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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

3. Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa, 2 [Vol. 3, 407]

[1, 4] vári ragna ‘defender of the gods [= Heimdallr]’: For the word vári ‘defender’, see Arn Hryn 13/5II and Note there. The long vowel is ensured by the metre (long vowel in the cadence), which precludes Cöllen’s (2007, 64) suggestion of a short [a] here, as in ON varr ‘wise, knowledgeable’ or ‘cautious’. Vári ‘defender’ needs the determinant ragna ‘of the gods’ to denote Heimdallr, just like vǫrðr goða ‘defender of the gods’ in Grí 13/4 (NK 60), Lok 48/6 (NK 106) and Skm (SnE 1998, I, 19). Kuhn’s (1983, 296) alternative suggestion is vári ‘sworn companion’, probably from várar ‘oaths’. Several eds try to incorporate rein ‘strip of land’ (l. 2) into the kenning vári ragna. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: reinvári) assumes tmesis by joining rein with vári ‘defender’ (l. 4) and ragna ‘of the gods’ (l. 1), and he construes the Heimdallr-kenning ragna reinvári ‘defender of the path of gods [= Bifrǫst <bridge of the gods>]’ (cf. SnE 1848-87, III, 20-1 and Mogk 1880, 331). Kock (NN §420) rightly objects to this tmesis (with almost all subsequent eds concurring), but he nonetheless interprets ragna rein as ‘bridge of the gods’ and as the object of bregðr. Based on the idiom bregða búi ‘abandon the farm’ he takes the first helmingr to mean that ‘the defender (vári) abandoned the bridge of the gods in the fight with Loki’. In a later interpretation (NN §1952) he emends rein to reinar to achieve the Heimdallr-kenning vári reinar ragna ‘defender of the bridge of the gods’, but as de Vries (1933, 126) rightly objects, this emendation results in a hypermetrical l. 2, because elision of ‑ar and at is not possible in early dróttkvætt (see Kuhn 1936b, 138). Kock’s (NN §3214) subsequent objections to the criticism voiced by de Vries and Kuhn do not disprove their statements about the impossibility of elision, but Kock’s version has nonetheless been adopted by other scholars (e.g. Schier 1976a, 580; Cöllen 2007, 66). This metrical issue leads to a similar emendation of the mss’ ‘rein at’ to reinar, with Singasteini being taken as the dat. object of bregðr and thus not as a locative, but rather in the meaning ‘decorative stone, jewel’ (de Vries 1933, 127; Pering 1941, 210; Schjødt 1981, 62 n. 52 is critical). To sum up: Incorporation of rein into the kenning ragna vári ‘defender of the gods’ for Heimdallr leads either to tmesis (Finnur Jónsson) or to emendations which cause metrical problems (Kock; de Vries). Another objection against the interpretation of rein ragna as ‘bridge of the gods’ or ‘path of the gods [HEAVEN]’ (Ohlmarks 1937, 124) is that rein is never attested with the meanings ‘bridge’ or ‘path’ (cf. de Vries 1933, 126). Therefore the incorporation of rein into the kenning for Heimdallr is extremely problematic, and rein must be taken as the sole object of bregðr ‘remove, take away’ (see Note to l. 2 rein).


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