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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 28 June 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, 77

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Eil Þdr 2III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 77.

Geðstrangrar lét gǫngu
gammleið Þórr fyr skǫmmu
— fýstusk þeir at þrýsta
Þorns niðjum — sik biðja,
þás gjarðvani*ðr gerðisk
Gandvíkr Skotum ríkri
endr til Ymsa kindar
Iðja setrs frá Þriðja.

Þórr lét {gammleið} biðja sik geðstrangrar gǫngu fyr skǫmmu – þeir fýstusk at þrýsta {niðjum Þorns} –, þás gjarðvani*ðr, ríkri {Skotum Gandvíkr}, gerðisk endr frá Þriðja til {kindar Ymsa} {setrs Iðja}.

Þórr had {vulture-path} [AIR = Loptr <= Loki> (lopt ‘air’)] invite him on a challenging journey a short time ago – they were eager to crush {the descendants of Þorn <giant>} [GIANTS] –, when the belt-familiar one [= Þórr], mightier than {the Scots of Gandvík} [GIANTS], once set out from Þriði <= Óðinn> for {the offspring of Ymsi <giant>} [GIANT] {towards the seat of Iði <giant>} [MOUNTAINS].

Mss: R(24v), Tˣ(25r), W(52-53) (SnE)

Readings: [1] Geðstrangrar: geðstrangr Tˣ    [2] fyr: om. all;    skǫmmu: skǫmmum Tˣ, W    [3] fýstusk: so Tˣ, W, ‘fyrstvz’ R    [4] Þorns: so Tˣ, ‘þoms’ R, ‘þoíns’ W    [5] þás (‘þa er’): þau W;    ‑vani*ðr: ‑venjuðr R, ‑vendi Tˣ, W    [6] Gandvíkr: ‘gandvíkir’ corrected from gandvíkum W    [7] kindar: ‘kyndar’ Tˣ, landa W    [8] Iðja: ‘idra’ Tˣ;    setrs: skers Tˣ

