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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, 5. Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr, 3 [Vol. 2, 152-4]

[7] þǫll ‘fir-tree <woman>’: (a) This is assumed here to be a heiti for woman, as it is in Þul Kvenna II, 2/3III (so also Fms 12), though strictly it should be termed a half-kenning, exceptional at this date, since tree-names such as þǫll are usually qualified by a determinant, e.g. ‘fir-tree of jewels [WOMAN]’. (b) Þǫll could alternatively be read as a term for ship, comparable with fura ‘fir-tree’ in ÞjóðA Lv 2/4, or perhaps as ‘oar’ (so ÍF 28 and Poole 1991). Hence it is the ship or oar that gives permission. Indeed, in Poole’s view (1991, 71) ‘Þjóðólfr speaks of the oar metaphorically as an authority figure, which grants leave for hard rowing with the assurance that the rower will not suffer any penalty’. The vocabulary of the st., he notes, is legal (slíta ‘break’, friðr ‘peace, safe conduct’, and leyfi ‘leave, permission’), relating specifically to laws on safe conduct and personal sanctuary. Such an extreme personification would be exceptional (as Kock, responding to a similar suggestion from Reichardt, points out, NN §1908), though there are less dramatic parallels. In st. 5, for instance, the ships ‘allow the headland to protect them’ (láta eið hlýja sér). (c) Finnur in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B emends fullan fer kleyfa to fyllar fúr, kleyf, in which kleyf ‘cleavable’ describes the oars (sæfǫng, l. 6) and the remainder forms a woman-kenning with þǫll ‘fir’ in l. 7: fyllar fúr-þǫll ‘fir of the fire of the sea [GOLD > WOMAN]’, but this involves quite radical emendation and the assumption of awkward tmesis. (d) The eds of Hkr 1991 read þöll leggr það leyfi ferkleyfa ‘the lady gives the blessing of the four-leaved clover’ in ll. 7-8, citing C15th evidence of an ancient belief in the four-leaved clover as a talisman of luck for travellers.


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