Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Hjǫrtr, Lausavísur, 1 [Vol. 2, 344-6]

[6] hafa ‘get’: The identity of laf-Hamðir ‘Slouch-Hamðir’ (l. 6) hinges on the meaning of the verb hafa ‘get, obtain’ or ‘possess’ (see Fritzner: hafa 6 and 8). Tostig arrives at Haraldr’s court and promises him the sovereignty in England if Haraldr will agree to embark on the expedition to the west. If their campaign is successful, Tostig and his brothers will hold England as a fief and pay tribute to Haraldr (see the similar offer made to Sveinn Úlfsson of Denmark; Fellows Jensen 1962, 35). If Hjǫrtr wishes that Tostig will only offer Haraldr a small part of England (lítit land ‘little land’ (l. 5), then laf-Hamðir is Haraldr. But if hafa is taken in the meaning ‘possess’, the poet hopes that Tostig (= laf-Hamðir) will only have a small country to barter with, so that Haraldr will lose interest in the conversation and pay attention to his men. The prose of Hem, which is similar in the Hr and Hb versions, settles that issue. According to the þáttr, the following verbal exchange ensues between Haraldr and Hjǫrtr after Hjǫrtr has recited the st. (Hb 1892-6, 332): hversu litið segir konvngr. eigi meira segir Hiortr en þu mættir liggia a ‘“how little”, says the king. “Not more,” says Hjǫrtr, “than you can lie on”’. Not only does Hjǫrtr specify that Haraldr is the one who should get little land (see also andvani alls Englands ‘bereft of all England’ in Lv 3/7-8 below), but his answer echoes Harold Godwineson’s offer to Haraldr at the fatal battle of Stamford Bridge (ÍF 28, 187): Sagt hefir hann þar nǫkkut frá, hvers hann mun honum unna af Englandi: sjau fóta rúm eða því lengra sem hann er hæri enn aðrir menn ‘He has said something about how much of England he will grant him: an area of seven feet or so much more as he is taller than other men’.

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