Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Har 3II/8 — fer ‘splittable’

Rétt kann rœði slíta
ræsis herr ór verri;
ekkja stendr ok undrask
ára burð sem furðu.
Ært mun, snót, áðr sortuð
sæfǫng í tvau ganga
(þǫll leggr við frið fullan)
ferkleyf (á þat leyfi).

Herr ræsis kann slíta rœði rétt ór verri; ekkja stendr ok undrask burð ára sem furðu. Ært mun, snót, áðr sortuð, ferkleyf sæfǫng ganga í tvau; þǫll leggr leyfi á þat við fullan frið.

The prince’s troop know how to whip the oars expertly up from the stroke; the woman stands and wonders at the handling of the oars, as a marvel. There’ll be rowing [enough], lady, before the tarred sea-gear [oars], splittable in four, break in two; the fir-tree <woman> gives her approval to this in complete peace.


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


[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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