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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. VII. Poetry on Christian Subjects

8. Introduction

1. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages – a New Edition (MCR)
2. The Corpus of Medieval Icelandic Christian Skaldic Poetry (MCR)
3. Genres of Christian Skaldic Poetry (MCR)
4. Manuscripts (MCR)
5. Poets and their Audiences (MCR)
6. History of Scholarship and Reception of Christian Skaldic Poetry (MCR)
7. Verse-forms and Diction of Christian Skaldic Verse (MCR)
8. The Treatment of Foreign Learned Words and Foreign Personal Names in Skaldic Poetry (KEG)
9. Normalisation of Fourteenth-Century Poetry (KEG)
10. How to use this Edition (MCR)

(Vol. VII. Poetry on Christian Subjects > 8. Introduction > 8. The Treatment of Foreign Learned Words and Foreign Personal Names in Skaldic Poetry)

8. The Treatment of Foreign Learned Words and Foreign Personal Names in Skaldic Poetry (KEG)

Christian skaldic poetry contains a wealth of learned foreign words and personal names, mostly Latin, or latinised Greek and Hebrew, which have been treated in a highly divergent and idiosyncratic manner by earlier editors. Whereas such words in Old English have been subject to several studies (see Sievers 1885, 492-3; Pogatscher 1888; Sievers 1893, 124-7; Pyles 1943; Campbell 1959, §§493-564, esp. §§545-64), scant attention has been paid to the spelling, stress and quantity of learned foreign words in Old Norse poetry. In an 1894 article, most likely prompted by Pogatscher’s (1888) extensive study of Old English and Larsson’s (1893) examination of the placement of accents in the Icelandic Homily Book (HómÍsl), Finnur Jónsson attempted to establish rules for accentuation and stress in Latin and Hebrew words in Old Norse poetry. His discussion suffers from an imperfect knowledge of Old Norse metrics and prosody, but the principles he formulated became normative in his editions of Christian poetry in Skj B. In Skald, Kock at first followed Finnur’s spelling and accentuation, and only in the later stages of his editing (of Mgr and Mey) did he begin to correct Finnur’s erroneous orthographic practices (see NN §§2680, 2970).

For the purposes of the present edition, we have reexamined the entire corpus of Latin and latinised Greek and Hebrew names in skaldic poetry from the ninth to the fourteenth century, and we have sought to establish rules for the distribution of stress and quantity that will be outlined in some detail below. The new guidelines are based on the metrical treatment of foreign words in dróttkvætt, hrynhent, fornyrðislag and hálfhneppt, while paying close attention to Old Norse prosody as well as Latin stress and quantity. Because the dróttkvætt and hrynhent metres are syllable-counting and contain internal rhymes, the metrical types are easier to identify than in Old English alliterative poetry. The placement and quality of the internal rhymes are also very helpful for establishing guidelines for the treatment of the foreign words and names (for the metrical patterns of Old Norse poetry, see Gade 1995, 73-172).

In Old Norse poetry, the stress patterns in Latin words and phrases tend to agree with the stress patterns of such words in Old English alliterative poetry (see Sievers 1885, 492-3; Pogatscher 1888; Sievers 1893, 124-7; Pyles 1943; Campbell 1959, §§545-64) while adhering to the rules that govern Old Norse metres. In other words, the words are treated as learned loanwords following native stress patterns (see Pyles 1943, 894). Full stress falls on the first syllable of a word, thus obliterating the Latin stress on the penultimate or antepenultimate in trisyllabic, tetrasyllabic and pentasyllabic words. But the syllables that received stress in Latin are usually also stressed in Old Norse (for a detailed discussion of Latin stress and quantity, see Allen 1989, 83-94).

