Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 3. Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, 1. Glymdrápa, 1 [Vol. 1, 75]

[1-4]: This helmingr has been subject to numerous interpretations. All agree on Hilmir réð heyja ... ey óðr við œskimeiða ... ‘The ruler commanded that ... be launched, ever furious at the wishing trees ...’ (or ‘The ruler launched ...’, taking réð in réð heyja as a pleonastic auxiliary). Terms for ‘battle’ are to be expected both as the object of heyja ‘launch’ and as the determinant of œskimeiða ‘wishing trees’, and the interpretations differ over the detail of these. (a) The solution adopted in this edn (as in ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991) is essentially that of Kock (NN §228). He takes þrimu hjaldrseiðs ‘noise of the battle-fish [SWORD > BATTLE]’ as the object of heyja ‘launch’, and the remaining words as a warrior-kenning: œskimeiða galdra vébrautar ‘of the wishing trees of the incantations of the standard-road [BATTLEFIELD > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’. The interpretation given here differs from Kock in choosing the variant hjaldrskíðs ‘of the battle-plank [SWORD]’; see Note to l. 2. (b) Þrimu, translated as ‘battle’, is taken as the object of heyja by Finnur Jónsson (1884, 66-8; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) and Eggert Ó. Brím (ÓT 1892, 345). They then assume that œskimeiða forms a kenning with galdra vébrautar hjaldrseiðs, hence ‘wishing trees of the incantations of the holy (powerful) way (?) of the battle-fish [SWORD > SHIELD > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’ (on the variant hjaldrseiðs see Note to l. 2). The adjectival phrase beginning ey óðr ‘ever furious’ which qualifies hilmir ‘ruler’ is assumed to refer to Haraldr effecting peace. Problems with this interpretation are the use of þrima alone for ‘battle’, of which only one example is known (Arn Þorfdr 8/1II; see Reichardt 1928, 25), and the unclear meaning of vébraut (on which, see Note to l. 4). (c) Fidjestøl (1982, 74-6) combines œskimeiða wishing trees’ with galdra ‘of incantations’ to form a sorcerer-kenning ‘wishing trees of incantations’. He adduces the fact that Haraldr hárfagri took action against sorcerers, as well as against thieves (st. 2). However, Fidjestøl’s interpretation produces an overdetermined battle-kenning as the object of heyja ‘launch’: þrimu vébrautar hjaldrseiðs ‘noise of the holy path of the battle-fish [SWORD > SHIELD > BATTLE]’. Þrimu hjaldrseiðs ‘noise of the battle-fish’ in l. 2 is already a battle-kenning, leaving vébrautar in l. 4 redundant. Moreover, l. 4 is split three ways: ey, vébrautar, heyja. (d) For further, less convincing interpretations see Reichardt (1928, 25-6) and Mohr (1933, 11).


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