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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eskál Vell 1I

Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 1’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 283.

Einarr skálaglamm HelgasonVellekla
12

text and translation

Hugstóran biðk heyra
— heyr, jarl, Kvasis dreyra —
foldar vǫrð á fyrða
fjarðleggjar brim dreggjar.

Biðk {hugstóran vǫrð foldar} heyra á brim {dreggjar {fyrða {fjarðleggjar}}}; heyr, jarl, {dreyra Kvasis}.
 
‘I bid the high-minded guardian of the land [RULER = Hákon jarl] listen to the surf of the dregs of the men of the fjord-bone [ROCK > DWARFS > POEM]; hear, jarl, the blood of Kvasir <mythical being> [POEM].

notes and context

In SnE (Skm), Vell 1 and 4 and later 2 and 3 are cited among several stanzas which illustrate kennings for ‘poetry’.

Both of the poem-kennings in this typical introductory stanza, in which the skald asks for a hearing, refer to the myth of the origin of the mead of poetry, which is told by Snorri Sturluson at the beginning of Skm (SnE 1998, I, 3-5; for the myth see also Introduction to SkP III). The dwarfs kill Kvasir, the divine being created by the Æsir and the Vanir at their peace-making, and brew the mead of poetry from his blood mixed with honey. This mead subsequently comes into the hands of the giants and then of Óðinn. The poem-kennings here, as in the following stanzas, use a periphrasis for ‘mead of poetry’ as a metonym for ‘poem’ or ‘poetry’ (see SnE 1998, I, 6, 11-14; Meissner 427-30). The name Kvasir in this kenning has been explained by words for an alcoholic drink made from crushed fruit (ARG II, 67-8; AEW: Kvasir). Frank (1981, 159-60) claims that Snorri misunderstood his sources when presenting his interpretation of the myth of the origin of the mead of poetry. She interprets kvasir ‘unmythologically’ as a word for ‘fermenting mash’, whose dreyr ‘blood (liquid)’ is intoxicating drink. However, this needs further qualification in order to form a periphrasis for the mead of poetry, so that Frank is obliged to assume that the reference to giants [or dwarfs] in the second kenning (l. 4) also applies to the first.

readings

sources

Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 1: AI, 122, BI, 117, Skald I, 66, NN §1884B; SnE 1848-87, I, 244-7, II, 306, 521, SnE 1931, 92, SnE 1998, I, 12.

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