Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjóð Yt 12I/6 — hǫrva ‘of flax cords’

Varð Jǫrundr,
hinns endr of dó,
lífs of lattr
í Limafirði,
þás hábrjóstr
hǫrva Sleipnir
bana Goðlaugs
of bera skyldi.
Ok Hagbarðs
hersa valdi
hǫðnu leif
at halsi gekk.

Jǫrundr, hinns endr of dó, varð of lattr lífs í Limafirði, þás hábrjóstr Sleipnir hǫrva skyldi of bera bana Goðlaugs. Ok leif hǫðnu Hagbarðs gekk at halsi valdi hersa.

Jǫrundr, the one who died long ago, was deprived of his life in Limfjorden when the high-breasted Sleipnir <horse> of flax cords [GALLOWS] had to carry the slayer of Guðlaugr [= Jǫrundr]. And the remnant of the kid [LEATHER STRAP] of Hagbarðr <Danish legendary hero> [NOOSE] went around the neck of the lord of hersar [KING].


[6] hǫrva: hǫrpu F, ‘hurfa’ J2ˣ, hurfu R685ˣ


[5-6] hábrjóstr Sleipnir hǫrva ‘the high-breasted Sleipnir <horse> of flax cords [GALLOWS]’: The base-word of this kenning, Sleipnir, is explained in terms of the idiomatic expression ‘to ride the gallows’, cf. Note to st. 9/10, 11-12. As the determinant, (a) most previous eds also adopt the reading hǫrva ‘of flax cords’ based on , and Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) refers to Egill Hfl 13/7V, where hǫrvar denotes bowstrings. (b) Wadstein (1895a, 68-9), however, followed by Noreen (Yt 1925) prioritizes the reading hurfu (J2ˣ), which he interprets as gen. sg. of *hvarfa according to ANG §77.10. In explanation he refers to Swed. dialectal hurfa, horfa and Norw. korve, kverva ‘withy’, a ring of willow. This is worthy of consideration in light of the fact that it was common to use a withy in hangings (Amira 1913, 241; ‘Hängen’, HDA, 3, 1438-1460). The assumption of Åkerlund (1939, 93) that a scribe had replaced a word unknown to him with hǫrva might also support this. Strangulation with a loop of twisted branches was probably the antecedent of the later practice of hanging with a rope noose (Amira 1922, 95-6).




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