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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 37. Sigvatr Þórðarson, 2. Nesjavísur, 10 [Vol. 1, 571]

[1] kylfur ‘stem-fittings’: This is the sole skaldic attestation of kylfa, which normally means ‘club’, as a nautical term. Jesch (2001a, 150) explains it as the highest and narrowest part of the ship’s stem, where ‘stem’ means both prow and stern (ibid., 144; but see Note on ll. 7, 8 of this stanza). The highest part of the stem stood in the way of would-be boarders but, being made of relatively slender pieces of timber, could readily be cut down so as to gain easier access (ibid., 150; cf. Christensen 1985, 158-60, 232). Most boarding and fighting seems to have taken place at either end of the ship, not amidships (Jesch 2001a, 213). The sg. variant svarta kylfu ‘black stem-fitting’ in 325V, 325VII, Flat and Tóm has been explained as an attempt to bring the stanza into closer agreement with the prose narrative (ÍF 27).


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