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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, 4. Sexstefja, 14 [Vol. 2, 126-7]

[3] hamalt ‘in a wedge-shape’: This, the n. of hamall, of uncertain origin, almost always occurs adverbially with fylkja ‘line up troops’ (e.g. ÞjóðA Run 1 and Note; Notes to Gísl Magnkv 10/6 and Mark Eirdr 15/3; LP; Fritzner). In the present context of a sea-battle it is slightly problematic. (a) It is assumed here that the two couplets of the helmingr form self-contained clauses, and hence that it is the disposition of shields along the ship’s two gunwales that forms a wedge shape, as explained in LP: hamalt. The image may alternatively be of shields touching at the edges, forming a secure wall (as assumed in Hkr 1991). (b) To take hamalt with standa ‘stand’ (l. 2), predicated of the troop in l. 1, would seem attractive, although standa is already qualified by fast ‘firm’ (l. 1). Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901 and Skj B, perhaps in order to link hamalt with standa, chose the minority pl. reading sýndusk ‘they seemed’ in l. 3 and assumed a difficult cl. arrangement in which listeners would have to resist taking bað ‘ordered’ (l. 1) with the first inf. standa ‘stand’ and take it instead with the second inf. skilda ‘to set shields’ (l. 4), but his entry on hamall in LP suggests a change of mind (and see Kock’s response to the Skj B version in NN §858).


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