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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eilífr Goðrúnarson (Eil)

10th century; volume 3; ed. Edith Marold;

1. Þórsdrápa (Þdr) - 23

Skj info: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Islandsk skjald, omkr. 1000. (AI, 148-52, BI, 139-44).

Skj poems:
1. Et digt om Hakon jarl
2. Þórsdrápa
3. Af et kristeligt digt

Hardly anything is known about the life of Eilífr Goðrúnarson (Eil). According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266, 280), he was active as a skald at the court of Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in Norway around the end of the tenth century. Some scholars have argued that a word-play in a stanza preserved in Skm (SnE) conceals the name of Hákon jarl, thus confirming the information of Skáldatal, but the present edition, following Lie (1976, 399) is sceptical of that hypothesis (see Þdr 23, Note to [All]). Eilífr’s only surviving works are the long poem Þórsdrápa (Eil Þdr, 23 stanzas) and one fragment of a Christian poem (Eil Frag).

Þórsdrápa — Eil ÞdrIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘ Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 68. <> (accessed 7 July 2022)

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Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson: 2. Þórsdrápa (AI, 148-52, BI, 139-44); stanzas (if different): 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21

SkP info: III, 105

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Eil Þdr 14III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa 14’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 105.

þars í þróttarhersa
Þornranns hugumbornir
— hlymr varð hellis Kumra —
hringbalka* framm gingu.
List* vas fœrðr í fasta
— friðsein vas þar — hreina
gnípu hlǫðr á greypan
gránhǫtt risa kvánar.

þars hugumbornir gingu framm í hringbalka* {þróttarhersa {Þornranns}}; hlymr {Kumra hellis} varð. {Hlǫðr {hreina gnípu}} vas list* fœrðr í fasta á greypan gránhǫtt {kvánar risa}; þar vas friðsein.

when the courageous ones went forwards into the circular rooms {of the strength-hersar {of the house of Þorn <giant>}} [CAVE > GIANTS]; the din {of the Cumbrians of the cave} [GIANTS] arose. {The vanquisher {of the reindeer of the peak}} [GIANTS > = Þórr] was cunningly brought into a tight spot upon the horrible grey hat {of the wife of the giant} [GIANTESS]; there was a prevention of peace.

Mss: R(25r), Tˣ(25v), W(53) (SnE)

Readings: [1] þars: Þeirs all;    ‑hersa: bersa W    [3] hellis: so W, hellir R, Tˣ    [4] hring‑: ‘hrin‑’ R, W, hrim Tˣ;    ‑balka*: balkar R, W, ‘[…]lcar’ Tˣ    [5] List* vas fœrðr: listi ferðr R, listi feðr Tˣ, W    [6] hreina: hreini all    [7] hlǫðr: ‘hlædr’ W    [8] risa: ‘res’ all