Editions: Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, 2. Þórsdrápa 2: AI, 148, BI, 139, Skald I, 76, NN §§444, 2502A, 2756D; SnE 1848-87, I, 290-3, III, 25, SnE 1931, 107, SnE 1998, I, 26.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [1] geðstrangrar (f. gen. sg.) ‘challenging’: The present edn follows mss R and W, even though the adj. geðstrangr, lit. ‘courageous’, is better suited to describe a person than a journey. Here geðstrangrar qualifies gǫngu ‘journey’, and its import must be ‘a journey that requires courage’, which is how Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SnE 1848-87, III; 1851, 7), Genzmer (1934, 72), Reichardt (1948, 334) and Kiil (1956, 96) interpret it. Geðstrangr m. nom. sg. (ms. ) could qualify Þórr, the subject of the sentence (preferred by Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 376; Skj B). This results in a hypometrical l. 1, which Finnur remedies by inserting the expletive particle of before lét ‘had’. Genzmer (1934, 72 anm.), invoking Kuhn (1929a, 37-8), rejects this on the grounds that the particle of cannot precede an auxiliary verb. Kock (NN §2502A, 2756D) takes a different approach and proposes geðstrangra gen. pl. ‘of the courageous ones’ which he connects with gǫngu ‘journey’. No ms. supports this reading, however. — [2] gammleið ‘vulture-path [AIR (lopt ‘air’ = Loptr <= Loki>)]’: This kenning is an ofljóst construction playing on the meaning of Loki’s alternative name, Loptr, which means ‘one who travels or passes through the air’ (Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 17; Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 377; Skj B). — [2] Þórr: Line 2 is short by one syllable, leading several eds to insert an alleged older form of the god’s name, Þóarr (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 376) or Þonarr (Genzmer 1934, 71). Even before some of these publications, Lindroth (1916, 167-8) had rejected these conjectural earlier forms. His arguments were that the monosyllabic form Þórr cannot go back to Gmc *Þunaraʀ or *Þunuraʀ; rather, *Þunraʀ must be the underlying form (cf. also ANG §299.3). Only the West Germanic languages have a disyllabic form (cf. OE þunor or OHG Donar/Þonar). A further argument against a disyllabic form in Þdr is that the monosyllabic form is always used in the other stanzas of the poem. This argument is not as strong as the linguistic ones, however, since the poet could have used an older form for metrical reasons. Lindroth (ibid.) therefore attempts to repair the hypometrical line by supplying the trisyllabic gammaleið or gammleið Véorr. The former, gammaleið, violates the metre as it pushes the long-stemmed noun Þórr back to the fourth metrical position, which cannot accommodate a monosyllabic noun with a heavy root syllable. The latter conjecture, however, entails replacing Þórr (all mss) with Véorr, another name for Þórr. The present edn offers the solution described in the Note below. — [2] fyr skǫmmu ‘a short time ago’: Since l. 2 has too few syllables and other attempts to restore the line are unconvincing (cf. Þóarr or Þonarr, see Note to l. 2 Þórr above), fyr has been inserted. This calls to mind ófyrskǫmmu ‘no short time ago’ in Þjóð Haustl 2/4. Þdr could be stressing here the immediacy of the myth for Eilífr’s patron, Hákon jarl. — [4] Þorns ‘of Þorn <giant>’: The mss give the variants ‘þoms’ (R), ‘þoíns’ (W) and ‘þorns’ (). Most eds have opted for the reading, although Þorn is attested as a giant’s name only in Eilífr’s work (here and in sts 8/6 and 14/2). Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 377) adduces the name Bǫlþorn (Hávm 140/3, NK 40) in support of this reading, but this is itself a conjecture since the ms. has ‘Bꜹlþors’. Reichardt (1948, 335-6) suggests that Eilífr replaced the common Scandinavian name of the third letter in the runic alphabet, þurs ‘giant’, with Þorn, the third rune in the Old English runic alphabet. This explanation is interesting, but it would be odd indeed if Eilífr knew the Old English runic alphabet. Some less-than-convincing reconstructions of a supposed giant’s name Þomr (Genzmer 1934, 70) or Þámr, related to ModIcel. þám ‘mist, fog during a thaw’ (Kiil 1956, 97), are based on the reading ‘þoms’ in R and, according to Genzmer (1934, 70), also in W, which is incorrect. — [5] gjarðvani*ðr ‘the belt-familiar one [= Þórr]’: Calling Þórr ‘belt-familiar’ refers to his attribute megingjǫrð ‘strength-belt’ mentioned in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 14). According to Snorri’s version of the myth, Þórr did not have his strength-belt with him, but received a substitute from Gríðr. This edn follows a suggestion by Kock (NN §444; adopted by Genzmer 1934, 71 and Reichardt 1948, 337). None of the ms. readings can be construed as Old Norse words. Ms. R’s ‘giarðvenioðr’ (choosen by Davidson 1983, 570, 572) does not work because ‑venjuðr cannot be derived from the weak verb venja ‘accustom’, because this verb belongs to the first conjugation (venja, vanði, vanðr). At best, venjuðr could be an agent noun derived from an unattested verb of the second conjugation (*venja, ‑aða, venjaðr; cf. Jón Þorkelsson 1890, 3-4). A derivation of an agent noun venjuðr ‘frequenter’ from the abstract noun venja ‘custom, habit’, which Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 285) proposes, has no parallels (cf. Krahe and Meid 1969, 157-9). Mss W and offer the form -vendi, which can only be a late, weakly inflected p. p. of venja. Vendr appears instead of vandr in the later rímur (ANG §512 Anm. 2), but a weakly inflected p. p. should not be expected in the present poem. Jón Þorkelsson’s (1890, 3-4) emendation garðvǫnoðr ‘wall-breaker’ (of the giants), Finnur Jónsson’s (1900b, 377) garðvitjuðr ‘courtyard visitor’ and likewise Faulkes’s garðvenjuðr ‘enclosure frequenter’ (SnE 1998, II, 285) require determinants consisting of a giant’s name, which, in Finnur Jónsson’s case, leads to a highly complicated word order. — [6] Skotum Gandvíkr ‘the Scots of Gandvík [GIANTS]’: Gandvík (lit. ‘bay of magic’) is the White Sea (see Note to SnSt Ht 1/8). The name probably refers to a belief that the area’s inhabitants practised witchcraft. The giant-kenning is based on the idea that giants lived in the desolate north. The Skálholt map drawn by the Icelandic teacher Sigurður Stefánsson in 1570 (a version of which is preserved in ms. GKS 2881 4°ˣ(10v)), shows that inhabitants north of Gandvík could be called giants: the map depicts a land bridge stretching from Greenland to Bjarmaland, which has the place names Riseland and Jǫtunheimar (both ‘land of giants’) written on it. According to the notes to the map, Jǫtunheimar was the kingdom of Geirrøðr and Guðmundr. Ethnic names often appear as determinants in giant-kennings (see Marold 1990a, 109-10), and such kennings are especially common in Þdr (see Introduction above). Usually, the named ethnicity would be an enemy of the Norwegians (cf. Lie 1976, 398; Clunies Ross 1978b, 287-8; Frank 1986, 101-2). — [7] til kindar Ymsa ‘for the offspring of Ymsi <giant> [GIANT]’: This is the only occurrence of the giant-name Ymsi, which could perhaps be an s-derivative of Ymir or derived from the noun ymr ‘muffled sound’. The Germanic suffix ‑san/sōn was used to derive animal names and personal names; cf. bersi ‘small bear’ and Hrafsi, from the pers. n. Hrafn (further examples in Krahe and Meid 1969, 136). The giant-name Þjazi is one of these derived names (AEW: Þjazi). — [8] setrs Iðja ‘towards the seat of Iði <giant> [MOUNTAINS]’: For the giant-name Iði, see Note to Þul Jǫtna I 1/4. Because Þórr is visiting the giant Geirrøðr at his home, setrs Iðja ‘towards the dwelling of the giant’ could be taken literally, in which case Iði would be a heiti for ‘giant’. In the present edn ‘dwelling of Iði’ is interpreted as a kenning for ‘mountain’, however (cf. vegr jǫtna ‘path of the giants [MOUNTAINS]’ in Eskál Vell 14/5I). The gen. is taken as a gen. of place, indicating that Þórr is heading in the direction of the mountains, the dwelling of Iði (Kock NN §444, cf. NS §141 and examples given there); one of several comparable constructions is found in gengo þeir fagra | Freyio túna ‘they went to the fair estates of Freyja’ in Þry 3/1-2 (NK 111). Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 377; Skj B) connects Iðja with his conjectural emendation garðvenjuðr to form a giant-kenning (‘one who is accustomed to visiting the court of Iði’), but Kock (NN §444) rightly objects both to the conjecture and to the resulting complicated word order.

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