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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Har 3II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 152-4.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonStanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr
234

Rétt ‘expertly’

3. réttr (adj.; °compar. -ari, superl. -astr): right, straight, direct

notes

[1] rétt ‘expertly’: (a) This is taken here as an adv. ‘correctly, perfectly’ describing the men’s rowing; it could alternatively mean ‘directly’, specifically describing the oars being lifted out of the sea (so Hkr 1991). (b) Most eds read rétt as a n. acc. pl. adj. meaning ‘straight, even’ and qualifying rœði ‘oars’; this also is very possible, and the FGT context would favour it (Hreinn Benediktsson and Haugen both translate ‘straight oars’ in FGT 1972a, FGT 1972b). The emphasis on rowing in Hkr and H-Hr might on the other hand favour (a).

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ræsis ‘The prince’s’

ræsir (noun m.): ruler

[2] ræsis: ‘ręðiz’ E, reiðis H, Hr

notes

[2] ræsis ‘of the prince’: The variant reiðis ‘wielder’s’ (so H, Hr) would be a nomen agentis base-word in a kenning for ‘warrior’ or ‘ruler’, but there is no suitable determinant.

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verri ‘the stroke’

notes

[2] verri ‘the stroke’: Vǫrr m. means both ‘pull of the oar, stroke’ and ‘sea’, but since ‘stroke’ seems more apt in the closely related st. 4/3, it is favoured here.

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stendr ‘stands’

standa (verb): stand

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ára ‘of the oars’

1. ár (noun f.; °-ar, dat. u/-; -ar/-ir(LandslBorg 151b²¹)): oar

notes

[4] burð ára ‘handling of the oars’: So Poole 1991, 60. The translation highlights the admiration of the crew’s skill; the slightly more neutral ‘motion’ is also possible.

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burð ‘at the handling’

burðr (noun m.; °-ar, dat. -/-i; -ir): birth

notes

[4] burð ára ‘handling of the oars’: So Poole 1991, 60. The translation highlights the admiration of the crew’s skill; the slightly more neutral ‘motion’ is also possible.

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furðu ‘a marvel’

1. furða (noun f.): marvel

[4] furðu: furði 570a

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Ært ‘rowing’

2. ærr (adj.): [rowing]

[5] Ært: ‘ꜹrt’ Kˣ, J2ˣ, ert F, E, H, Hr, ‘ertt’ 570a

notes

[5] ært mun ‘there’ll be rowing [enough]’: Or ‘there’ll be [hard] rowing’. The mss all have ‘ert’ or ‘ꜹrt’, which seems to point to the n. nom./acc. sg. of the adj. err or ǫrr ‘swift, active, generous’, but this would not fit the syntax (snót ‘woman’ being f.), whereas the p. p. of æra ‘to row’ seems eminently suitable in the context. Fms 12 translates ert mun snót as henni mun falla illa ‘she will be distressed’ and understands the rest of the helmingr as ‘if the oars split in two; the woman (þǫll) would permit the oars to break if there were peace in the land’.

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mun ‘There’ll be’

munu (verb): will, must

notes

[5] ært mun ‘there’ll be rowing [enough]’: Or ‘there’ll be [hard] rowing’. The mss all have ‘ert’ or ‘ꜹrt’, which seems to point to the n. nom./acc. sg. of the adj. err or ǫrr ‘swift, active, generous’, but this would not fit the syntax (snót ‘woman’ being f.), whereas the p. p. of æra ‘to row’ seems eminently suitable in the context. Fms 12 translates ert mun snót as henni mun falla illa ‘she will be distressed’ and understands the rest of the helmingr as ‘if the oars split in two; the woman (þǫll) would permit the oars to break if there were peace in the land’.

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áðr ‘before’

áðr (adv.; °//): before

[5] áðr: ef E, 570a, H, at Hr

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sortuð ‘the tarred’

2. sorta (verb): [tarred]

[5] sortuð: so 570a, svǫrtu Kˣ, J2ˣ, H, Hr, sortað F, sættut E

notes

[5] sortuð ‘tarred’: The reading svǫrtu ‘black’ in , H and Hr is also possible.