Editions: Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, 2. Þórsdrápa 13: AI, 150, BI, 142, Skald I, 78, NN §§460, 461, 2309A, 2501A, 2514; SnE 1848-87, I, 298-9, III, 34-5, SnE 1931, 109, SnE 1998, I, 28.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [1] þars ‘when’: Like most previous eds (Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 30; Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 392; Skj B; NN §460), the present edn emends þeirs ‘they who’ to þars, since no word in the preceding stanza can serve as the antecedent of the rel. Hence the first helmingr of this stanza consists of a subordinate clause (cf. NN §2514 D; Reichardt 1948, 369); comparable cases in Þdr are unz ‘until’ (st. 10/1-4) and svát ‘so that’ (st. 18/1-4). Reichardt (1948, 371-2) suggested the emendation þeir* to get a main clause whose subject would be þeir* hugumbornir ‘the ones born with courage’, which reduces the skothending to just one consonant (þeir : hers-). Whereas such a rhyme is not impossible, the separation of the dem. pron. þeir (l. 1) and the adj. with which it belongs syntactically (hugumbornir, l. 2) must be rejected. — [1, 4] í hringbalka* ‘into the circular rooms’: Beginning with Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 392), all eds have emended the mss’ ‘hrin-’ (R, , W) to hring-, which results in a better aðalhending (hring : ging). There have been several proposed interpretations of the cpd hringbalka: (a) This edn takes hringbalka as acc. pl. of hringbalkr ‘circular room’. For balkr as an a-stem, see Fritzner: balkr. The emendation to hringbalka is justifiable because this is the only word that can designate a place with the prep. í ‘in, into’ (l. 1). Hringbalka is not following the prep. directly, but the gap is partially filled by the genitives qualifying hringbalka. If one accepts that genitives can also precede the word they qualify, an almost natural syntax arises: í þróttarhersa Þornranns hringbalka which is only interrupted by the subject of the sentence hugumbornir ‘the courageous ones’. Hringbalka ‘circular room’ could be combined with the giant-kenning þróttarhersa Þornranns ‘of the strength-hersar of the house of Þorn <giant> [CAVE > GIANTS]’ to form a kenning for ‘cave’, but that kenning would contain the referent ‘cave’ twice, once in Þornranns ‘of the house of Þorn [CAVE]’ and again as the referent of the whole kenning itself. Snorri apparently interpreted hringbalkr as a stall for goats (geitahús; Skm, SnE 1998, I, 25). Other eds have retained the nom. hringbalkar. (b) Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 393) interprets the cpd as ‘round enclosure, fence’ and combines it with hellis ‘of the cave’ in a kenning for ‘mountains’ (the rocks enclosing the cave), which again functions as the determinant in the giant-kenning ‘Cumbrians of the round enclosure of the cave’ (so also Kock, NN §§460, 2514). Reichardt (1948, 372) does not explain the expression but translates it simply as ‘Cumbrians of the cave’. (c) Lindquist (1929, 99, followed by Mohr 1933, 5) interprets hringbalkar as a man-kenning, ringförsedda balkar ‘ringed beams’, and takes it as the subject of the clause. Reichardt’s (1948, 371) objections to this interpretation are justified. ONP: bǫlkr records 33 tokens of the word but only two have the (uncertain) meaning ‘beam’. — [1-2] þróttarhersa Þornranns ‘of the strength-hersar of the house of Þorn <giant> [CAVE > GIANTS]’: The base-word of the giant-kenning is hersa ‘of the hersar’, qualified by þróttar ‘of the strength’. Words for leaders or rulers such as gramr, jarl, jǫfurr are well attested as base-words in kennings for ‘giant’ (Meissner 255-8). The determinant of þróttarhersa is Þornranns ‘of the house of Þorn <giant>’. Þórnrann could in fact be interpreted lit. as ‘Þorn’s house’; yet, in its function as the determinant in a giant-kenning, it is preferable to take Þornranns as a kenning for ‘cave’, i.e. the dwelling place of a giant. Kock’s (NN §460) interpretation … gingu fram í þróttar hersa þornranns ‘they moved forward against the strong hersar of the giant-dwelling’ assumes an unattested collocation ganga framm í ‘move against sby’ (Reichardt 1948, 372). Reichardt (ibid.) therefore suggests a conjectural við ‘against’ in place of í ‘in, into’. Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 392; Skj B) emends Þornranns gen. to Þornrann acc. and combines it with í ‘in’ (l. 1), but this leaves a dangling prep. — [3] Kumra hellis ‘of the Cumbrians of the cave [GIANTS]’: This type of giant-kenning, in which the base-word is an ethnic name, occurs frequently in Þdr (cf. Introduction above and Marold 1990a, 109-10). The use of the ethnic names Skotar ‘Scots’ (st. 2/6), Bretar ‘Britons’ (st. 12/7) and Kymrar ‘Cumbrians’ (st. 14/3) could be explained by the fact that they were traditionally the enemies of Norwegian vikings (Frank 1986, 102-3; Marold 1990a, 121). — [5] vas list* fœrðr í fasta ‘was cunningly brought into a tight spot’: The main clause lacks a finite verb, and earlier eds (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 393; Skj B; NN §461) supply vas ‘was’, which has been adopted in the present edn. However, that emendation makes the line too long (seven syllables); hence ‘listi’ (so all mss) has been emended to list* here, dat. of list f. ‘cunning, skill’. Listi (all mss) can only be the nom. Listi, the name of a peninsula in Vest-Agder, the southernmost part of Norway, which cannot be acommodated syntactically in this clause. Other eds (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 393; Skj B; NN §461) emend Listi to Lista gen. sg. and include the p. n. as a redundant element in the giant-kenning hreina gnípu ‘of the reindeer of the peak’, but that still leaves a hypermetrical line. The same objection can be made to Reichardt (1948, 374), who takes listi as the dat. (perhaps even with an emendation to listum dat. pl.). — [5] fœrðr í fasta ‘brought into a tight spot’: Fasti is only rarely attested in the meaning ‘tight spot’ (see LP: 2. fasti); it may be a nominal derivation (m. n-stem) from the adj. fastr ‘solid, tight’. The sense of the noun can only be deduced from the context of the prose narrative in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 25), which tells how Þórr is pressed against the roof by the two daughters of Geirrøðr crouching under his chair. — [6] friðsein ‘a prevention of peace’: Lit. ‘peace-delay’ (litotes). This is an otherwise unattested cpd from friðr m. ‘peace’ and sein n. ‘delay’, a derivation of the adj. seinn ‘slow, reluctant’; cf. vera seinn, hafa seint ‘be hesitant’, i.e. avoid doing something or never do it (Fritzner: seinn). — [6] hreina ‘of the reindeer’: All eds except Kiil (1956, 142) emend the mss’ hreini to hreina and combine it with gnípu ‘of the peak’ (l. 7) to form a giant-kenning. — [6-7] hlǫðr hreina gnípu ‘the vanquisher of the reindeer of the peak [GIANTS > = Þórr]’: This kenning follows the common pattern of Þórr-kennings that refer to him as a fighter of giants. — [7-8] á greypan gránhǫtt kvánar risa ‘upon the horrible grey hat of the wife of the giant [GIANTESS]’: The context provided by Skm (SnE 1998, I, 25) seems to indicate that ‘hat of the giantess’ is the chair Þórr is sitting on (NN §461; Reichardt 1948, 373). The meaning of gránhǫtt ‘grey hat’ is not clear, and it might be a unique metaphor for this particular chair, which also protects the heads of the giantesses cowering beneath it (Reichardt 1948, 373). More likely, however, is Clunies Ross’s (1981, 380, followed by Davidson 1983, 627) suggestion that gránhǫtt denotes ‘a slab of grey stone’, which would indicate that Þórr’s struggle with the giantesses took place in a cave; cf. tveggja sprundi hellis ‘two women of the cave’ (st. 15/6, 7, 8). It is possible that the chair occupied by Þórr in Snorri’s narrative is the product of a late medieval elaboration of the scene. — [8] kvánar risa ‘of the wife of the giant [GIANTESS]’: This line has only five syllables in the mss, and kvánar ‘of the wife’ lacks a determinant. Following earlier eds (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 393; Skj B; NN §461; Reichardt 1948, 374), ‘res’ (so all mss) has been emended to risa ‘of the giant’.

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