This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Runic Dictionary

login: password: stay logged in: help

Anonymous Poems (Anon)

III. Málsháttakvæði (Mhkv) - 30

5: Málsháttakvæði (‘Proverb poem’) — Anon MhkvIII

Roberta Frank 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Málsháttakvæði’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1213. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=1029> (accessed 22 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30 

Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII]: A. [1]. Málsháttakvæði, Et orknøsk(?) digt, omkr. 1200. (AII, 130-6, BII, 138-45)

SkP info: III, 1227

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

12 — Anon Mhkv 12III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Roberta Frank (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Málsháttakvæði 12’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1227.

Skips láta menn skammar rár;
skatna þykkir hugrinn grár;
tungan leikr við tanna sár;
trauðla er gengt á ís of vár.
Mjǫk fár er sér œrinn einn;
eyvit týr, þótt skyndi seinn;
gǫfgask mætti af gengi hverr;
gǫrva þekkik, sumt hvé ferr.

Menn láta rár skips skammar; hugrinn skatna þykkir grár; tungan leikr við sár tanna; trauðla er gengt á ís of vár. Mjǫk fár er sér œrinn einn; eyvit týr, þótt seinn skyndi; hverr mætti gǫfgask af gengi; þekkik gǫrva, hvé sumt ferr.

Men say the ship’s sailyards are short; the heart of magnates seems grey; the tongue plays with the aching tooth; it is scarcely safe to walk on ice in spring. Very few are sufficient in themselves; it helps not at all though the slow one hastens; each man could gain stature from the company he keeps; I recognise fully how some things go.

Mss: R(54v)

Readings: [3] tungan: ‘tvgan’ R

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], A. [1]. Málsháttakvæði 12: AII, 133, BII, 141, Skald II, 75, NN §§3154, 3271; Möbius 1874, 6, Wisén 1886-9, I, 74.

Notes: [1-4]: The same rhyme is carried over four lines, as in sts 13/1-4 and 19/1-4. — [1] láta (3rd pers. pl. pres. indic.) ‘say’: The verb could also be taken in the sense ‘let, allow’ (‘men let the ship’s sailyards be short’). — [1] rár (f. acc. pl.) ‘sailyards’: Sailyards are horizontal arms supporting the sail, and the was typically long and slender (see McGrail 1998, 232; Jesch 2001a, 162). The meaning of the adage, which also occurs in Hávm 74/3, is disputed. This short yardarm has a long bibliography, beginning with Eiríkr Magnússon (1888, 334), who proposed as context a shipwreck in which a drowning man, clutching a floating yardarm, would wish it longer. Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1915b, 78) made the sensible equation: small sailyard = slow ship. Falk (1922, 174) noted that a short yardarm was a good thing when battling gusts in a fjord. Heusler (1915-16, 115) returned to the improbable reading (CPB II, 365) of ON rár ‘nooks’ as ‘cabins’: ‘scant (i.e. cramped) are a ship’s berths.’ In HHund I 49/4 (NK 137), rár langar ‘long sailyards’ are a good thing. Hermann Pálsson (1999a, 202) recalled the double-entendre proverb in which reiði means both ‘anger’ and ‘(ship’s) tackle’: stutt (or skömm) er skipsmanna reiði ‘short is the anger/equipment of sailors’. See also Ísl. Málsh.: reiði; skipmaður. — [2] hugrinn skatna þykkir grár ‘the heart of magnates seems grey’: The adj. grár ‘grey’ is most likely used in the sense ‘hostile, malicious’ here (cf. Heggstad et al. 2008: grár 2 and Note to st. 6/3). For a discussion of hugr ‘mind, thought, disposition, soul, heart’, see Þul Hugar ok hjarta, Note to l. 1. — [3] sár tanna ‘the aching tooth’: Lit. ‘pain of the teeth’. An international proverb (semper cum dente remanebit lingua dolente ‘the tongue always remains with the aching tooth’), deployed in courtly-love contexts by at least five early troubadours; cf. Bishop Folc of Marseille (Schulmann 2001, 186-7): ‘I know, as “Toward the toothache turns the tongue,” I turn to the lady who snarls at me’. — [4]: Cf. proverbs in Ísl. Málsh.: ís. — [5]: Cf. Ísl. Málsh.: einhlítur; fár 2. — [6]: See Ísl. Málsh.: seinn; cf. the reverse proverb in Njáls saga (Nj ch. 44, ÍF 12, 114): kemsk, þó at seint fari ‘all will come in good time’. — [7]: SnSt Ht 26/8 cites this proverb (vex hverr af gengi ‘each gains from his following’) in a stanza illustrating orðskviðu háttr ‘proverb’s form’; cf. gengileysi ‘lack of a retinue’ (Egill St 9/8V (Eg 80)), referring to the falling away of the skald’s friends and supporters.

© 2008-