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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Anonymous Poems, Málsháttakvæði, 6 [Vol. 3, 1220]

[2] gafa ‘a fool’: M. nom. sg. gafi ‘buffoon, griffon’: a crux. See LP, LP (1860), AEW: gafi; Fritzner IV: gafe. The word gafi ‘griffon’ translates Lat. gryps ‘griffon’, the four-footed bird of fable, in Stjórn (Unger 1862, 316; Levit XI.12-13). Cf. ON gafi ‘gull’ < Lat. gavia ‘sea-bird’, and especially Isidore, Etym. 12.2.17 on the dreaded gripes, part lion, part eagle, born in the distant Hyperborean mountains, which ‘tear humans apart when they see them’. For gafi ‘buffoon’, cf. OE gaff, gegaf ‘foolish behaviour’, gafspræc ‘gossip, ribaldry’ and saga-proverbs such as in Grettis saga (Gr ch. 59, ÍF 7, 189): spyrja mun þér bezt þykkja við hann at eiga ‘hearsay will be the safest way for you to handle him’; Hœnsa Þóris saga (ch. 6, ÍF 3, 18): spyrja er bezt til váligra þegna ‘it is best only to hear about wicked men’; also Fóstbrœðra saga (Fbr ch. 4, ÍF 6, 137); so Möbius (1874) followed by Wisén (1886-9, I): ‘vir improbus’.


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