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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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23 

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, 108

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

15 — Eil Þdr 15III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa 15’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 108.

Ok hôm loga himna
hall- fylvingum -vallar
trôðusk, þærs við tróði
tungls brásali* þrungu.
Hofstjóri braut hvôru-
hreggs váfreiðar -tveggja
hlátrelliða hellis
hundfornan kjǫl sprundi.

Trôðusk {fylvingum {hallvallar}} ok {hôm loga himna}, þærs þrungu {{tungls brá}sali*} við tróði. {Hofstjóri váfreiðar hreggs} braut {hundfornan kjǫl {hlátrelliða}} {hvôrutveggja sprundi hellis}.

They were trampled upon {by the nuts {of the sloping-plain}} [MOUNTAINS > STONES] and {the high flame of the skies} [LIGHTNING], those who pressed {the hall {of the moon of eyelashes}} [(lit. ‘eyelash-hall of the moon’) EYE > HEAD] against the rafter. {The temple-steerer of the hovering chariot of the thunderstorm} [= Þórr] broke {the age-old keel {of the laughter-ship}} [BREAST > BACK] {of both women of the cave} [GIANTESSES].

Mss: R(25r), Tˣ(25v), W(53) (SnE)

Readings: [1] himna: himni all    [3] þærs: þær all    [4] ‑sali*: ‑sólar R, ‑sólir Tˣ, W    [5] Hof‑: so Tˣ, W, húf‑ R    [6] váfreiðar: váfreiða R, W, ‘vareuda’ Tˣ    [8] hund‑: so W, horn‑ R, Tˣ;    sprundi: so Tˣ, W, sporna R

