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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 38. Óttarr svarti, 1. Hǫfuðlausn, 1 [Vol. 1, 741]

[5-8]: These are very difficult lines, for which considerable emendation may be needed. All previous commentators agree in reading nistanda ‘feeder’ for ms. ‘sistanda’ as base-word of a warrior-kenning. Parallels elsewhere in the later skaldic corpus include ESk Geisl 25/6VII nistandi ulfs ‘feeder of the wolf’ and Gkǫrt Lv 1/5IV valnistandi ‘hawk-feeder’. Most eds emend ms. grams ‘of the king’, and it is reasonable to think that scribes may have erroneously assumed a phrase grams Gauta ‘king of the Gautar’, but there are varying views about the best emendation, and about the interpretation of glað-. (a) Skj B takes glað as ‘horse’ (cf. LP: glaðr 1), and emends ms. grams ‘of the king’ to gífrs ‘of the giantess’ to produce a kenning gífrs glaðnistandi ‘feeder of the horse of the giantess [(lit. horse-feeder of the giantess) WOLF > WARRIOR]’. However, this entails a very complex word order in ll. 5-8: Telk þat lengi mitt verk at dýrka gífrs glaðnistanda, dýr [sic] þengill, síz mistak dǫglings Gauta ‘I reckon it for a long time my work to glorify the feeder of the horse of the giantess, excellent lord, since I have lost the prince of the Gautar’. (b) Kock (NN §723), followed here, argues that ms. grams should be garms ‘of the dog’, that Gauta is not the ethnic name but rather the Óðinn-name (i.e. gen. sg. of Gauti rather than gen. pl. of Gautar), and that glað has its more usual sense ‘glad’ rather than ‘horse’. Another kenning in which ‘wolf’ is referred to as the dog of Óðinn is HHund I 13/7 grey Viðris (NK 132). Under this interpretation garms ... mis(s)tak (ll. 5-6) forms a coordinate clause. The interaction of the two clauses expresses well both Óttarr’s grief for Óláfr Eiríksson and his hopes for new service with Óláfr Haraldsson. (c) Rainford (1995, 63) suggests a middle course in which Garmr might simply be taken as a heiti for ‘wolf’ (cf., perhaps, Mánagarmr ‘moon-hound’ referring to a wolf in SnE 2005, 14; see Note to Gsind Hákdr 8/8). Hence the kenning would be glaðnistandi Garms ‘glad feeder of the Garmr [WARRIOR]’. In favour of this would be Einarr Skúlason’s kenning nistandi ulfs ‘feeder of the wolf’ in Geisl 25/6VII, a poem explicitly indebted to Óttarr’s poem on Óláfr Haraldsson (see Geisl 12VII), which may indicate that Einarr took Óttarr’s example to be nistandi Garms. The addition of Gauta ‘of the Gautar’ to the warrior-kenning to produce a reference to Óláfr Eiríksson, King of the Swedes, would be appropriate, but such constructions are unusual.


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