Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Gamli kanóki, 1. Harmsól, 14 [Vol. 7, 86-7]

[7] hagskipt ‘a fair exchange’: B is very badly worn, and only ‘h[...]g[…]ppt’ can now be read with certainty. Although Finnur Jónsson (Skj A) does not indicate any uncertainty about his reading, previous transcribers of B are uncertain as to precisely what remains (see Readings). Skj B follows Sveinbjörn Egilsson and Kempff in reconstructing hagslept, from hagsleppr, adj. There are, however, some difficulties in assigning a meaning to hagsleppr here. Sveinbjörn (LP (1860)) suggests two possibilities: the first interprets hagsleppr as a cpd of hagr ‘state, condition’ and an adj. derived from the verb sleppa ‘to slip, miss, escape’. The n. form hagslept is glossed as amissio commodi ‘loss of advantage, profit’. The cl. því vasa hagslept would then mean ‘for that reason there was no loss of advantage’. For this to make sense in context, it would surely have to be understood ironically. Sveinbjörn’s second suggestion is that the adj. means ‘easily thrown away, abandoned’, with the sense that Gamli is declaring that he could not easily abandon his godless ways. In Skj B, Finnur Jónsson translates det kunde jeg ikke let holde op med ‘I could not easily stop that’, while LP: hagsleppr, gesturing towards hagr ‘advantage’, suggests det kunde jeg ikke med fordel slippe ‘I could not escape that with advantage’. Although this is a possible interpretation, it does seem, as Jón Helgason (1935-6, 255) contends, to be the opposite of Gamli’s intention here, since the sinner’s neglect of God’s anger in favour of men’s approval can only be to his advantage, at least in the short term. Jón therefore reconstructs hagskipt, which he derives from hagskipti ‘a fair or advantageous exchange’. Jón’s interpretation, which is followed by Kock (NN §2926), Black (1971, 176) and here, implies that the poet’s exchanging his concern for God’s wrath for a greater concern for men’s approval is not profitable for his soul.

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