This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

Note to stanza

8. Breta saga 37 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II, 37) [Vol. 8, 167]

[1-6]: No fully satisfactory solution to the logical problems of this stanza has yet been devised. The principal difficulty is that the statement that the fox prepares to make an attack on the pig (ll. 1-2) is seemingly contradicted by the statement that he is not in a position to attack him (ll. 3-4): unable to handle a pitched battle, he must mount a different kind of attack, relying on his cunning (cf. II 39/3-4 and II 41/6). (For the idiom ráða á ‘attack’ cf. II 28/5-6 and II 38/6.) (a) For this reason Skj B (followed by Skald) emends ms. gerir (refreshed) ‘will prepare’ in l. 1 to gerrat ‘does not prepare’ and Merl 2012 emends ráða á ‘attack’ in line 2 to ráð á ‘a plan against’. But these emendations seem to be a case of cutting the Gordian knot: it would be odd for Gunnlaugr to translate the affirmative statement in DGB (Quae cum certamen inierit) with a negative. Also, it is awkward to say (with Skj B) that the fox does not attack when in the next stanza (38/5-6) the contrary is said. (b) The tentative proposal in this edn is that the subordinate clause with initial þvíat constituted by ll. 3-4 be construed as preceding, not following, its main clause, thus linking ll. 3-4 onwards to ll. 5-6 rather than back to ll. 1-2. Then the gist of this and the ensuing stanza would be: ‘The fox prepares to make an attack on the pig. As he cannot do so in a pitched battle, he feigns death and his body is left unburied so as to lure the pig to come and inspect it personally; then the fox is able to attack the pig by taking him by surprise.’ An admitted weakness with this construal is that the examples of such reversal of clauses in NS §367b feature initial með þvíat rather than simple þvíat; Merl itself does not contain any instance of þvíat used in this way. (c) Thinkable, therefore, would be emendation of þvíat to þóat, þótt ‘although’, modifying the content of ll. 1-2. Similar are the construals in Bret 1848-9 and Merl 2012, which, retaining gerir, attempt to resolve the apparent contradiction with ll. 3-4 by translating þvíat as if it meant ‘but’ (Bret 1848-9) or aber weil ‘but because’ (Merl 2012); in both cases, adoption of þóat/þótt would produce better correspondence between text and translation. In Merl 2012, probably as a mere slip, mátti ‘might’ replaces mát ‘is unable’, lit. ‘may not’, against the evidence of the ms. and the metre, and is translated as ‘might not’, leaving the source of the negative unspecified.


© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.