Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 19. Tindr Hallkelsson, Hákonardrápa, 8 [Vol. 1, 351]

[5-8]: This helmingr has presented apparently insoluble difficulties to all eds, and as Finnur Jónsson (1886b, 346-7) points out, the repetition of hykk ‘I think’ within the single helmingr clearly indicates an error. None of the suggestions below has been felt secure enough to incorporate in the present edn. (a) Sveinbjörn Egilsson in Fms 12 reads (in prose order): Hykk lýða láreiði hverjum gram betra [ms. betri] ; því, hykk, (hann) lætr beita bitrum brand [ms. bǫnd] at vildu landi, which is apparently interpreted, ‘I believe the warrior is better than any prince; because, I believe, he makes the sharp sword bite in the beloved land [i.e. defends Norway bravely].’ Here brand ‘sword’ supplies a dat. sg. noun for adj. bitrum to qualify. The kenning láreiði lýða is taken to mean ‘warrior, Hákon’, but not explained. (b) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B reads (in prose order): því hykk at bǫnd vildu hyrs [ms. hykk] lá-reiði betra [ms. betri] hverjum gram(?), which gives ‘therefore/because I believe that the gods wished the despatcher of the flame of the wave [(lit. ‘wave-despatcher of the flame’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] [to be] better than any prince’; cf. LP: láreiðir. The rest is left as uninterpretable. (c) Kock’s text in Skald gives the helmingr as two couplets separated by a colon at the end of l. 6, which gives the prose order: Því hykk at bǫnd vildu beita bitrum landa [ms. landi]: hykk betri hverjum gram letr [ms. lætr] læv-eiða [ms. láreiði] lýða, and the sense (NN §435): ‘[Only] in this do I believe that the gods chose to treat the people of the land harshly: I believe [that the one who is] better than any prince thwarts the people’s malicious oaths’. He compares beita bitrum ‘treat with bitter things, treat harshly’ with beita e-n vélum ‘treat someone with deceit’ and with the adverbial dat. pl. in stíga stórum ‘stride with great steps, stride largely’. To supply the gen. obj. of letja ‘thwart, hinder’, Kock emends ms. ‘lar eiðe’ to læveiða ‘malicious oaths’, on the analogy of meineiða ‘harmful oaths’. His analysis opens up a new line of interpretation but also brings problems, including an unusual word order whereby at ‘that’ is postponed to l. 6 (it would be expected to follow hykk ‘I think’ in l. 5), the elliptical use of betri ‘he who is better’ and the mention of malicious oaths, which does not tally with other accounts (unless alluding to the famous but perhaps apocryphal oaths of the Jómsvíkingar; see Note to Vell 33/2 Sigvalda).

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