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Runic Dictionary

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Anonymous Poems (Anon)

III. Málsháttakvæði (Mhkv) - 30

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.

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, 1239

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

26 — Anon Mhkv 26III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Roberta Frank (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Málsháttakvæði 26’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1239.

Þrýtra þann, er verr hefr, valt;
verða kann á ýmsa halt;
misjafnir ’ró blinds manns bitar;
bǫlit kǫllum vér ilt til litar.
Eik hefr þat, er af ǫðrum skefr;
ekki mart er slœgra en refr;
jafnan verðr, at áflóð stakar;
auðfengnar ’ró gelti sakar.

Þrýtra þann valt, er hefr verr; kann verða halt á ýmsa: misjafnir ’ró bitar blinds manns; vér kǫllum bǫlit ilt til litar. Eik hefr þat, er skefr af ǫðrum; ekki mart er slœgra en refr; jafnan verðr, at áflóð stakar; auðfengnar ’ró sakar gelti.

He who has the worse case never withdraws; first one, then another, gets the short stick; unequal are the mouthfuls of a blind man; we declare grief bad for the complexion. An oak has what is scraped from others; not much is slyer than a fox; it always happens that a torrent causes upheavals; easily brought are charges against a hog.

Mss: R(55r)

Readings: [8] gelti: ‘gelti’ or ‘gesti’ R, ‘gelti’ RFJ, ‘gellti’ RSkj, ‘gelti’ RJS

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], A. [1]. Málsháttakvæði 26: AII, 135, BII, 144, Skald II, 77, NN §3156; Möbius 1874, 11, Wisén 1886-9, I, 76.

Notes: [1] valt ‘never’: Lit. ‘always’ (with negated verb). A variant form of ávalt (see Note to st. 13/8). Cf. Sverris saga (Sv ch. 165, ÍF 30, 259): seint þrýtr þann er verr hefir ‘he who has the worse case is slow to withdraw’. — [2] kann verða halt á ýmsa ‘first one, then another gets the short stick’: Lit. ‘it can become damaging to various ones’ (see Heggstad et al. 2008: 1. hallr). — [3, 8] ’ró ‘are’: See Note to st. 20/1. — [4] bǫlit (n.) ‘grief’: Cf. Hallbj Lv 1/6IV bǫl gervir mik fǫlvan ‘grief makes me pale’. — [5]: The same proverb, occurring in Hárb 22/1-2 and Grettis saga (Gr ch. 21, ÍF 7, 78), is echoed in the flyting between Ericus dissertus and Grep in Saxo (Saxo 2005, I, 5, 3, 2-5, pp. 294-9) (see discussion in Olsen 1960, 26-31; Holtsmark 1968; Kommentar II, 204-5). — [5] skefr ‘is scraped’: See st. 8/7 above. The adage seems originally to have meant something like one man’s good luck is inadvertently another’s misfortune. The author of Grettis saga apparently took the proverb in a more aggressive sense: ‘an oak has what it strips from another [oak]’. — [7] áflóð ‘a torrent’: Wisén (1886-9, I) following Möbius (1874, 62) emended this hap. leg. to árflóð ‘river’. — [7] stakar ‘causes upheavals’: Lit. ‘shoves, bumps, jolts’ (3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of the weak verb staka); cf. Skj B vælter (ting) omkuld ‘topples (things)’. — [8] gelti (dat. sg.) ‘a hog’: The final words of the stanza, ‘ero gesti [or ‘gelti’] sakar’, are written in the right margin of the ms. Valgerður Erna Þorvaldsdóttir reads gesti (gestr ‘guest’); the two earlier transcripts (RFJ and RJS), gelti. The scribe of R most often spells gǫltr with two l’s (‘golltr’) but twice (fol. 28r, l. 7 and fol. 33r, l. 16) with one. The idiom is at fá e-m sǫk/sakar ‘to find cause against sby’. The present edn has opted for gǫltr (dat. sg. gelti), because the dat. sg. of gestr, a m. i-stem, would be gest (and not gesti). The underlying wit is that if you want to slaughter your household pigs, the animal whose teeth most closely resembles your own, you can avoid a guilt-trip by convincing yourself that they had it coming. Cf. the adage cited by Finnur Jónsson (1914, 92) from Guðmundur Jónsson’s 1830 proverb collection: feitr gǫltr fær vel sǫk ‘a fat pig provides a good case (for killing)’. (But this citation may not be independent of Mhkv.)

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