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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, 1. Magnússflokkr, 11 [Vol. 2, 77-8]

[All]: The meaning of the helmingr is clear enough: someone urged others to drive shields onwards (bað ... knýja bǫðský framar) where they fought (þars bǫrðusk), and the commands brought results (boð þrifusk). However, there are some interdependent points of difficulty or grammatical ambiguity (as well as some which are less integral to the helmingr as a whole, and which are treated separately below), and the solutions adopted determine whether it is Magnús or his men who are most prominent in the st. In l. 1, the most natural interpretation is that Magnús is nom., subject to bað ‘urged’ and that rekka ‘heroes’ is acc. pl., object to bað. However, Magnús could be construed as acc. or gen. (i.e. Magnúss), and rekka as gen. pl. In l. 2 the Hkr scribes have hesitated between mann / maðr ‘man’ and menn ‘men’, readings which might all have arisen from mannr, and the aðalhending guarantees either nom. sg. mannr or acc. sg. mann. If mannr is the correct reading, it must be the subject of bað ‘urged’, and if Magnús is also nom., the two subjects must be assumed to share bað ‘urged’ as their single predicate. If acc. mann is the correct reading it would have to be qualified by annan ‘another man’, a sg. phrase in parallel with pl. rekka. There are two main ways of construing the helmingr with these difficulties in mind. (a) In the solution adopted in the text above, l. 1 is taken the most obvious way, as adv., verb, subject and object in a single cl., mjǫk bað Magnús rekka, lit. ‘strongly urged Magnús the heroes’. Line 2 is taken as an informal variant on this, with repetition of bað understood, hence mannr rǫskliga annan ‘one man boldly (urged/urging) another’, which could either still refer to Magnús or could represent his men passing on the incitement. Line 3 then forms a neat coupling of intercalated cl. and subordinate cl., each complete in itself. A solution along these lines is adopted by Kock, though see the Note to l. 3 below. (b) mannr rekka Magnúss (ll. 1-2) could be taken as a single noun phrase, and subject of the verb bað, hence ‘[each] man among Magnús’s heroes urged ...’ (so ÍF 28 and Hkr 1991). This is also an attractive solution, though the phrase is slightly tautological. (c) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B) takes mjǫk bað mannr annan knýja rǫskliga bǫðský framar together, ‘one man strongly urged another to drive shields boldly onwards’ (and hǫrð ‘stern, hard’ is taken with boð ‘commands’ in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and with bǫðský ‘shields’ in Skj B). This makes good sense, but leaves boð Magnús rekka þrifusk as a unit, which entails the audience deducing that Magnús rekka in l. 1 are not, respectively, the subject and object of bað in the same l. but are instead a gen. phrase belonging with hǫrð þrifusk boð in l. 3, hence ‘the commands of Magnús’s heroes brought results’. (d) The H-Hr reading mjúklyndr á mar synda ‘gentle-minded to swim on the sea (?)’ would follow on grammatically from l. 1 but is not compatible with the helmingr as a whole.

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