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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anonymous Lausavísur (Anon)

III. Lausavísur from AM 732 b 4° (732b) - 2

not in Skj

4: Lausavísur from AM 732 b 4° — Anon 732bIII

Jonathan Grove 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Lausavísur from AM 732 b 4°’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1247. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=2924> (accessed 3 December 2021)

 1   2 

Skj: [Anonyme digte og vers XIV]: A. 10. Løse vers (AII, 463, BII, 495-6); stanzas (if different): 3

SkP info: III, 1251

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Anon 732b 2III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Jonathan Grove (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from AM 732 b 4° 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. 1251.

Pater ert og princeps feiti;
percussor ert svartra pússa;
rex heitir þú lifra ljóssa;
látprúðr ert þú domnus húða.
Praeses ert og lofðungr lýsis;
leðrs kalla þig Caesarem allir;
magister ert maks og leista;
margsvinnr ert þú dux fyr skinnum.

Ert pater og princeps feiti; ert percussor svartra pússa; þú heitir rex ljóssa lifra; þú ert látprúðr domnus húða. Ert praeses og lofðungr lýsis; allir kalla þig Caesarem leðrs; ert magister maks og leista; þú ert margsvinnr dux fyr skinnum.

You are a pater (‘father’) and princeps (‘prince’) of fat; you are a percussor (‘smiter’) of black [skin] pouches; you are called rex (‘king’) of shining livers; you are a courteous domnus (‘lord’) of hides. You are a praeses (‘protector’) and ruler of oil; all men call you Caesar (‘emperor’) of leather; you are a magister (‘master’) of grease and [leather] footwear; you are a very wise dux (‘duke’) of skins.

Mss: 732b(8v)

Readings: [2] percussor: ‘percvssus’ 732b

Editions: Skj: [Anonyme digte og vers XIV], A. 10. Løse vers 2: AII, 463, BII, 496, Skald II, 271, NN §§2983, 3348; Finnur Jónsson 1886a, 188, 193-4, Jón Helgason 1968, 58.

Context: See Anon 732b 1.

