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Runic Dictionary

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Steinarr (Steinarr)

11th century; volume 3; ed. Russell Poole;

Poem about a woman (Woman) - 1

Nothing is known about Steinarr (Steinarr) beyond the citation of a half-stanza fragment in Skm (SnE). In SnE mss and A he is referred to as Steinn but that is probably merely through confusion with Hallar-Steinn, some of whose stanzas appear immediately before this helmingr within the same group of citations. Finnur Jónsson (Skj, with a query) refers Steinarr to the eleventh century but there do not seem to be linguistic or other grounds for any certainty on this point.

Poem about a woman — Steinarr WomanIII

Russell Poole 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Steinarr, Poem about a woman’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 384.

stanzas:  1 

Skj: Steinarr: Af et digt om en kvinde (AI, 417, BI, 386); stanzas (if different): [v]

SkP info: III, 384

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Steinarr Woman 1III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Steinarr, Poem about a woman 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 384.

Mens hafa mildrar Synjar
mjúkstalls logit allir
— sjá * véltumk stoð stilltan
straumtungls — at mér draumar.

Allir draumar mjúkstalls {mildrar Synjar mens} hafa logit at mér; {sjá stoð {straumtungls}} * véltumk stilltan.

All the dreams of the soft place {of the gracious Syn <goddess> of the necklace} [WOMAN] have deceived me; {this support {of the stream-star}} [GOLD > WOMAN] tricked me so that I was thwarted.

Mss: R(33r), Tˣ(34v), W(76), A(10v), C(4v) (SnE)

Readings: [1] mildrar: meldrar C;    Synjar: so Tˣ, W, synjat R, C, ‘syni[…]’ A    [2] logit: so all others, ‘logvt’ R    [3] sjá: svá C;    * véltumk: hǫfumk villti R, hǫfumk velti‑ Tˣ, hǫfumk velti W, A, hǫfum velti C;    stilltan: corrected in the same hand from ‘vælltan’ A    [4] ‑tungls: ‘‑fylgs’ A;    mér draumar: ‘[…]rꜹmar’ A

Editions: Skj: Steinarr, Af et digt om en kvinde: AI, 417, BI, 386, Skald I, 192, NN §§902, 2314; SnE 1848-87, I, 412-13, II, 435, 584, III, 74, SnE 1931, 146, SnE 1998, I, 64.

Context: The stanza is cited in Skm (SnE) to illustrate kennings for ‘woman’ that have names for trees, parts of trees or objects made from trees as base-words. The noun stoð ‘post, support, pillar’ comes into the last of these categories.

