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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bersi Ólfl 1I/7 — hapts ‘for hindrance’

Hróðrs batt heilan líða
hagkennanda þenna,
en snarrœki slíku
svarat unnum vér gunnar.
Orð seldum þau elda
úthauðrs boða trauðir
knarrar hapts, sem keyptak,
kynstórs, at við brynju.

Batt þenna hagkennanda hróðrs líða heilan, en vér unnum svarat slíku snarrœki gunnar. Trauðir hapts seldum þau orð kynstórs boða elda úthauðrs knarrar, sem keyptak at við brynju.

You bade this skilled conveyor of praise [POET = me] to fare well, and we [I] managed to reply in kind to the keen cultivator of battle [WARRIOR = you, Óláfr]. Reluctant for hindrance, we [I] sold those words to the kin-mighty offerer of the fires of the outlying land of the ship [SEA > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = you, Óláfr] just as I had bought [them] from the tree of the mail-shirt [WARRIOR = you, Óláfr].


[7] hapts: ‘haptzt’ R686ˣ, ‘hap⸜d⸝z’ 325VI, ‘kaptz’ 78aˣ, happs 68, Flat, ‘kaps’ 325VII, hefsk Tóm


[6, 7] trauðir hapts ‘reluctant for hindrance’: Trauðir ‘reluctant’ is n. pl. qualifying vér ‘we [I]’, even though the reference is to the skald alone. (a) It is here construed, as in Skj B, with hapts, gen. sg. of hapt n., though this makes for a disjointed word order. The speaker’s reluctance must relate to the incident described retrospectively in the stanza, his exchange of greetings with King Óláfr, but the precise nature of the reluctance is uncertain. Hapt could mean ‘stasis, hindrance’ or ‘fetter’ (LP: hapt 1), perhaps referring to Bersi’s fear of being captured, which later materialised, or else to the rapidity with which he returned the king’s greeting (so Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV, translating uden tøven ‘without delay’). (b) Trauðir could stand alone, referring to the speaker’s reluctance to return the greeting, in which case hapts (which has clearly baffled some scribes) would appear to have its alternative sense ‘deity’ and to be part of the man-kenning in ll. 5-7. This is the analysis preferred by Kock (Skald and NN §684, followed in ÍF 27), reading boði elda úthauðrs hapts knarrar ‘offerer of the fires of the outer land of the deity of the ship [SEAFARER > SEA > GOLD > GENEROUS RULER]’. This departs from normal kenning usage in several ways, however. Although hapt knarrar ‘deity of the ship’ resembles a known pattern of kenning (see Meissner 278), such kennings denote ‘man’ rather than specifically ‘seafarer’, and even if ‘seafarer’ is correct there do not appear to be other sea-kennings on the pattern ‘land of the seafarer’. ‘Sea’ is normally determined by names of sea-kings or maritime terms of various sorts, not by words for sailors (Meissner 95-7). Further, hapt is not otherwise recorded as a base-word, and when used in the sense ‘gods’ it is normally pl.



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