Notes: [All]: Finnur Jónsson (1886a, 194) originally proposed that the stanza mocks a person waterproofing the leather overalls worn by sailors and fishermen (on which see Note to l. 2); in LP he suggests that the stanza might refer equally well to a tanner (LP: húð; leðr; leistr; cf. Jón Helgason 1968, 58). Neither interpretation captures the range of tasks suggested in the poet’s choice of terms. He praises the ‘very wise duke of skins’ (margsvinnr dux fyr skinnum) as if he were a master of more courtly arts, but the determinants in the series of kenning-like constructions that he employs relate to successive stages in the evisceration and flaying of a slaughtered sheep or cow, and the processing of its skin: the stripping from the carcass of fat, offal, and hide (ll. 1-4); tanning of the hide in fish-oil, treatment of the tanned leather with dubbin and the final production of worked leather goods (ll. 5-8). For similar kennings and circumlocutions for people engaged in menial work, see Sigv Austv 7/5I, SnH Lv 1/8II, Anon GnóðÁsm 1/2III, Anon (LaufE) 5 and Án Lv 4VIII (Án 4), Note to [All]. Cf. also the alternative reading of Refr Frag 2III suggested in the Note to l. 2, ad loc. — [1] pater ‘(“father”)’: Lat., m. nom. sg. — [1] princeps ‘(“prince”)’: Lat., m. nom. sg. — [2] percussor svartra pússa ‘a percussor (“smiter”) of black [skin] pouches’: An obscure phrase, but in parallel to rex ljóssa lifra ‘king of shining livers’ (l. 3) it most likely refers to a person who cuts the offal from animal carcasses: specifically, ‘one who smites the testicles of sheep’. The Lat. percussor m. nom. sg. ‘one who strikes, deals a blow’ (the nomen agentis of percutio ‘strike, smite, pierce through, kill’) is an emendation of the ms. reading ‘percvssus’. None of the homonyms of Lat. percussus (nom. or gen. sg. of the fourth-declension m. noun ‘beating, striking’, and the m. nom. sg. noun formed from the p. p. of percutio) make sense here, and no past ed. has let the ms. reading stand. Finnur Jónsson (1886a, 194) retains the ms. form unaltered in his presentation of the text, but treats percussus as percussor in the Danish translation, banker ‘beater’. Acceptance of the emendation to percussor supplies a plausible minimal correction. It differs from the other Latinisms in the stanza in that it is neither a lordly title nor a conventional honorific, but it is consistent with the conventional vernacular language of martial epithet (cf. the use of analogous terms such as bauti ‘beater, striker’, hneitir ‘striker’ in skaldic poetry). The sense of the whole expression percussor svartra pússa is not self-evident. Finnur Jónsson (1886a, 194) interprets the phrase as a reference to a man whose responsibility it was to waterproof the protective leather clothing (skinnfǫt) worn by Icelandic sailors and fishermen. These overalls were known as púss (Mörður Árnason 2010: púss 4; ÍO: 4 púss), but the usage has only been recorded since the C19th. In their exchange on the stanza in 1844, Konráð Gíslason and Jónas Hallgrímsson connected the expression svartir pússar to different varieties of offal: Jónas proposed that it might refer to mör, the suet made from the loins and kidneys of sheep and cows and wrapped in intestinal membrane to make black pudding (Haukur Hannesson, Páll Valsson and Sveinn Yngvi Egilsson 1989, II, 197); Konráð thought it more likely to designate another delicacy: svartir hrútspungar ‘black ram’s testicles’ (Aðalgeir Kristjánsson 1984, 66), which is the interpretation preferred here. Cf. Fritzner: púss, noting the probable connection of ON púss ‘(skin) pouch, purse’, with MLat. bursa/byrsa, which has the primary meaning ‘(animal) skin, leather’, and by extension ‘pouch’ (Niermeyer and van de Kieft 2002: byrsa; Prinz et al. 1967-: bursa). In Modern Icelandic the contrasting secondary meanings ‘scrotum’ and ‘vagina (of a mare)’ are also recorded (Mörður Árnason 2010: púss 3; ÍO: 1 púss). It is unlikely that the scurrility of a term referring to a man as one who beats the sexual organs of farm animals would have been overlooked; any oblique insult might have been reinforced by the secondary sense of MLat. percussor as ‘masturbator, fellator’ (Howlett et al. 1975-: percussor d). All commentaries apart from Finnur Jónsson (1886a) have recommended more obtrusive emendation. Konráð Gíslason misinterpreted ms. ‘percvssus’ as procossus, incorrectly expanding the conventional abbreviation of the Latin prefix per- as pro- (Aðalgeir Kristjánsson 1984, 56, 66-7; cf. Haukur Hannesson, Páll Valsson and Sveinn Yngvi Egilsson 1989, II, 197). He emended this invented form to procussul, a theoretically conceivable but unattested Medieval Latin variant of Classical Lat. proconsul m. nom. sg. ‘governor’. His emendation is reproduced by Finnur Jónsson in Skj B and Kock in Skald. Jón Helgason (1968, 58) introduces the more radical emendation to proconsul, which has the advantage of providing an extant Latin word; but he is thereby forced into the supporting alteration of ms. ‘pussa’ to sponsa (gen. pl. of spons ‘bung, bung-hole’), in order to maintain aðalhending. This produces the unverifiable editorial reading proconsul svartra sponsa ‘governor of black bung-holes’. Spons is only recorded in Icelandic since the C17th. Jón fails to explain the meaning of the postulated term here, but it might reasonably refer to the anal area cut out during the evisceration of an animal carcass (in slaughterer’s parlance in Modern English the rectum – edible offal valued for casing tripe – is known as the ‘bung’). The reading would introduce an inevitable sexual double-entendre (for the use of spons and the related verb sponsa ‘to bung, plug’ in sexual innuendo, see Bósa saga ch. 13, Jiriczek 1893, 51). — [3] rex ljóssa lifrarex (“king”) of shining livers’: Note the skothending on Lat. rex ‘king’ (m. nom. sg.) and gen. pl. adj. ljóssa, with the latter form corrected from the ms. reading ‘liosa’ for syntactic reasons (the adj. qualifies lifra gen. pl. ‘livers’). Note however that Konráð Gíslason read ljósa as gen. pl. of the n. noun ljós ‘light’, and construed lifra ljós ‘livers’ lights’ as a reference to lamps fuelled by cod-liver oil (Aðalgeir Kristjánsson 1984, 67). — [4] domnus ‘(“lord”)’: Lat., m. nom. sg. < Classical Lat. dominus. — [5] praeses ‘(“protector”)’: Lat., m. nom. sg. — [5] lýsis ‘of oil’: In medieval Iceland, where tannin derived from tree-bark was not readily available, cleaned skins were tanned in fish-oil; further applications to the cured leather of fish-oil, and train-oil extracted from the blubber of seals or whales, provided effective waterproofing (cf. Jäfvert 1960). — [6] CaesaremCaesar (“emperor”)’: Lat., m. acc. sg. < nom. sg. Caesar. — [7] magister ‘(“master”)’: Lat., m. nom. sg. — [7] maks og leista ‘of grease and [leather] footwear’: Mak is not otherwise recorded in Old Norse. It is not listed as a headword in LP, but the whole phrase magister maks ok leista is quoted under leistr ‘foot of a stocking, sock, shoe’, where it is identified as an ironisk betegnelse for en graver (?) ‘an ironic term for a tanner (?)’, but left untranslated. Elsewhere, Finnur Jónsson (1886a, 194) interprets maks as gen. sg. of n. mak ‘ointment, fat’, which is known in Modern Icelandic and may derive from Old Norse (cf. ÍO: 3 maka ‘smear’). Tallow-based grease can be used to curry tanned leather and render finished leather goods supple or make them waterproof. The noun leistr ‘foot; foot of a stocking, sock, shoe’, might refer here to some sort of leather footwear, the end-product of the labour to which the stanza refers: either stockings such as the socked leggings of waterproofed leather worn by Icelandic seamen, or else leather shoes, boots or galoshes (cf. Ulset 1975, 131). An alternative would be to treat ms. ‘maks’ as máks, gen. sg. of mák(u)r ‘fore-paw, hand’, which is only unambiguously attested in post-Reformation Icelandic; in this case leistr might be read in its older sense ‘foot’. The phrase ‘master (magister) of front- and hind-feet’ would invoke once again the business of skinning, during which the feet of the animal were cut off; but it would disrupt any sequential progression of terms in the stanza. Leistr is seldom used in skaldic poetry, yet it also appears in the only other material in the skaldic corpus referring to a leatherworker, in one of two lausavísur attributed to Þjóðólfr Arnórsson that were composed in mockery of an enraged tanner (Sneglu-Halla þáttr ch. 3, ÍF 9, 267-9; ÞjóðA Lv 5-6II). Employing leistr in the sense ‘foot’, Þjóðólfr depicts the tanner crawling like the dragon Fáfnir across the heiði leista ‘heath of feet [FLOOR]’ during his fight with a blacksmith (ÞjóðA Lv 6/4II). The use of the same rare term in the only surviving skaldic compositions mentioning leatherworkers suggests that the choice of the word in the C14th macaronic could have been influenced by familiarity with the earlier satire. — [8] dux ‘(“duke”)’: Lat., m. nom. sg.

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