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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. 37. Sigvatr Þórðarson (biog. vol. 1), Bersǫglisvísur, 14 [Vol. 2, 25-6]

[8] greifum (m. dat. pl.) ‘counts’: The earliest attested occurrence of this honorific in ON (see LP: greifi; Fritzner: greifi). According to Snorri (SnE 1998, I, 80), greifar (either from OE gerēfa ‘reeve’ or from MLG grāve ‘count’; AEW: greifi) were the Saxon equivalents of Engl. barons and Norw. hersar and district chieftains (lendir menn). Such men were appointed by the king to be in charge of the legal and defensive administration of the districts. Sigvatr’s knowledge of the foreign term must stem from his extensive travels on the Continent and in England. His fondness for loanwords is also reflected in st. 18/4 below.


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