Notes: [All]: Attempts to interpret this stanza have encountered two major difficulties: (a) determining the function of the cpd mjúkstalls ‘of the soft place’ and (b) establishing the text of l. 3. The solution proposed in this edn is necessarily tentative. — [1-2] mjúkstalls Synjar mens ‘of the soft place of the Syn <goddess> of the necklace [WOMAN]’: Mjúkstalls ‘of the soft place’ is a hap. leg. (a) In this edn Synjar mens is construed as a two-element woman-kenning of the familiar type ‘goddess of the necklace’ (Meissner 413; cf. Skj B and LP: men). The cpd mjúkstalls could be a periphrasis, perhaps euphemistic, for ‘bed’, with the kenning based on the gen. Synjar denoting its possessor. The noun stallr has a variety of senses deriving from a central meaning of ‘raised platform’ (cf. CVC: stallr; Fritzner: stallr 1; LP: stallr 1); the structures so designated, such as the altar and the step of a mast, are typically rigid, hence the first element of the cpd distinguishes this type of stallr from them. Beds that can be detected in archaeological investigations of medieval Icelandic dwellings are typically on raised platforms above floor-level (Arnheiður Sigurðardóttir 1970). For the use of the adj. mjúkr ‘soft’ in relation to ‘bed’ see Fritzner: mjúkr 1 and the ONP citations of mjúkr; for a male speaker contemplating a woman’s bed, cf. Hfr Lv 19V (Hallfr 22), Tindr Hákdr 1/1-4I and Þklypp Lv 1/1-4I. This interpretation removes the need to posit a superfluous kenning determinant in one or other of the two kennings in the stanza. The goddess-name Syn lit. ‘refusal’ may have been selected to suit a context where the woman is evidently denying the male speaker’s wishes. The characterisation of her as mildr ‘gracious’, a word collocated with mjúkr ‘soft’ here and elsewhere (ONP: mjúkr), is presumably ironic. (b) In SnE 1848-87, followed by Kock (NN §902 and Skald) and Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 356), mjúkstalls (l. 2) is combined with Synjar mens ‘of the Syn of the necklace’ (l. 1) to produce a woman-kenning, Syn mjúkstalls mens ‘Syn <goddess> of the soft place of the necklace’. This ‘soft place’ would necessarily be the neck, since the noun men is not attested in the sense ‘ring’, ‘arm-ring’ but solely as ‘necklace-ring’ (LP: men). The solution ‘neck’ is indeed proposed by Faulkes (cf. his translation ‘necklace-stand’; Faulkes 1987, 115), but the woman-kenning that results (‘goddess of the neck’) is nowhere attested and the adj. mjúkr seems incongruous used of the neck. Solution as ‘arm’ (NN §902, following SnE 1848-87), has attracted greater favour from scholars, based on the large number of woman-kennings of the ‘goddess of the ring’ type, but in these the determinant must logically denote a generic ring or arm-ring (cf. Meissner 419-20), not a necklace. Perhaps with this objection tacitly in mind, Finnur Jónsson construes mjúkstalls (Skj B; LP: mjúkstallr) with the second kenning in the stanza (see Note to ll. 3, 4). — [3]: The ms. paradosis of the line, sjá hǫfumk velti stoð stiltan (or similar), is unsatisfactory on metrical grounds: the line is hypermetric and the alliteration irregular, falling on the second element in veltistoð, which the mss treat as a cpd (evident from the syntax even though it is written as two words in all mss except ), whereas the rule is that alliteration falls on the first stressed element in a cpd (Kuhn 1983, 49; cf. NN §2314, also SnE 1998, I, 192). (a) Both of these irregularities can be eliminated if from hǫfumk (= hefir mik), the element most suspect as extraneous (guaranteed by neither skothending nor alliteration), we excise hǫf and reassign -umk. The apparent cpd veltistoð or viltistoð can then be construed not as a cpd but as a succession of finite verb (3rd pers. sg. pret.) + noun (nom. sg., subject of this verb). The possibilities for the verb (with enclitic -umk added) are veltumk, véltumk and villtumk. Of these, veltumk ‘rolled, turned me’ does not yield a contextually appropriate sense. Of the two other candidates, villtumk ‘misled me’ yields good sense and collocates well with draumar (cf. NN §2314, adducing GSúrs Lv 17/1V (Gísl 20)) but is attested solely by R. The remaining candidate, véltumk, would most plausibly presuppose the weak verb véla in the sense ‘trick, betray’ (Fritzner: véla 1; AEW: véla 2): the other main sense of véla, ‘deal with, arrange, manage’ (Fritzner: véla 2; AEW: véla 1), is less readily accommodated to the context. Disagreement between mss on forms of véla and villa is seen also in Anon Sól 63/3VII and Hárb 37/4 and is not unnatural in view of the graphological similarity and the partial overlap in semantic range between the two verbs. The reading véltumk is tentatively adopted in this edn, but there is no decisive reason for rejecting villtumk; it is true that villti would result in aðalhending rather than skothending in this odd line but the preference for skothendingar in odd lines is by no means a fixed rule. Possibly the R reading represents a scribal attempt to ‘improve’ on the hending. This analysis enables us to account for hǫf(umk) as a substitute or gloss for the proper finite verb in l. 3, the verb hafa being a normal syntactic accompaniment to the p. p., whereas vélti is not; influence from hafa in l. 1 may also be a factor. The form véltumk would equate to vélti mik, where (as noted above) the verb is 3rd pers. sg. pret. with stoð as subject. This active-voice form is to be distinguished from the morphologically identical m. v. For instances involving the cliticised acc. case cf. Gamlkan Has 17/3-4VII and Hfr Lv 5/6V (Hallfr 8). For the morphologically identical dat. case cf. Bragi Rdr 7/3 and 12/3. The participial adj. stilltan can be construed as the complement of cliticised mik, where stilltan is p. p. of stilla ‘stop, check, restrain, control, moderate, arrange, sneak up on, entrap’ (CVC, Fritzner, LP: stilla; SnE 1998, II, 403: stilla). For a discussion of the widely varying senses of this verb see Note to ÞjóðA Lv 11/2II. Faulkes’s (1987, 115) ‘put me in the lurch’ in his translation of this stanza appears to be contextually determined; a gloss of ‘thwarted’ (based on ‘checked, restrained’) fits better with the dictionary glosses and with the citations in ONP: stilla. A construction véltumk stiltan ‘tricked me [so that I was] thwarted’, lit. ‘tricked me thwarted’, would be comparable with that seen in Akv 40/2 (NK 247) móðan hafði hann sic druccit ‘he had drunk himself into a state of exhaustion’, lit. ‘he had drunk himself exhausted’; in both instances of this unusual construction the adj. and p. p. respectively denote result (cf. NS §93 Anm.). This use of véltumk could represent an extension from the use of vinna and ráða with past participles to denote result (on which see NS §245). (b) Another possibility would be to omit -umk entirely, yielding: sjá stoð straumtungls vélti stilltan ‘this support of the stream-star tricked the entrapped one’, where mik would be implied by stilltan, but that would weaken the sense of result or product inherent in the verb. (c) Broadly similar to the solution proposed in this edn is that proposed by Kock (NN §2314): mik villti stoð stilltan | straumtungls translated as mig har, illa ställd, klenodens bärarinna vilselett ‘the bearer of treasure has deluded me, ill-placed’; but he excises sjá ‘this’ (surely essential to the rhetoric) and ‑umk so as to insert mik and appears to understand stilltan as loosely appositional rather than syntactically tied to the verb. In either solution the line scans as Type XE3: for a list of secure instances see Gade 1995a, 85-7, with close parallels (for both metrics and genre) in KormǪ Lv 5/7V and 21/7V (Korm 5, 23). — [3, 4] stoð straumtungls ‘support of the stream-star [GOLD > WOMAN]’: This solution, supplied by Skald (and cf. SnE 1998, I, 192), yields a standard type of woman-kenning (cf. Meissner 413-14). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) instead combines straumtungls with mjúkstalls ‘of the soft place’ (l. 2), interpreting as ‘soft underlay of the stream-star [GOLD > ARM]’ (LP: mjúkstallr), which in turn he combines with the retained ms. reading veltistoð, explained as a base-word signifying bevægende støtte ‘moving support’. The result would be a woman-kenning. As noted above, woman-kennings with ‘arm’ as the determinant are firmly attested (Meissner 419-20) and Finnur avoids the illogicality of associating a necklace with the arm. On the other hand, his proposal has the weakness of retaining the hypermetrical line with faulty alliteration and unnecessarily complicating the word order. Kock (NN §2314) argues additionally that Finnur’s explanation of velti- is difficult to reconcile with the normal senses of velta ‘roll, roll over, set rolling’ (CVC, Fritzner: velta).

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