Consider the following example (fully stressed syllables are underlined): Heil 11/2 Dómiciánus ‘Domitian’. As far as fully stressed syllables are concerned, they must be metrically long (see Sievers 1885, 492; Pogatscher 1888, 21-4; Pyles 1943, 895-9). In Old Norse poetry, a syllable comprising three or more morae (a long vowel plus one or more consonants or a short vowel plus two or more consonants) is long and can occupy a metrically long, stressed position (see Kuhn 1983, 53-5; Gade 1995, 28-34): Mey 26/1 Ágáða ‘Agatha’, Mgr 29/6 Longínus ‘Longinus’. In the present edition length is therefore assigned to a syllable occupying metrically long, stressed positions regardless of the Latin quantity (hence Plácitus and not Placitus). However, a metrically long, stressed position can also be filled by two short syllables (resolution, see Kuhn 1983, 55-6; Gade 1995, 60-6) when the metre demands this and the corresponding Latin quantity in the first of the resolved syllables is short: Mey 56/5 Benedictus ‘Benedict’, Heil 11/4 Elutéríum ‘Eleutherius’. In the excerpted corpus of Latin names and words, there are also instances in which a short syllable can resolve with a long syllable and fill a metrically long position: Mgr 12/6 Pilátus ‘Pilate’, Mgr 21/2 korónu ‘crown’, Mgr 7/2 Heródes ‘Herod’, Pét 33/5 Saphíra ‘Sapphira’ (for indigenous examples and their absence in early poetry, see Kuhn 1929, 184-214). Under reduced stress, two short syllables can occupy two metrical positions: Pl 6/6 Ágápitus ‘Agapitus’, Pl 11/6 Plácitus ‘Placitus’, and, in a metrically subordinate position, Leið 18/8 pharaóni ‘Pharaoh’. Unstressed syllables regularly occupy dips: Mey 26/1 Ágáða ‘Agatha’, Mgr 29/6 Longínus ‘Longinus’. But a dip can also be filled by two short syllables (neutralisation; see Gade 1995, 60-6): Mey 52/1 Barbara ‘Barbara’, Mey 50/3 Brígiða ‘Bridget’.

Latin names with hiatus (two consecutive vowels) present a special problem. In Old Norse, no syllables can consist of a sequence of two orthographic short vowels unless the two vowels are part of a diphthong. Words containing the sequence of a long vowel plus a short vowel of the type glóa ‘glow’ and búa ‘dwell, occupy, prepare’ are treated metrically like such short disyllabic words as fara ‘go, travel’ and vita ‘know’ (see Kuhn 1983, 54; Gade 1995, 29-34). In that respect, Old Norse hiatus words can occupy a lift under resolution and a dip under neutralisation, or they can be treated as disyllabic under secondary stress. The Latin names in our corpus that contain the sequence of two short vowels are treated metrically like indigenous Old Norse words with the sequence long vowel plus short vowel, and are therefore reproduced as such, that is, by assigning length to the first vowel (Heil 13/2 Díonísíus ‘Dionysius’). The Latin endings -eas, -eus, -ia, -ias, -ius are treated uniformly as Old Norse hiatus words, regardless of Latin stress or lack thereof, and they are given as -éas, -éus, -ía, -ías, -íus respectively. The examples below illustrate the assignment of length and the metrical treatment of such names.

1.     Resolution under full stress:
6/8 Þéopistus trú misti ‘Theopistus faith lost’

2.     Non-resolution under reduced stress:
13/1 heldr Matthías vildi ‘rather Matthew wanted’

3.     Neutralisation under lack of stress:
39/3 Lúcía stóð í loganum blessuð ‘Lucia stood in the flame blessed’.

As in Old English (and Gothic), the syllabic [i:] in such names as Máría ‘Mary’ may have developed into the glide [j] when the trisyllabic name is treated as metrically disyllabic (Márja rather than Máría). That is certainly the case when the name occurs in the cadence in dróttkvætt or hrynhent lines, as in Mgr 19/4 sárin dróttins blessuð Máría ‘(the) wounds of (the) Lord blessed Mary’. Because it usually cannot be ascertained whether <ía> is treated as a resolved disyllabic ending or as [ja] (except in line-final position in the cadence), the present edition does not attempt to make a distinction between syllabic [i] and the glide [j], but retains the manuscript spellings with a syllabic vowel.

