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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Líknarbraut, 4 [Vol. 7, 233-4]

[7] lsku túni ‘(hedged) enclosure, field of eloquence [BREAST]’: In a note on the lacuna in B, 399a-bˣ (Jón Sigurðsson) conjectures ‘me᷎lzku’ (revised from ‘me᷎rðar’), which all eds have adopted. Guðrún Nordal 2001, 258 observes that mælska does not fit the typical pattern of determinants in chest-kennings and that it is ‘probably closer to the point to interpret [mælsku tún] as mouth’. (Cf. Meissner, 136 who, while construing it as ‘breast’, acknowledges that it could by itself be a kenning for ‘mouth’.) This suggestion seems however less probable with reference to the context. While myrkrum misverka ‘darkness of misdeeds’ (l. 5) could refer back to sins of the tongue in st. 2, it seems less likely that the poet is here praying to have his mouth cleansed than to have his heart purified. This is especially true because of the counterbalancing of two kennings – one in each helmingr – for the same locus. Surely it is the darkness now residing in his mælsku tún ‘enclosure of eloquence [BREAST]’ which he prays to have cleared away as light infuses his sal hjarta ‘hall of the heart [BREAST]’ (l. 4). The second element of the prayer, that the light clear away the blindi móðs munar ‘blindness of despondent mind’ (ll. 6, 8, 6), simply restates the entreaty of the first – that the darkness be driven from the poet’s breast (the seat of the mind). (See Note on lyndis láð ‘mind’s land [BREAST]’ at 5/3-4.)

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