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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, 117

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

19 — Eil Þdr 19III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa 19’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 117.

Bifðisk hǫll, þás hǫfði
Heiðreks of kom breiðu
und fletbjarnar fornan
fótlegg Þrasis veggjar.
Ítr gulli laust Ullar
jótrs vegtaugar þrjóti
meina niðr í miðjan
mest bígyrðil nestum.

Hǫll bifðisk, þás of kom breiðu hǫfði {Heiðreks {veggjar Þrasis}} und {fornan fótlegg {fletbjarnar}}. {Ítr gulli Ullar} laust mest {nestum meina} niðr í miðjan bígyrðil {þrjóti {jótrs {vegtaugar}}}.

The hall shook when [he] brought the broad head {of the Heiðrekr <legendary king> {of the wall of Þrasir <dwarf>}} [STONE > GIANT = Geirrøðr] under {the old leg {of the bench-bear}} [HOUSE > PILLAR]. {The glorious stepfather of Ullr <god>} [= Þórr] struck {the provisions of harm} [PIECE OF IRON] with full force down into the middle of the girdle {of the defier {of the molar {of the way of the fishing-line}}} [SEA > STONE > GIANT].

Mss: R(25r), Tˣ(25v-26r), W(53) (SnE); papp10ˣ(44r) (ll. 1-4), 2368ˣ(99), 743ˣ(77v) (ll. 1-4) (LaufE)

Readings: [1] þás (‘þa er’): því ek papp10ˣ    [2] of kom: kom of papp10ˣ    [3] fornan: so all others, fornar R    [4] Þrasis: so all others, ‘þvrnis’ R    [6] jótrs: jótr W, 2368ˣ;    ‑taugar: ‘‑tarigar’ 2368ˣ    [7] meina: nema 2368ˣ    [8] mest: so 2368ˣ, ‘mez’ R, Tˣ, W;    nestum: ‘nezv’ R, W, ‘nezo’ Tˣ, nestu 2368ˣ

Editions: Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, 2. Þórsdrápa 18: AI, 151, BI, 143, Skald I, 78, NN §§2008I, 2253, 2309B, 2409, 2987I, 3396L; SnE 1848-87, I, 302-3, III, 37-8, SnE 1931, 109, SnE 1998, I, 29; LaufE 1979, 280, 357.

Context: See Context to st. 1. Further, the stanza is cited in LaufE (ll. 1-4 in papp10ˣ and 743ˣ, ll. 1-8 in 2368ˣ) as an example for house-kennings which have an animal as base-word.

