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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, 19 [Vol. 1, 427]

[5-6, 7-8] ærir elds hôklifs hauka ‘envoys of the fire of the high cliff of hawks [ARM > GOLD > GENEROUS MEN]’: This interpretation (that of Skj B, followed by Reichardt 1928, 213 and Ólafur Halldórsson in ÍF 25) means that l. 7 contains elements from three different clauses, a syntactic arrangement which is unique in the skaldic corpus (Gade 1995a, 13, 215-16). Two redistributions of the kenning components to avoid this situation have been suggested. (a) Kock (NN §511) has ærir elds ‘envoys of fire/the sword [WARRIORS]’ and jǫfurr hôklifs hauka ‘lord of the high cliff of hawks [NORWAY > = Óláfr]’. It is conceivable that eldr could mean ‘sword’ (cf. Note to st. 6/4), but Kock’s case for hôklif hauka as a synecdoche for Norway, based on the (inexact) parallels fjǫrðjǫrð ‘fjord-land’ Hókr Eirfl 5/3 and vegr jǫtna ‘way of giants’ ESkál Vell 14/5, is not convincing. (b) Kuhn (1929b, 201) suggests jǫfurr hauka ‘lord of hawks [soldiers]’, i.e. Óláfr (cf. skyldir hauka, st. 2/3 and Note) and ærir elds háklifs ‘envoys of the fire of the shark-cliff [SEA > GOLD > GENEROUS MEN]’ (or perhaps the same, but with ‘rowlock-cliff’, from hár m. ‘thole-pin, rowlock’). Von See (1980, 28-32; 1999b, 267-8), in surveys of scholarship on this helmingr, rejects Kuhn’s interpretation on the grounds that hár ‘shark’ is only otherwise found in þulur, whereas klif hauka ‘hawks’ cliff [ARM]’ is a habitual collocation, and Kock (NN §2451) had also noted problems with it. Hofmann (1981, 14-15) points out in response that háklif ‘shark/rowlock-cliff’ would in fact be distinct from hôklif ‘high cliff’ in oral delivery due to its different vowel quality, and that parallels for the sea-kenning Kuhn proposes do exist, incorporating both terms for sea-creatures (humra fjǫll ‘lobsters’ mountain’ ÞGísl Búdr 2/4) and nautical terms (stafnklif ‘stem-cliff’ Þloft Tøgdr 4/6). Hofmann’s arguments are convincing, and Kuhn’s interpretation is a viable alternative.


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