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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 2. General Introduction 5. The diction of skaldic poetry 5.1. Kenning

5.1. Kenning

Edith Marold 2012, ‘Kenning’ 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. lxx.

The kenning, as a two-part periphrasis circumscribing a simple notion, though found in other poetic corpora such as the Poetic Edda, was probably introduced into them through the influence of skaldic poetry. Kennings do occur in Old English poetry, especially in Beowulf, but these differ significantly from skaldic kennings. The fact that they occur in other poetic corpora suggests that kennings are an inheritance from Germanic poetry. This is also indicated by the use of a kenning in a runic inscription dating to around 700 (the Eggja Stone, Run KJ101VI), where the periphrasis ná-séo (Runic nᴀseu) ‘corpse-sea’ is used for ‘blood’. The skaldic kenning differs in two characteristic features from these simple, mostly two-part periphrases: in its variability, and in its building of complex clusters (see below).


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