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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 28. Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, 2. Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar, 17 [Vol. 1, 424]

[5] hýjǫfnum ‘very straight’: This otherwise unattested epithet has not been satisfactorily explained, nor is it certain whether it describes the legendary horse Goti or the ship to which the whole kenning refers; the translation offered above is tentative. The problem is the hý- component, which must be different from the hý- that is attested in eddic poetry and is connected with hjú, hjón n. ‘household, married people’ (AEW: hýnótt). (a) SHI 3 suggests ‘perfectly made’, i.e. to hair’s-breadth accuracy, cf. ModIcel. hárjafn ‘not differing by a hair’; laukjafn ‘straight as a leek’ Sigv Berv 6/8II. The fine craftsmanship of Ormr inn langi was legendary (ÍF 26, 335-6), so an explanation along these lines seems most credible. AEW: 3 suggests hý- is an intensifying prefix like hund-: the cpd would thus mean ‘very even/straight’. (b) ÍO: hýjafn proposes n. ‘fine, sparse hair; down on a plant or bird’. No gloss is offered for the cpd, but perhaps the thought is the same as in (a). (c) Skj B emends to húfjǫfnum (nom. sg. húfjafn) ‘plank-equal, with even planking’ (first proposed LP (1860): hýjafn). (d) Kock (NN §1958) argues that the reading hverjafn in the minor mss is equivalent to hvarjafn ‘equal, even, everywhere’, cf. hvardyggr ‘all-doughty’, Sigv Berv 6/6II. His suggestion that ms. ‘hy’ arose from misreading of the sequence hv + er-abbreviation is plausible, but hý- is clearly the lectio difficilior.


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