Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Gamli kanóki, 1. Harmsól, 41 [Vol. 7, 108-9]

[1-4]: The ms. reads blakkvaldr þrimu tjaldi (l. 4) and it is clear from the context that this is a man-kenning. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) assumes the man-kenning here to be blakkvaldr láðs byrjar ‘horse-steerer of the land of the wind [SEA > SHIP > SEAFARER]’. He then emends B’s þrimu to þrumu gen. sg. of þruma ‘thunder’, to form the God-kenning harri þrumu tjalda ‘king of the thunder-tents’. This makes for a rather cumbersome cl.-arrangement in the helmingr. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 258) dismisses Finnur’s interpretation of láðs byrjar ‘[of the] land of the wind’ as a sea-kenning as rather unlikely. Instead, he indicates that one would expect it to mean ‘heaven’, like, for example, byrjar vegr ‘path of the wind’, éla vangr ‘field of the storm’. If this interpretation is correct, láðs byrjar must be construed with harra acc. sg. of harri ‘lord’ (l. 1) to give a straightforward God-kenning in the acc. case. The w.o. is thus simplified considerably. Finnur’s emendation to þruma is unnecessary, since þrimu can be taken as gen. sing. of þrima ‘thunder’, which by a transfer of meaning is often used for ‘battle’ (see LP: þrima). Emendation to tjalda, gen. pl. would give blakkvaldr þrimu tjalda ‘horse-steerer of the tents of battle [SHIELDS > SHIP > SEAFARER]’. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 258) suggests that this kenning’s lack of regularity might be alleviated by a minor emendation to blikvaldr ‘gleam-wielder’. Blikvaldr þrimu tjalds (or tjalda) would provide a straightforward warrior-kenning, ‘wielder of the gleam of the tent(s) of battle [SHIELD(S) > SWORD > WARRIOR]’. Kock (NN §2933) concurs with Jón’s arrangement, and with his interpretation of láðs byrjar. However, he argues that emendation may be unnecessary, since the connection between ships and shields in poetry is so close that a kenning ‘shield’s steed’ for ‘ship’ is not impossible (cf. Black 1971, 243). Although, as Kock suggests, there are a small number of kennings for ‘shield’ which have ‘ship’ as their determinant (see Meissner, 166-9; LP: skip), this is scarcely grounds for arguing that the two entities were interchangeable, or that the poem’s original hearers would have understood blakkr tjalda þrimu ‘horse of the tents of battle’ to mean ‘ship’. There is no comparable kenning in which a shield-heiti is used as the determinant of a ship-kenning. Sword-kennings like blik þrimu tjalda on the ‘light, flame of the shield’ model are extremely common (see Meissner, 150-1; LP: blik), and blik here anticipates the man-kenning viðir leiptra grundar Ægis ‘the trees of the lightnings of the plain of Ægir’ in the second helmingr. Jón Helgason’s emendation has been adopted here.

references

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