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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Markús Skeggjason (biog. vol. 2), 2. Fragments, 2 [Vol. 3, 294]

[2] hreinvazta (f. gen. pl.) ‘reindeer-seas [EARTH]’: Vǫzt, from Proto-Nordic *waða-stō, originally meant ‘fishing ground’ (see AEW: vǫzt as well as Note to Bragi Frag 6/2), but by extension the word could mean ‘sea’ and function as a base-word in kennings for ‘earth, land’ (Meissner 87). It is not quite clear what the actual referent of harri hreinvazta ‘lord of the reindeer-seas’ is. In the present edn, the paraphrase is taken broadly as a kenning for ‘ruler’ (for that kenning pattern, see Meissner 352-3). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: hjartfœrr) interprets hreinvazta as ‘of the mountains’ and regards it as part of a kenning for ‘God’ in which a now lost determinant with the meaning ‘roof, hall’ was contained in the other, no longer extant couplet; i.e. ‘lord of the roof/hall of the mountains [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]’. Although Finnur’s suggestion cannot be dismissed out of hand, it would be odd indeed for God (or Christ) to consider ‘himself to be the best’; rather, such a phrasing is much more suitable in a secular poem (cf. Note to ll. 1, 2 above and Steinn ÓldrII). Kock (NN §918) argues that nothing is missing here, and that the kenning harri hreinvazta, which he interprets as Fjällens herre ‘Lord of the mountains’, refers to a king of Norway. That is unlikely, however, because Markús is not associated with any Norwegian kings, only with kings of Denmark and with Ingi Steinkelsson of Sweden (see Markús’s Biography in SkP II).


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