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‘sea’

sjór (noun m.): sea < sæfang (noun n.): [sea-gear [oar]]

[6] fǫng (‘siáfang’): sjáfǫng F

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fǫng ‘gear [oars]’

fang (noun n.; °-s; *-): grasp, tunic < sæfang (noun n.): [sea-gear [oar]]

[6] fǫng (‘siáfang’): sjáfǫng F

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ganga ‘break’

2. ganga (verb; geng, gekk, gengu, genginn): walk, go

[6] ganga: so F, E, 570a, H, Hr, gangi Kˣ, J2ˣ

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þǫll ‘the fir-tree’

þǫll (noun f.): fir-tree

notes

[7] þǫll ‘fir-tree <woman>’: (a) This is assumed here to be a heiti for woman, as it is in Þul Kvenna II, 2/3III (so also Fms 12), though strictly it should be termed a half-kenning, exceptional at this date, since tree-names such as þǫll are usually qualified by a determinant, e.g. ‘fir-tree of jewels [WOMAN]’. (b) Þǫll could alternatively be read as a term for ship, comparable with fura ‘fir-tree’ in ÞjóðA Lv 2/4, or perhaps as ‘oar’ (so ÍF 28 and Poole 1991). Hence it is the ship or oar that gives permission. Indeed, in Poole’s view (1991, 71) ‘Þjóðólfr speaks of the oar metaphorically as an authority figure, which grants leave for hard rowing with the assurance that the rower will not suffer any penalty’. The vocabulary of the st., he notes, is legal (slíta ‘break’, friðr ‘peace, safe conduct’, and leyfi ‘leave, permission’), relating specifically to laws on safe conduct and personal sanctuary. Such an extreme personification would be exceptional (as Kock, responding to a similar suggestion from Reichardt, points out, NN §1908), though there are less dramatic parallels. In st. 5, for instance, the ships ‘allow the headland to protect them’ (láta eið hlýja sér). (c) Finnur in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B emends fullan fer kleyfa to fyllar fúr, kleyf, in which kleyf ‘cleavable’ describes the oars (sæfǫng, l. 6) and the remainder forms a woman-kenning with þǫll ‘fir’ in l. 7: fyllar fúr-þǫll ‘fir of the fire of the sea [GOLD > WOMAN]’, but this involves quite radical emendation and the assumption of awkward tmesis. (d) The eds of Hkr 1991 read þöll leggr það leyfi ferkleyfa ‘the lady gives the blessing of the four-leaved clover’ in ll. 7-8, citing C15th evidence of an ancient belief in the four-leaved clover as a talisman of luck for travellers.

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leggr ‘gives’

leggja (verb): put, lay

[7] leggr: liggr E, H, Hr

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við ‘in’

2. við (prep.): with, against

notes

[7] við fullan frið ‘in complete peace’: (a) This is here taken to qualify the lady’s giving of permission, with equanimity, in ll. 7-8. (b) It is taken by many eds, however, with ært mun in l. 5, hence ‘there will be rowing in peace (before the oars split)’, suggesting a contrast with the greater strain on men and ships in battle. (c) Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV tentatively raised the further possibility of reading við, fríð, with fríð ‘beautiful’ qualifying þǫll ‘fir’ or snót ‘woman’ (and við not explained).

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frið ‘peace’

friðr (noun m.): peace

[7] frið: þrif 570a

notes

[7] við fullan frið ‘in complete peace’: (a) This is here taken to qualify the lady’s giving of permission, with equanimity, in ll. 7-8. (b) It is taken by many eds, however, with ært mun in l. 5, hence ‘there will be rowing in peace (before the oars split)’, suggesting a contrast with the greater strain on men and ships in battle. (c) Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV tentatively raised the further possibility of reading við, fríð, with fríð ‘beautiful’ qualifying þǫll ‘fir’ or snót ‘woman’ (and við not explained).

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fer ‘splittable’

fjórir (num. cardinal): four < ferkleyfr (adj.)

