Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, 1. Magnússflokkr, 2 [Vol. 2, 65-6]

[1, 2, 3, 4] rétt skjóta snekkju út, en [rétt] ... skip skríða ‘you launched [lit. did launch] a warship out, and [made] the ... ship glide’: Rétt (2nd pers. sg. pret. indic. of ráða) in l. 1 forms a periphrastic pret. tense with the inf. skjóta ‘launch’, hence strictly ‘you did launch’. There is, however, no such verb to accompany skríða in l. 4, which also appears to be an inf. (a) The interpretation adopted with some reluctance here assumes that the infinitives skjóta and skríða are parallel, and both dependent on rétt. The resulting construction is awkward because the relationship of rétt and the inf. is different in the two instances. In rétt skjóta, lit. ‘did launch’ rétt is little more than an auxiliary and Magnús is the subject of the whole verb phrase, whereas in (rétt) skríða ‘made glide’ rétt again has Magnús as its subject, but it means ‘caused’, and the ship is the subject of skríða. It seems as though rétt is functioning rather like lét ‘caused’ here. Kock favoured this interpretation, comparing seggi vil ek í sal ganga ‘I want the men to go into the hall’ (Sigsk 44; NN §3228), but the behaviour of the verb vilja is not evidence for that of ráða. (b) The same meaning would be gained simply by assuming that, like skjóta, skríða can be causative, hence rétt skríða skip ‘you did make the ship glide’, but evidence for this is lacking. (c) Finnur Jónsson’s solution in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B was to assume that the second, understood, occurrence of rétt is in effect 3rd sg. réð, hence rétt skjóta, en [réð] skríða, lit. ‘you did launch, and it did glide’ rather than ‘you made it glide’, but this displaces the problem rather than solving it. (d) A neater option altogether is to adopt the reading þrauta ‘did not fail’ in l. 3, i.e. 3rd pers. sg. pret. indic. of þrjóta with negative suffix -a, hence en skip þrauta skríða ‘and the ship did not fail to glide’. However, this makes the assumption that K alone (represented by and papp18ˣ) preserves the correct, straightforward, reading, and although this assumption seems almost unavoidable in st. 3/1 spornuðu(ð) ‘they/you trod’, it is in principle better avoided, and attractive K readings have not been adopted in sts 10/1 bru(t) and 14/2 elds / éls. (e) The J2ˣ reading þrítug implies a pl. skip ‘thirty-benched ships’ which could be subject to skríða ‘glide’, but a pres. tense verb seems unlikely here.


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