and interpreted as dat. pl. of f. heift ‘conflict, feud, malevolence’, parallel with ótta and undirgrefti as object of hrittu. Flærða is gen. pl. of flærð ‘deceit’, governed by fáröflugra djöfla (l. 8) ‘of anger-strong devils’, the wielders of heift.

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