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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, 87

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Eil Þdr 6III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa 6’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 87.

Ok vegþverrir varra
vann fetrunnar Nǫnnu
hjalts af hagli oltnar
hlaupár of ver gaupu.
Mjǫk leið ór stað støkkvir
stikleiðar veg breiðan
urðar þrjóts, þars eitri,
œstr, þjóðáar fnœstu.

Ok {vegþverrir {varra Nǫnnu}} vann fetrunnar hlaupár hjalts, oltnar af hagli, of {ver gaupu}. {Œstr støkkvir {þrjóts urðar}} leið mjǫk ór stað breiðan veg {stikleiðar}, þars þjóðáar fnœstu eitri.

And {the path-diminisher {of the waters of Nanna <female mythical being>}} [RIVER > = Þórr] was able to foot-traverse the fast-flowing streams of the sword, swollen with hail, over {the sea of the lynx} [MOUNTAINS]. {The ardent banisher {of the lout of the stone}} [GIANT > = Þórr] advanced greatly on the broad road {of the stake-path} [FORD], where great rivers sprayed poison.

Mss: R(24v), Tˣ(25v), W(53) (SnE)

Readings: [1] varra: vǫrru all    [2] ‑runnar: runar Tˣ, W    [3] hagli: so Tˣ, W, ‘hiagli’ corrected from ‘hiallti’ R    [5] støkkvir: ‘stokk[…]’ W    [6] stik‑: stig‑ Tˣ, ‘[…]g‑’ W    [7] þars (‘þar er’): þá er W    [8] fnœstu: ‘fnausto’ Tˣ

Editions: Skj: Eilífr Goðrúnarson, 2. Þórsdrápa 5: AI, 149, BI, 140, Skald I, 77; SnE 1848-87, I, 292-5, III, 28, SnE 1931, 108, SnE 1998, I, 26-7.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [1, 2] vegþverrir varra Nǫnnu ‘the path-diminisher of the waters of Nanna <female mythical being> [RIVER > = Þórr]’: This kenning anticipates st. 8/5-8, where Þórr threatens to use his strength against the river, and it is explained in the prose narrative of the myth in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 25): Þórr saw Gjálp, Geirrøðr’s daughter, standing above the gorge, making the river rise. Þórr threw a stone at her, saying at ósi skal á stemma ‘one must stem a river at its mouth’. In Þdr 6 the river is referred to as ‘the waters of Nanna <female mythical being>’ without the addition of a determinant that would form a giantess-kenning with the name Nanna as the base-word. This is in agreement with sts 8 and 9 where the names Mǫrn and Fríðr are also used without determinants (see Introduction above). Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 381; Skj B; LP: 2. vǫrr, followed by Reichardt 1948, 348) interpreted varra as the determinant of hjalt ‘hilt, sword’ to get a stone-kenning that, combined with Nǫnnu, results in a giantess-kenning. Combining this with vegþverrir, which he interprets as ‘honour-decreaser’, he construes the following kenning for Þórr: vegþverrir Nǫnnu hjalts varra ‘the honour-decreaser of the Nanna <goddess> of the hilt of the wake [STONE > GIANTESS > = Þórr]’. This interpretation is unconvincing because of the complicated way the kenning elements are distributed in the stanza, and also because Þórr can certainly not be described as ‘the honour-decreaser’ of the giantess. He does not destroy her honour but prevents her from threatening him with rising water. Kiil (1956, 108-9) presents another solution and connects vegþverrir with fetrunar (see Note to l. 2 below). Clunies Ross (1981, 374, followed by Davidson 1983, 585), translating vegþverrir as ‘path-diminisher’, also rejects Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation. As she points out, the path being narrowed must be the river. She connects varra ‘water’ with hjalts Nǫnnu ‘of the hilt of Nanna’, which she interprets as ‘Vimur’s vulva’ (cf. Kiil 1956, 109), and thus construes a kenning varra hjalts Nǫnnu ‘of the sea of Nanna’s (sword)guard’, denoting urine or menstrual blood. Kiil (1956, 109) interpreted hjalts Nǫnnu as vulva because sverdhjaltet i form kunne minne om kvinnens ytre genitalia ‘the form of the sword hilt could be reminiscent of the external genitals of a woman’. Clunies Ross (1981, 375 n. 20) refers to a passage in Bósa saga ‘for confirmation of the existence of the image-type in which the female genitals are compared to a round boss or ring on the hilt of a knife or sword’ (Clunies Ross 1973b, 81). Yet unless used as pars pro toto, strictly speaking hjalt refers not to the knob or the ring on a sword but rather to the guard of a sword-hilt. For the kenning to mean ‘vulva’, it would have to be an ofljóst construction in which hringr, the sword-heiti, is replaced by hjalt ‘hilt’. Clunies Ross (ibid.) suggests the Þórr-kenning vegþerrir varra hjalts Nǫnnu ‘the path-diminisher of the sea of Nanna’s (sword)guard’, but the leap from hjalt to ‘vulva’ is too great for that kenning to seem fully convincing. — [1] varra ‘of the waters’: The emendation is needed because vǫrru (so all mss) can only be an oblique sg. of a f. noun *varra, which is not found elsewhere. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (1851, 29) lists it in LP (1860): varra as ‘sea’, Lat. mare, based on its appearance in this stanza. Finnur Jónsson (1900b, 381) rightly rejected this and suggested that varra here is the gen. pl. of vǫrr ‘wake, backwash’. — [2] vann fetrunnar ‘was able to foot-traverse’: Lit. ‘got foot-traversed’. Fetrunnar is a cpd formed from fet ‘step, pace’ and runnar, f. acc. pl. of the p. p. of the strong verb renna ‘run’. For vinna plus a p. p. meaning ‘succeed, manage to do sth.’, see Fritzner: vinna 7. — [3] oltnar ‘swollen’: Lit. ‘rolling’; oltnar is f. acc. pl. of the p. p. of the strong verb velta. — [3, 4] hlaupár hjalts ‘the fast-flowing streams of the sword’: The present edn connects hjalts with hlaupár because of the structurally analogous expression for ‘river’ in st. 9/1, 4, sverðrunnit fen Fríðar ‘sword-filled fen of Fríðr <female mythical being> [RIVER]’ (see Note there; see also st. 10/5). Underlying this is an image of Slíðr, an underworld river swollen with swords, in Vsp 36/1-4 (also mentioned in Grí 28/6). This comparison serves to emphasise the threatening nature of the river. — [4] ver gaupu ‘the sea of the lynx [MOUNTAINS]’: Eilífr uses the same kenning pattern here as in st. 5 (see Note to st. 5/2, 3). — [6] stikleiðar ‘of the stake-path [FORD]’: Stik n. pl. refers to stakes driven into a river bottom, in this case probably to mark a ford (Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1851, 28). Less likely, the kenning refers to the river as a whole (Finnur Jónsson 1900b, 382; LP: stikleið; Kiil 1956, 110-11), since a river cannot be conceived of as a path of stakes. Davidson (1983, 586-7), adopting the interpretation of Kiil (ibid.), takes this as an image of the dangerous river, set with sharp stakes as a trap. — [8] þjóðáar (f. nom. pl.) ‘great rivers’: To achieve the required number of syllables, the uncontracted and more archaic form ‑áar is required here. This is compatible with assuming the contracted form hlaupár f. acc. pl. in l. 4; it appears that poets could choose contracted or full forms as the metre demanded.

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