Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Sólarljóð, 56 [Vol. 7, 335-6]

[2] sonu niðja ‘the sons of the dark phases of the moon’: In ON there are two words, nið n. and niðar f. pl. (LP: 1. nið n. and niðar f. pl.) that mean both the waning moon and the time before the new moon (cf. Vsp 6/5, Vafþr 24/6). There is no equivalent English word, so the translation here ‘the dark phases of the moon’ attempts to approximate the ON with a phrase. The f. pl. form niðar has facultative <j> in gen. pl. Who ‘the sons of the dark phases of the moon’ are is uncertain; Falk (1914a, 35-6), as also Paasche (1948, 188-9), see them as angels or archangels coming to Christ’s aid. Björn M. Ólsen (1915, 53-4) argues that they are the inhabitants of a Norse limbus patrum, the wise pagans who cannot enter Heaven or Hell. Njörður Njarðvík (1991, 88) also sees these men as the denizens of Purgatory, neither good enough to join the hart of st. 55 nor wicked enough to be the prey of the dragon of st. 54.


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