Editions: Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, 2. Þórsdrápa 14: AI, 150, BI, 142, Skald I, 78, NN §§348, 462-3, 2107; SnE 1848-87, I, 298-301, III, 35, SnE 1931, 109, SnE 1998, I, 28-9.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [All]: The content of this stanza essentially corresponds to Snorri’s narrative in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 25). As it goes, Þórr, seated in a chair, is squashed against the roof by the giantesses and defends himself by pressing the staff Gríðarvǫlr against the roof. In doing so he breaks the backs of the two giantesses under his chair. However, all editorial attempts to produce an exact match between the content of the stanza and the story as it is told in Skm have led to unacceptable textual interpretations of the stanza. The present edn assumes that Snorri’s narrative could be based on a variant version of the myth that does not fully agree with the stanza. The relatively simple interpretation given here, with minimal emendations, differs somewhat from Snorri’s version. According to the stanza, Þórr, the thunder god, armed with bolts of lightning that cause a rockslide, defends himself against the giantesses and breaks their backs. — [1] hôm loga himna ‘the high flame of the skies [LIGHTNING]’: Although this interpretation differs from the story in Skm (SnE), where the giantesses are overcome not by thunder and lightning but by Þórr forcing his chair back at them with Gríðarvǫlr, the present version is supported by the parallel version in Saxo (Saxo 2005, I, 8, 14, 1-20, pp. 560-73). There, the giantesses are said to have been struck by powerful lightning bolts. Most earlier eds combine hôm dat. ‘high’ with either fylvingum ‘swords’ (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 394; Skj B) or himni ‘to the sky’ (NN §462; Reichardt 1948, 375-6). As Kock (NN §2107) later points out, these interpretations are untenable metrically, since a cpd is to be expected here; cf. Kuhn (1983, 142-3), who observes that metrical positions 2-5 in Type C odd lines are usually occupied by a cpd. However, attempts to interpret the mss’ ‘hamloga’ as a cpd fail: ‘blushing, ruddiness’ (Kiil 1956, 143) is unconvincing because hamr always means ‘body’ or ‘shape’, not ‘face’. Kock (NN §2107, followed by Reichardt 1948, 375) suggests emending ‘ham-’ to húm- ‘darkness’, and he construes himni húmloga ‘with the sky of the dark flame’ as a kenning for ‘roof’, referring to the scenery of a cave beneath the mountains. There is no comparable kenning in the surviving corpus of skaldic poetry, however. This edn takes a different course: according to Kuhn (1983, 142-3), who gives a series of supporting examples, metrical positions 2-4 in Type C odd lines can be occupied in exceptional cases by a nominal phrase consisting of an attributive adj. in position 2 qualifying a noun in positions 3-4. Hence hôm loga can be construed as ‘the high flame’. The emendation of himni dat. sg. to himna gen. pl. then provides a determinant in a kenning for ‘lightning’ (‘the high flame of the skies’). — [2] fylvingum hallvallar ‘by the nuts of the sloping-plain [MOUNTAINS > STONES]’: On hallvallar, see Note to l. 2 hallvallar. The main difficulty in the second line is fylvingum: unlike most earlier eds, the present edn takes this as dat. pl. of fylving f. ‘nut’ (Skm, SnE 1848-87, II, 430, 514; possibly also GSúrs Lv 5/3V (Gísl 7)). Like epli ‘apple’, korn ‘grain’, bygg ‘barley’ etc., fylving ‘nut’ is a suitable base-word in a stone-kenning (cf. Meissner 90); hence, the entire second line can be interpreted as a kenning for ‘stone’. Kiil (1956, 143), who also assumes tmesis in fylvingum hallvallar, interprets this unconvincingly as a kenning for ‘eyes’. Most other eds take fylvingr to mean ‘sword’ (Þul Sverða 7/1) and try to bring it in line with Snorri’s narrative in Skm. Kock (NN §462, followed by Reichardt 1948, 375-6) suggests that fylvingr means ‘staff’ here, and he interprets hallfylvingum vallar as ‘with the tilting staffs of the plain’. The meaning ‘staff’ is not supported by the etymology of fylvingr (NN §348), and there is no reason why these proposed staffs should be tilting or their meaning should be more closely determined by vallar ‘of the plain’. Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 394) retains the meaning ‘sword’ and assumes that Þórr and Þjálfi were stabbing at the giantesses with swords (trôðusk hôm fylvingum ‘they were trampled by the tall swords’). — [2] hallvallar ‘of the sloping-plain [MOUNTAINS]’: This interpretation requires tmesis, hall- fylvingumvallar, which is acceptable here because the two elements of the cpd are placed in a single line and separated by a single word. This allows for a straightforward interpretation of this line. