Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 16. Þorkell klyppr Þórðarson, Lausavísa, 1 [Vol. 1, 269]

[5-6]: Whatever the precise meaning, the general sense of the helmingr is plain: Þorkell desires no pleasures before he has taken vengeance. But no very satisfactory interpretation of ll. 5-6 has been devised, and the impeccable poetic form discourages emendation. A particular point of obscurity is þekkja in l. 6, which could be inf. or 3rd pers. pl. pres. indic. of the verb ‘to recognise, know’ or various parts of the adj. þekkr ‘agreeable’. (a) The approach adopted here assumes that mér þekkja has the sense ‘please me, are agreeable to me’, which would normally be expressed by m. v. þekkjask. Dáða in the sole ms. witness is emended to nom. pl. dáðar. Since dáð is an i-stem noun, the inflexion -ar (rather than ‑ir) would be rare, but it does occur early (ANG §390.4). The thought is comparable to Hfr ErfÓl 2/3-4 heldr lét skyldir hauka hugrekki þekkja sér ‘rather the obliger of hawks [MAN] made courage dear to him’. (b) In a similar interpretation, dáðar þekkja is now an acc. with inf. construction with the sense ‘be content with’ usually expressed by þekkjask with nom. subject and acc. object, as in Gamlkan Has 15/3, 4VII en þekkjask dýrar dáðir ‘and be content with good deeds’. The two helmingar are linked, with the þekkja construction dependent on hygg eigi ‘I do not intend’ in l. 1, as a second object. Hence hygg eigi byggva … ok þekkja mér dáðar vallar dauðs, whose overall sense in this context is ‘I do not intend to occupy … and (merely) to accept the deeds of the field of death (i.e. without avenging them)’. (c) A variant on either of these interpretations would be to emend ‘vallar’ to gen. sg. valda ‘of the wielder’, hence valda dauðs ‘of the wielder of death [WARRIOR/RULER]’, cf. valdi styrjar ‘wielder of battle’ (SnSt Ht 63/2III). (d) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) appears to think that l. 5 may contain a kenning for ‘beer’, as the object of drekk ‘I drink’, and qualified by the adj. þekkja. He takes dauðs with bragnings, hence ‘of the dead prince’. (e) Kock (NN §343) suggests emending dauðs … þekkja to dauð … þekkjan ‘agreeable death’ as object of drekk, here ‘drink to, in honour of’. (f) Later (NN §2432) Kock proposes to retain the ms. reading, regarding dauðs vallar dáða ‘accomplishments of the field of death (i.e. battlefield)’ as object of drekk, the gen. case of dáða ‘deeds’ licensed by the negative construction, and mér þekkja as functioning like an apostrophe, ‘you who are agreeable to me’.


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