Multisyllabic names consisting of the sequence of a short vowel followed by a long vowel are not treated as hiatus words in the poetic corpus. Therefore names like Díocleciánus ‘Diocletian’ (Dío - cleci - ánus, with resolution in metrical position one and neutralisation in metrical position two) and Adriánus ‘Adrian’ (Adri - ánus) are both tetrasyllabic from a metrical point of view: Heil 26/3 Díocleciánus dauða nýjan ‘Diocletian new death’, Pl 58/7 andrán Adriánus ‘life-deprivation Adrian’. In the rare event that a Latin word contains the sequence of two vowels occupying two metrical positions (fully stressed and non-stressed), length is assigned to both vowels: Mgr 40/2 pátris déí formið gráti ‘of the son of God perform with weeping’. That is also the case when such names as Síón ‘Zion’ occupy two fully stressed positions: Mv III, 20/7 að sönnu las hann Síóns ‘indeed read he Zion’s’ (hálfhneppt metre).

In disyllabic latinised Hebrew names it is impossible to establish the length of the second syllable unless length can be determined by metrical position or by internal rhyme. Sometimes the length assignment is straightforward, as in Ádám ‘Adam’ (Lil 64/4 forn Ádám við Jésú kvámu ‘old Adam from Jesus’ arrival’), Dávíð ‘David’ (Has 48/2 Dávíð konungr síðan ‘David the king later’) and Ebrón ‘Hebron’ (Pét 20/8 Ebrón Móisi þjónar ‘Hebron Moses serves’). But the majority of such names contain a second syllable which is unstressed and occupies a dip. Following Larsson (1893), Finnur Jónsson (1894; Skj B) consistently assigned length to the second syllable in such names as Tómás ‘Thomas’, Énók ‘Enoch’, etc., whereas Kock (Skald) did not. In the present edition, length is assigned to the second syllable in disyllabic Hebrew names when warranted by internal rhyme or metre. In the absence of metrical evidence, we adhere to the Latin and Greek quantities: Énoch, Jácob, Jósép, Símón; but Jónas, Júdas, Tómas.

Some Latin and Hebrew names pose special problems for the assignment of stress and quantity because they are treated differently in different metrical environments or they are metrically ambivalent. The Hebrew name Moyses, for example (Latin Mōȳsēs, usually spelled in the Old Norse manuscripts with the diphthongs <oi> or <oy>), apparently could have length on either the first or the second element of <oi> / <oy> or on both. Consider the following examples: Pét 20/8 Ebrón Móisi þjónar ‘Hebron Moses serves’ (with resolution in metrical position three), Leið 18/2 lagavísum Móísi ‘law-wise Moses’ (treated as trisyllabic with secondary stress on - and primary stress and internal rhyme on -ís). The stress patterns in such names as Simonis ‘Simon’s’ and Jacobus ‘Jacob’ are also difficult to determine: Mey 8/8 góðr og mildur Símonis/Simónis bróðir ‘good and generous Simon’s brother’, Mey 8/5 mengið nefnir Jácobum/Jacóbum yngra ‘(the) crowd mentions Jacob (the) younger’, Mey 9/8 mektar sannr og Jácobus/Jacóbus annar ‘power-true and Jacob (the) second’. In all three instances the metre allows for neutralisation in metrical position six (-onis, -obis) or for resolution in metrical position five (Simón-, Jacób-). In these cases, we observe the Latin stress pattern with stress on the penultimate syllable (Simónis, Jacóbus, Jacóbum).

As far as the spelling of foreign names is concerned, earlier editions (in particular Skj B and Skald) frequently icelandicise the Latin spellings found in the manuscripts (e.g. Jóakíms or Jóakims for ‘ioachim’, Káfarnáum for ‘Kapharnaum’, Kéfás or Kéfas for ‘cephas’, etc.). In the present edition we attempt to reproduce the Latin orthography in the manuscripts more faithfully, but we assign accents to show the distribution of stress and length (see the discussion above). Because the orthographic representations of Latin and latinised Greek and Hebrew words were conservative (and the pronunciation must have been conservative as well), we do not subject such words to the same rules of normalisation as we apply to the indigenous Icelandic vocabulary. For example, although <é> ([e:]) was certainly diphthongised during the fourteenth century, there is no evidence that this vowel was diphthongised in such names as Pétrus ‘Peter’ and Andréas ‘Andrew’. Rather than subjecting these names to whole-scale normalisation (Pietrus, Andrieas), we retain the forms used in the manuscripts. New forms will be recorded in the texts and commented upon in the notes only when warranted by strong phonological evidence (e.g. internal rhymes).
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