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (1851, 19), Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 394; Skj B; LP: hallvǫllr) and Kiil (1956, 143) also assume such a tmesis; Kock (NN §462) rejects tmesis but provides no satisfactory explanation for his hallfylvingum vallar ‘the tilting staffs of the plain’ (see the previous Note). Reichardt (1948, 376) translates the line simply as ‘staffs’. Hallvǫllr can be a cpd with hallr ‘sloping, tilting’, hallr m. ‘slope’ (see LP: 2. hallr) or hallr m. ‘stone’ as the first element and vǫllr m. ‘field, meadow’ as the second (see Note to st. 8/1-2 above). Hallr in the sense ‘sloping’ (adj.), rather than hallr ‘stone’, has been adopted here because hallvallar is the determinant in a kenning for ‘stone’ (fylvingum hallvallar ‘by the nuts of the sloping-plain [MOUNTAINS > STONES]’; see the previous Note). If one were to translate hallvallar as ‘stone-slope’, the referent ‘stone’ would be duplicated in the kenning, which ought to be avoided according to the rules of kenning formation. — [3] þærs ‘those who’: The helmingr consists of a main clause and a rel. clause introduced by þærs; hence the rel. particle, ‑s, needs to be added to the dem. pron. (the mss have þær). — [4] tungls brásali* ‘the hall of the moon of eyelashes [(lit. ‘eyelash-hall of the moon’) EYE > HEAD]’: The phrase þrungu við tróði ‘pressed against the roof beams’ indicates that the first two words in l. 4 ought to be an expression for ‘head’. The mss offer tungls brásólar (R) ‘of the heavenly body of the brow-sun’ or tungls brásólir (W, ) ‘the brow-suns of the heavenly body’. To achieve a meaningful kenning here, the order of the determinants tungls and brá must be changed (for such inverted kennings, see Meissner 44-69), and ‑sólir (W, ) must be emended to sali, dat. sg. of salr (cf. Reichardt 1948, 376 and NN §2107, where a similar emendation to salir can be found). This results in the kenning ‘hall of the moon of the eyelashes [EYE > HEAD]’, a variation on the pattern ‘place of the eyes’. The verb þryngva ‘press’ takes the dat. (Fritzner: þryngva); hence -sali m. dat. sg. One would expect that the dat. of salr, an i-stem, would be sal rather than sali, but occasionally m. i-stems end in ‑i in the dat. (ANG §388.2). All earlier attempts to construe a meaningful kenning based on the mss’ brásólir or brásólar are problematic. Although brásólar/brásólir ‘sun of the brow’ could be a kenning for ‘eye(s)’, tungls ‘of the moon’ cannot be integrated in that kenning. Kock (NN §462) emends tungls (all mss) to tungl and takes tungl brásólar ‘heavenly body of the eyebrow-sun’ as a kenning for ‘head’. That interpretation is rejected by Reichardt (1948, 375-6), who rightly notes that tungl ‘moon’ cannot be the base-word in a kenning for ‘head’. On the other hand, tungls brá(a) ‘of the moon of the brows’ could be a kenning for ‘eye’, but that would leave sólar or sólir unaccounted for. — [5, 6] hofstjóri váfreiðar hreggs ‘the temple-steerer of the hovering chariot of the thunderstorm [= Þórr]’: The emendation from váfreiða gen. pl. (R, W) to váfreiðar gen. sg. can be justified by the fact that Þórr most likely had only one chariot. As Reichardt (1948, 377) observed, this Þórr-kenning is parallel to hofreginn hógreiðar ‘the temple-deity of the comfortable chariot’ (Þjóð Haustl 15/5, 6). Hógreiðar ‘of the comfortable chariot’ and váfreiðar ‘of the hovering chariot’ both refer to the thunder god’s chariot, in which he traverses the sky as depicted in Haustl. The reference to Þórr as the steerer of his thunderstorm-chariot creates a link to the first helmingr, where he overcomes the giantesses with the help of lightning. Here, as in Haustl, hof- refers to Þórr’s connection with his temple (hof; cf. lǫnd hofs Eindriða ‘the lands of the temple of Eindriði <= Þórr>’, Eskál Vell 14/2, 4I). The present interpretation of the kenning corresponds for the most part to that given by Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 395; Skj B; LP: váfreið), although he adopts ms. R’s húfstjóri as the kenning’s base-word, in which húf- is the hull of a ship. This solution affects the structure of the kenning, however, because ‘hull-steerer’ (= ship’s steerer) of the chariot’ is self-contradictory. In that respect, Reichardt’s (1948, 376-8) interpretation is superior, because it is better suited to the situation – the killing of the giantesses by the thunder god’s lightning. He interprets hofstjóri váfreyða hreggs as ‘the steerer of the temple of the hovering fin-whale of the thunderstorm (of battle) [SWORD > SHIELD > WARRIOR = Þórr]’. Other eds who take húfstjóri ‘steersman’ as the base-word of the Þórr-kenning arrive at less convincing solutions (Kock, NN §463 and Kiil 1956, 144). — [5, 6, 7, 8] hvôrutveggja sprundi hellis ‘of both women of the cave [GIANTESSES]’: This is a typical kenning for ‘giantess’ whose conventional determinant may have been chosen to suit the situation – a fight in the giant’s cave. Presumably sprundi (n. dat. sg.) is a dat. of respect, used with possessive sense (cf. NS §100 Anm. 3). — [7, 8] hundfornan kjǫl hlátrelliða ‘the age-old keel of the laughter-ship [BREAST > BACK]’: The breast-kenning hlátrelliða ‘of the laughter-ship’ alludes to the breast as the seat of the soul or the centre of emotion (cf. Meissner 134-8). The breast-kenning is formed with the base-word ‘ship’, and its ‘keel’ is the back (a nýgerving). For the ship-heiti elliði, see Þul Skipa 4/3 and Note there. The adj. hundfornan ‘age-old’ reflects the fact that giants in general were thought of as very old (see Schulz 2004, 60-1). Hund- is an intensifying prefix, cf. hunddjarfr ‘very brave’, hundmargr ‘very many’, hundvíss ‘very wise’ etc.

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