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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anonymous Poems (Anon)

III. Málsháttakvæði (Mhkv) - 30

not in Skj

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

Roberta Frank 2017, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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

SkP info: III, 1238

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

25 — Anon Mhkv 25III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Roberta Frank (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Málsháttakvæði 25’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1238.

Sjaldan hittisk feigs vǫk frørin;
fljóðin verða at ǫldrum kørin;
lengi hefr þat lýst fyr mér:
lítinn kost á margr und sér.
Sagt er frá, hvé neflauss narir;
nú verðr sumt, þat er mangi varir;
væri betr, at þegðak þoks;
þat hefr hverr, er verðr er, loks.

Sjaldan hittisk vǫk feigs frørin; fljóðin verða kørin at ǫldrum; lengi hefr þat lýst fyr mér: margr á lítinn kost und sér. Sagt er frá, hvé neflauss narir; nú verðr sumt, þat er mangi varir; væri betr, at þegðak þoks; hverr hefr loks þat, er verðr er.

Seldom is a doomed man’s ice-hole found frozen; women are chosen at drinking parties; that has long been clear to me: many a one has little in his power. It is related how a noseless person languishes; now comes something that no one expects; it would be far better that I should be silent; each gets what he deserves in the end.

Mss: R(55r)

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], A. [1]. Málsháttakvæði 25: AII, 135, BII, 144, Skald II, 77, NN §3155; Möbius 1874, 11, Wisén 1886-9, I, 76.

Notes: [1]: Cf. Fáfn 11/6 (NK 182) alt er feigs forað ‘all is dangerous for the doomed man’; for parallels to this proverb in other Old Norse texts, see Ísl. Málsh.: feigur, feigð and Anon Sól 36/6VII frammi eru feigs götur ‘the doomed man’s roads lead away’. The sense here is that if a man is fated to drown in an ice-hole, the hole will not freeze over but be there waiting for him. — [2] at ǫldrum ‘at drinking parties’: So Möbius (1874), Wisén (1886-9, I), NN §3155, but LP: aldr and Skj B interpret this as ‘according to their age’. Eddic poetry associates choosing women and alcoholic beverages: see HHj 32/3-6 (NK 147) ec hefi kerna | ina konungborno, | brúði þína, | at bragarfulli ‘I have chosen the royal descended one, your bride, at the drinking cup’. Ǫldr designates a drinking party in Hávm 13/2; Sigrdr 28/1-3 warns men about the dangers presented by beautiful women on the hall-benches. The notion of choosing a bride over the ale cup is central to the poem immediately preceding Mhkv in R, Bjbp Jóms 14/5-6, 8I. Bugge (1896b, 6) thought it possible that Mhkv was here playing on HHj. — [5] neflauss ‘a noseless person’: Taken here (with Möbius 1874, 69 and Skj B) as a cpd nef- ‘nose’ plus -lauss ‘less’, while Wisén (1886-9, II, 211) interprets the cpd neflauss as ‘one without relatives’ (nefi ‘kinsman’ plus -lauss). There are references to noseless men and women in Strengleikar and Hauksbók (see Fritzner: neflauss citations), as if this condition held some interest for the medieval North. — [6]: Cf. Anon Sól 8/4-5VII margan þat sækir, | er minst of varir ‘what he least expects comes upon many a man’; Orkneyinga saga (Orkn ch. 30, ÍF 34, 77): margan hendir þat, er minnst varir ‘what he least expects happens to many a man’; Grettis saga (Gr ch. 14, ÍF 7, 41): Verðr þat, er varir, ok svá hitt, er eigi varir ‘The expected happens and the unexpected too’. — [7] þoks ‘far’: The perfect eye-rhyme (þoks : loks) of the ms. is lost when the noun is normalised to ‘correct’ þokks; see LP: þokkr ‘mind, disposition’ and cf. Anon Has 13/6VII þokka ... betri ‘considerably better’. It is quite likely that the geminate in þokks had been shortened before another consonant (-kks >  ‑ks) at this point (see ANG §284).

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