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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Anonymous Þulur, 55. Kvenna heiti ókend, 1 [Vol. 3, 960]

[1-2] skal kenna þessi heiti kellu ‘one must qualify these names for woman’: The sense of kenna (kenna við or til) in poetics is ‘call something or someone after something or someone else’ (Clunies Ross 1987, 51). This technical meaning is probably implied here; i.e. that each of the ókend heiti listed below must be supplied with a determinant to form a periphrastic phrase, a kenning (cf. kent heiti = kenning in Snorri’s definition of the latter in Skm; see SnE 1998, I, 5, II, 334). Konráð Gíslason (Nj 1875-89, II, 903) calls attention to the fact that the anonymous compiler of the þula adopted the stylistically inferior kella f. (from kerling ‘old woman’, see Þul Kvenna I l. 8 and Note there) rather than a common neutral word for ‘woman’ (e.g. kona) in the introductory line of the first stanza. The low style, he believes, could have been intended to emphasise the difference in value between the poetic terms for ‘woman’ called Kvenna heiti and the half-finished terms ókend heiti, which were used merely as base-words in woman-kennings. Kock (NN §1904C, D), on the other hand, argues that the ókend heiti listed in this þula are so-called half-kennings, i.e. kenning base-words which, owing to their frequent appearance in this type of poetic circumlocution, could be used in skaldic verse without their determinants. He maintains that kenna in this context means ‘tell, list, enumerate’ and that the verb is used in the same sense as segja ‘say’ or telja ‘tell, count’ in other catalogues of heiti.


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