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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, 4. Sexstefja, 27 [Vol. 2, 140-3]

[4] vǫluspakra ‘of joint-calm’: The syntax and meaning of the helmingr are complete without these syllables, which constitute a localised, but difficult crux. The mss are divided between vǫlu and vala, each of which is grammatically and lexically ambiguous, and it is not obvious whether vǫlu/vala and spakra form a cpd or not. The gen. pl. spakra, assuming it is not used substantivally, ‘of the wise ones’, must qualify bauga ‘rings’, which is striking in itself since spakr is usually applied in skaldic poetry to human beings, especially in contexts where the theme is wisdom or native wit; ‘peaceable’ is another possible sense. (a) Finnur Jónsson takes vǫlu as gen. sg. of vala f. ‘joint-bone’ in a cpd vǫluspakr, describing the rings as resting peaceably on the arm-bone (SnE 1848-87, I, 399, Skj B and LP: vǫluspakr, though see also LP: vala where Finnur takes the word as referring to leg-bones; so also Faulkes in SnE 1998, II, 431). This seems the best solution available without recourse to emendation, but it cannot be regarded as at all certain. (b) A solution involving instead valr ‘falcon, hawk’ as the determinant of the arm-kenning is attractive, given that ‘falcon’s ground’ is the most common pattern of arm-kenning (Meissner 141) and that one such kenning is found in the second helmingr; but bauga would be left without function, unless it joined ǫrð burðar Yrsu to mean ‘gold of/in rings’. Fidjestøl (1982, 137-9) argued for brattakr vala ‘steep field of falcons [ARM]’ and suggested emendation of bauga to bjúgri ‘curved’ qualifying dat. sg. ǫrð ‘grain, corn, produce’ and describing simultaneously the metaphorical grain or corn (bending in the wind) and the actual gold (rings), the referent of the kenning of which ǫrð is the base-word. However, this seems a little forced, and a solution which avoids emendation is in principle preferable. (c) Collocations, especially in eddic poetry, of Valir ‘Franks, the French’ or valr ‘Frankish, French’ with terms for treasure, e.g. valamalmr StarkSt Vík 25/2VIII, Hyndl 9/2, or valbaugr Akv 27/10 offer tantalising possibilities, such as brattakr bauga spakra Vala ‘steep field of rings of clever Franks’. As a further element of complexity, Fidjestøl (1982, 140) notes the possibility of word-play on valr: ‘falcon’ and ‘the slain’.

references

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