Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 47. Jǫkull Bárðarson, Lausavísur, 1 [Vol. 1, 813]

[5, 6] kleifar funa ýstéttar ‘slopes of the flame of the yew-bow’s path [ARM/HAND > GOLD > WOMEN]’: (a) The kenning in itself makes good sense, ý- referring etymologically to a bow made of yew (ýr m.), whose path is the arm or hand on which it rests. Though unexplained in the prose sources, the apparent address to women is somewhat in harmony with l. 1’s reference to the speculation of a lady (sæta), and this reading is adopted also in ÍF 27, ÍF 29 and Hkr 1991. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) finds a woman-kenning here unlikely and, expecting a man-kenning for which either stéttar ‘path’ or kleifar ‘slopes’ would have to be the base-word, assumes corruption. He suggests (out of several possible emendations) reading eim(s)þreytir ‘fire-destroyer’ in place of ýstéttar ‘yew-path’. Eim- ‘fire’ (partially supported by ‘ey’ in 325VII) would form a gold-kenning with the variant kleifar Haka ‘the slope of Haki <sea-king> [SEA]’ in l. 6, on the well-known pattern ‘fire of the sea/water’ = ‘gold’. This is turn yields the kenning ‘destroyer of gold [GENEROUS MAN]’, which can then be taken in apposition to nom. sg. Ôleifr (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) or as a vocative (Skj B, seemingly). (c) Kock (NN §780) accepts the emendation to -þreytir, but retains ýs to give ‘bow’s destroyer [WARRIOR]’, specified as ‘sea-warrior’ by kleifar Haka. He claims seven examples of phrases meaning ‘sea-warrior’ including this one (NN §1021).

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