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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Kormákr Ǫgmundarson (biog. vol. 5), 1. Sigurðardrápa, 3 [Vol. 3, 277]

[3] breyti ‘the arranger’: Line 3 of this helmingr is difficult and has prompted extensive discussion. This is an A2-line, in which a sentence boundary falling between breyti and hún would be unusual (cf. Kuhn 1983, 137-40; Gade 1995a, 166-7). Because of the semantic and syntactic problems (see below) this edn takes breyti and hún as two separate words and not as a cpd despite the fact that this violates metrical rules. Breyti ‘the arranger’ belongs to the poet-kenning, and hún ‘top of the mast’ is the object of bindr ‘binds’ in the rel. clause (cf. SnE 1848-87, I, 236-7; Finnur Jónsson 1931,110; Skj B; Reichardt 1928, 181-2; NN §261). Some scholars (Mohr 1933, 88; Wood 1959a, 309) choose a cpd breytihún as a base-word in the poet-kenning, which would be metrically correct. However, the interpretation of such a cpd is difficult because húnn has several meanings: ‘young man’; ‘small bear’; ‘piece in a board game’; ‘mast-head’ (possibly pars pro toto for ‘mast’). In principle, each meaning might fit here. According to Mohr (1933, 88 n. 37) and Kock (NN §2501B), the poet is calling himself ‘little bear’; Wood (1959a, 309) translates húnn as ‘young one’. In addition to these semantic problems, the rel. clause sás bindr beinan lit. ‘who binds smooth/straight’ is left without an object, which must be supplied from the main clause (ennidúki ‘headband’, l. 1) (Mohr loc. cit.).


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