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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Anonymous Lausavísur, 4. Stanzas from Laufás Edda, 8 [Vol. 3, 645]

[1-2] fyr viðum hræblakks sævar hríðar ‘before the trees of the corpse-dark sea of battle [BLOOD > WARRIORS]’: Warrior-kennings with ‘blood’ as a determinant are rare but not unattested (see Meissner 278). The adj. blakkr ‘dark’ (here: hræblakkr ‘corpse-dark’) is also found elsewhere in circumlocutions for ‘blood’ (e.g. blakkr bjórr ‘dark beer [blood]’, Þorm Lv 22/7-8I). Jón Helgason (1966a) offers an alternative interpretation according to which hræblakkr ‘corpse-steed’ (blakkr is also a heiti for ‘horse’) is taken as a kenning for ‘wolf’, its ‘sea’ (sær) is ‘blood’ and the ‘storm (hríð) of blood’ is ‘battle’. According to that interpretation, viðum hríðar sævar hræblakks would be ‘trees of the storm of the sea of the corpse-steed [WOLF > BLOOD > BATTLE > WARRIORS]’. However, kennings for ‘battle’ with ‘blood’ as a determinant are awkward and very poorly attested (see Meissner 186) and a base-word like ‘storm’ ought to be qualified by a determinant with the sense ‘weapon’, ‘valkyrie’ etc. but not by ‘blood’. A kenning formed according to the pattern hræblakkr ‘corpse-steed [WOLF]’ is otherwise unattested (Meissner 126).


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