Notes: [1-4]: The subordinate clause introduced by þás ‘when’ (l. 1) has a suppressed subject in the sg., but the situation implies that this is Þórr (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 398). Kock (NN §2253) avoids this by taking þrasir veggjar ‘the furious one of the wedge [= Þórr]’ as a subject. However, that interpretation forces the emendation of þrasis gen. (so all mss except R) to þrasir nom. and an unattested meaning ‘wedge’ of ON veggr ‘wall’. — [1, 2] of kom breiðu hǫfði ‘[he] placed the broad head’: I.e. he brought it down; for koma with a dat. object, see Fritzner: koma 1. — [2, 4] Heiðreks veggjar Þrasis ‘of the Heiðrekr <legendary king> of the wall of Þrasir <dwarf> [STONE > GIANT]’: This giant-kenning follows the widespread pattern ‘ruler of the mountains’. The base-word is a pers. n., Heiðrekr, from heroic legend (cf. Meissner 258). The kenning ‘wall of Þrasir [STONE]’ is the determinant: because dwarfs live in mountain caves, their walls are made of stone. Þrasir is attested as a dwarf’s name in the þulur (Þul Dverga 4/8). Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 398) assumes that Þrasir is an otherwise unattested name of a giant, and he combines it with hǫll ‘hall’ (l. 1). He adds veggjar to the kenning for ‘pillar’, where it is redundant (see Note to ll. 3-4 below). — [2] Heiðreks ‘of the Heiðrekr <legendary king>’: Heiðrekr, the name of a legendary king, is the base-word of this giant-kenning (Reichardt 1948, 383). Some eds take this cpd as a common noun, heiðrekr ‘king of the high land, of the mountains’, and as a kenning for ‘giant’ (so Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 19; Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 398; LP: heiðrekr; Kiil 1956, 155). — [3-4] und fornan legg fletbjarnar ‘under the old leg of the bench-bear [HOUSE > PILLAR]’: This periphrasis is a nýgerving with the house-kenning ‘bench-bear’ as the determinant. Houses are sometimes referred to in kennings as animals (Meissner 430); in this case the base-word is ‘bear’, cf. fletvargr ‘bench-wolf’ (Anon (FoGT) 4/4). The resulting nýgerving means ‘pillar’, drawing on the analogy between an animal’s foot and the pillar of a house. The attributive adj. forn ‘old’ probably reflects the notion that giants were very old (Schulz 2004, 60-1; see Note to st. 15/7, 8 above); hence their age carried over to the objects associated with them. — [5] ítr gulli Ullar ‘the glorious stepfather of Ullr <god> [= Þórr]’: Ullr was a North Germanic god who is mentioned only sporadically as a skiing and hunting archer (Gylf, SnE 2005, 26). According to Snorri (ibid.), Ullr was Þórr’s step-son, which accords well with the Þórr-kenning mágr Ullar ‘relative of Ullr’ (Þjóð Haustl 15/1, 2; EVald Þórr 3/4). Mágr is a relative by marriage, which indicates that Ullr, who was raised by Þórr, was the son of Þórr’s wife Sif and a different, unknown mythical figure. — [6] þrjóti jótrs vegtaugar ‘of the defier of the molar of the way of the fishing-line [SEA > STONE > GIANT]’: Þrjótr denotes a rebellious or defiant opponent; cf. þrjótr urðar ‘lout of the stones’ (st. 6/7 above). The determinant of the giant-kenning here is also ‘stone’ – the kenning ‘molar of the sea’. Teeth and bones are often used as base-words of stone-kennings determined by words for ‘earth’ or ‘sea’ (Meissner 89-90). ‘Sea’ in this kenning is paraphrased in yet another kenning, ‘way of the fishing-line’. It is necessary to reorder the elements of the stone-kenning jótrs vegtaugar (lit. ‘the molar of the way-fishing-line’) to taugar vegjótrs ‘the molar of the way of the fishing-line’ (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 398; Skj B; LP: vegtaug; Reichardt 1948, 385; as a gen. construction jótr veg(s) taugar in NN §2008). — [7, 8] nestum meina ‘the provisions of harm [PIECE OF IRON]’: In the mss, the stanza ends with (normalised) nestu. Because the previous stanzas consistently described the projectile thrown by Geirrøðr and Þórr through metaphors of eating and drinking (segi ‘shred’ st. 16/6, rauðbiti ‘red bite’ st. 17/2, lyptisylg ‘raised drink’ st. 18/3), it is natural to look for a kenning from the domain of food here as well, and nest n. or nesti n. ‘provisions for a journey’ is an obvious candidate for the base-word in such a kenning. That base-word must be in the dat. case, however, which forces emendation to nestum dat. pl. (adopted in the present edn) or nesti dat. sg. Interpreting nestum as ‘provisions’ combined with the determinant meina ‘of harm’ brings this kenning in line with the kennings used for the iron projectile in the previous stanzas. Previous eds have taken nestu as an oblique case of an otherwise unattested noun *nesta from nist, nisti ‘needle in a brooch, fibula’. This allows them to construe the kenning nestu meina ‘needle of harm’ for a red-hot iron bar that Þórr allegedly hurls at Geirrøðr (so Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 25; Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 398; Reichardt 1948, 385; Kiil 1956, 157; Clunies Ross 1981, 383). However, this interpretation finds no support in the prose narrative of Skm (SnE 1998, I, 25), which only mentions a járnsía ‘iron spark’, and it is also out of keeping with the metaphors in the previous stanzas. — [8] bígyrðil ‘of the girdle’: The second element of this cpd is gyrðill m. ‘girdle, belt’, but the first element is obscure. Some scholars explain the cpd as an old formation with the adv. ‘at’, which is improbable because that adv. belongs to a set of prefixes that were lost in the North Germanic languages during the period of syncope. Although words with this prefix do appear in dictionaries, such compounds are usually late and show influence from German, which is not likely to have obtained in Eilífr’s time. Most likely, bígyrðill goes back to a cpd whose first element we do not recognise.

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