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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 28. Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, 2. Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar, 8 [Vol. 1, 413]

[4] við bǫlku randar ‘at the walls of the rim [SHIELDS]’: (a) Bǫlkr here seems most likely to function as the base-word of a shield-kenning (Reichardt 1928, 57-8), perhaps specifically one denoting the shield-wall (ONP: bǫlkr, balkr 3 ‘wall of people’; and cf. hnitvegg ‘clash-wall’ [SHIELD], st. 7/6). (b) Both Finnur Jónsson (in LP: 1. bǫlkr 2) and Kock (NN §475) suggest randar bǫlku means ‘shield section [of the laws]’, cf. erfðabǫlkr ‘inheritance section’. Kock takes this with the main clause, which thus becomes an extended metaphor: ‘axes’ law’, proclaimed við randar bǫlku ‘in accordance with the “shield section”’, results in imminent death (for the shield-bearers, presumably). While undeniably attractive, and supported e.g. by Ohlmarks (1958, 447), this interpretation is rather tenuous. Við bǫlku ‘in accordance with the [law-]section’ is otherwise unknown (ONP: bǫlkr, balkr 4). (c) In Skj B Finnur Jónsson construes bǫlkr randar as a battle-kenning (most likely ‘storm of the (shield)-rim’, cf. LP: 2. bǫlkr ‘storm’), and takes við randar bǫlku with the intercalary clause, which produces ‘life soon ended for men in the battle’.


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