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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Hugsvinnsmál, 80 [Vol. 7, 408-9]

[All]: Lat. parallel: (Dist. II, 26) Rem tibi quam scieris aptam dimittere noli: / fronte capillata, post haec occasio calva ‘The thing which you know to be fitting for you, do not give up; chance has a forelock in front, behind [that] is bald’. The Lat. distich draws upon a literary and iconographical tradition, originating in ancient Greece but well known in the Middle Ages, that the figure of Kairos, god of the fleeting moment (Lat. occasio) had a forelock in front, which those who were able could grasp, while the back of his head was bald to prevent people taking hold of him from behind. This symbolises the notion that the favourable moment must be grasped immediately, otherwise it is gone and cannot be regained; see further Moreno 1999. Clearly, the Icel. translator of this distich was unaware of the classical tradition.

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