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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

8. Ragnars saga loðbrókar 33 (Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Ragnars saga loðbrókar, 3) — Liðsmaðr 2 [Vol. 8, 689]

[7-8] þú gafta hesti hafnar drykkju ‘you did not give a drink to the horse of the harbour [SHIP]’: Previous eds, with the exception of Rafn (FSN), CPB and Örnólfur Thorsson, emend hafnar in l. 7 to hálu, gen. sg. of hála f. ‘troll woman, giantess’, thus producing the kenning ‘horse of the troll woman [WOLF]’ and the meaning ‘you did not give the wolf a drink (of blood)’, i.e. you did not kill enemies in battle. This would certainly parallel the wolf-kenning in the preceding two lines, but the emendation is unnecessary. There is no problem with the meaning of the ship-kenning hestr hafnar ‘the horse of the harbour’ and while the meaning of the expression ‘to give the ship a drink’ is at first sight obscure, it is possible to understand it metaphorically. In the context of the speaker’s allegations about his rival’s lack of experience in warfare and naval matters, its likely sense is ‘you did not take the ship out to sea’, playing on the image of ‘watering’ the animate base-word hestr ‘horse’. This interpretation is confirmed by the opening lines of the following stanza (see Note to Ragn 34/1).


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