[8] fer‑: separate from the next word in all mss except E

notes

[8] ferkleyf ‘splittable in four’: The reading is quite well established in the mss, with H’s fer klaufa as the only variation, though fer is separate in all mss, and a further complication is that the following ‑a is joined to kleyf in some mss but a separate prep. á in others. The hap. leg. ferkleyf should probably, as LP points out, mean ‘divided into four’, with kleyf- related to kljúfa ‘cleave, split’, but it is problematic in context and gives rise to a rich diversity of possibilities. Taking first the meaning of the word itself, further suggestions include ‘four-stranded’ (ferstrendur, ÍF 28, presumably thinking of lamination), ‘four-edged’ (Poole 1991, 60) or ‘rectangular’ (Jesch 2001a, 154). Emendation to fákleyf ‘rarely splitting’ is suggested by Kock (NN §153). There are also alternative construals: (a) The interpretation adopted here takes ferkleyf as n. nom. pl., qualifying sæfǫng ‘sea-gear [oars]’ in l. 6, hence the apt but odd áðr ferkleyf sæfǫng ganga í tvau ‘before the oars, splittable in four, break in two’. The oddity could be avoided by assuming one of the senses above, or adopting Kock’s emendation to fákleyf ‘rarely splitting’. (b) The adj. could instead be strong f. nom. sg. qualifying þǫll ‘fir, pine’ (l. 5), as assumed, e.g., by Poole 1991, 60 and Jesch 2001a, 154 (see (b) above).

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kleyf ‘ in four’

kleyfr (adj.): [ in four] < ferkleyfr (adj.)

[8] ‑kleyf á: ‘kleifa’ J2ˣ, klaufa H

notes

[8] ferkleyf ‘splittable in four’: The reading is quite well established in the mss, with H’s fer klaufa as the only variation, though fer is separate in all mss, and a further complication is that the following ‑a is joined to kleyf in some mss but a separate prep. á in others. The hap. leg. ferkleyf should probably, as LP points out, mean ‘divided into four’, with kleyf- related to kljúfa ‘cleave, split’, but it is problematic in context and gives rise to a rich diversity of possibilities. Taking first the meaning of the word itself, further suggestions include ‘four-stranded’ (ferstrendur, ÍF 28, presumably thinking of lamination), ‘four-edged’ (Poole 1991, 60) or ‘rectangular’ (Jesch 2001a, 154). Emendation to fákleyf ‘rarely splitting’ is suggested by Kock (NN §153). There are also alternative construals: (a) The interpretation adopted here takes ferkleyf as n. nom. pl., qualifying sæfǫng ‘sea-gear [oars]’ in l. 6, hence the apt but odd áðr ferkleyf sæfǫng ganga í tvau ‘before the oars, splittable in four, break in two’. The oddity could be avoided by assuming one of the senses above, or adopting Kock’s emendation to fákleyf ‘rarely splitting’. (b) The adj. could instead be strong f. nom. sg. qualifying þǫll ‘fir, pine’ (l. 5), as assumed, e.g., by Poole 1991, 60 and Jesch 2001a, 154 (see (b) above).

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á ‘to’

3. á (prep.): on, at

[8] ‑kleyf á: ‘kleifa’ J2ˣ, klaufa H

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leyfi ‘approval’

leyfi (noun n.; °-s): [approval]

notes

[8] leyfi ‘approval’: ‘Permission’ is the most usual OIcel. sense of the word. Finnur Jónsson (in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B) and Kock (in NN §§1908, 2989) proposed ‘praise’, cf. lof ‘permission’ and ‘praise’. The Engl. translation here attempts to bridge these two senses.

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Interactive view: tap on words in the text for notes and glosses

In Hkr, the st. follows st. 2 with no link, while has a brief link and H-Hr a comment on rowing equivalent to that preceding st. 2 in Hkr. In FGT the author has just introduced goþrøþe and góþ rǿþe ‘good oars’ (the former being dat. sg. of the pers. n. Goðrøðr) as a minimal pair containing long and short vowels respectively. He then cites ll. 1-2 with: Þat erv goðar árar sem skalld qvað ‘that is good oars, as the skald said’ (FGT 1972a, 222).

The st. praises both the construction of the warship and the expertise of its crew, and the ambiguity of some of the vocabulary (rétt in l. 1, verri in l. 2, and burð ára in l. 4) leaves it uncertain quite what the balance between the two is. — [5-8]: There are numerous subtle difficulties and ambiguities in this helmingr, and although the solution adopted here seems the best to the present ed. it is by no means certain.

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