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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 49. Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld (biog. vol. 5), Lausavísur, 24 [Vol. 1, 840]

[1-4]: This and the following Notes relate to the main text above. The obscurities of this helmingr, especially the two references to ‘red’ (rjóðr ... rauðum) and the variants en/ in l. 1, have given rise to various interpretations by scribes and eds, and much depends on which ms. readings are adopted. (a) In the interpretation offered here, the text of ÓH is adopted, including the conj. en ‘but’. Rauðum ‘red’ is assumed to mean that the poet is blood-stained. Such a usage is admittedly unparalleled (though roðinn ‘reddened’ is often used this way: see LP: rjóða 2), but this analysis provides the contrast implied by en (I am not ruddy, but I am nonetheless ‘red’), and it helps make sense of hitt in l. 5, which is emphatic. It seems likeliest that the stanza known to both Snorri and the author of Fbr collocated rjóðr ‘ruddy’, rather than rauðr ‘red’, with emka ‘I am not’, since in both the stanza is a response to the question why the poet is so pale. (b) Skj B, by contrast, adopts ‘and not’, and interprets the first three lines to mean ‘I am not red; neither does the white, slender woman have a red-cheeked man’, and this is the reading also of Skald. (c) A further possibility is to take the ‘red man’ in the second clause as a rueful reference to someone other than the speaker, probably a man who is ‘red’ in complexion, healthy and uninjured (so ÍF 6). Reference to a red-haired man, by contrast with the black-haired Þormóðr (Lv 8V (Fbr 26)), is suggested by Finnur Jónsson (Hb 1892-6; Finnur Jónsson 1932-3), but judging from the prose contexts none of the saga authors perceived a reference to a red-haired man here.


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