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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (biog. vol. 2), 1. Fragments, 5 [Vol. 3, 7]

[All]: (a) In the absence of further context, the interpretation of this couplet is highly uncertain, and even the Prose order and partial Translation above are tentative, since if the couplet is syntactically incomplete it is unclear where the missing words would belong. Some of the words in the lines chime with traditional attributes of Freyja: reiðar (gen. sg. of reið f. ‘chariot’, l. 2) could refer to her chariot drawn by two cats, and hallar (gen. sg. of hǫll f. ‘hall’, l. 1) to her fine hall Sessrúmnir (SnE 1998, I, 30; SnE 2005, 25) or Fólkvangr (Grí 14/1). However, seiða in l. 2 could be gen. pl. of seiðr ‘(magic) spell’ or of seiðr ‘saithe (pollack or coalfish)’, while bein (l. 2) could be the noun ‘bone’ or a form of the adj. beinn ‘straight, direct’. (b) Jón Helgason (1966a, 177-8) proposed the following solution, which assumes that the couplet is syntactically complete. Sýr-hǫll, it is argued, must mean ‘hall of Freyja’, and the hall-name Fólkvangr could mean ‘battle-plain’, and hence, by ofljóst, yield a shield-kenning on the pattern ‘land of battle’ (Meissner 169); the ‘coalfish’ (seiðr) of the shield is then a sword (cf. Meissner 154), and its wielder (reiðir, incorporating a slight emendation from ms. reiðar) is a warrior; bein- could qualify this, with the sense ‘straight, directly’. Hence, literally, ‘Fortunate is the straight-wielder of the fish of Freyja’s hall [= Fólkvangr (fólkvangr ‘shield’) > SWORDS > WARRIOR]’, i.e. ‘the warrior is fortunate’. This interpretation would assume that Arnórr here adopts a style uncharacteristic of him, since he does not elsewhere use ofljóst or anti-naturalistic images such as kennings depicting swords as fish.


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