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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

2. Þorbjǫrn svarti, Lausavísa, 1 [Vol. 2, 624-5]

[7] á úrga vǫrtu ‘towards the wet gate’: So Flat. The R702ˣ reading ‘a viga po᷎rtu’ cannot be construed to make any sense: á vígaport ‘towards the battle-gates’ is possible syntactically (port ‘gate’ is n.) but unmetrical. The meaning of varta (vǫrtu f. acc. sg.) ‘gate’, is debated (see the overview in Lidén 1928, as well as ÍF 28, 253 n. 3 and ÍF 34, 230 n. f). The word, which as a common noun means ‘wart’, is otherwise attested as a heiti for a part of a ship (Þul Skipa 8/6III; see Note to Arn Hryn 4/6) and in the name Gullvarta, the Golden Gate (Lat. Aurea porta) in Constantinople (see MsonaHkr ch.12, ÍF 28, 252). Lidén (1928, 360-1) argues convincingly that varta was the Varangian version of Russian vorotá, voróta ‘gate’, and that Þorbjǫrn must have become acquainted with the word on the voyage in the Mediterranean. It is not immediately clear why Acre should be called ‘the wet gate’, but Þorbjǫrn is likely to have perceived this heavily fortified city, which was the most important port of the Crusaders, as the (wet) harbour gate to the Holy Land.


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