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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to GunnLeif Merl II 31VIII (Bret 31)

[7-8]: Not definitively resolved. (a) Scheving’s conjecture (reported in Bret 1848-9) Kornbreta ‘of the Cornish Britons’ would combine with ms. her, interpreted as herr ‘army’ (since gemination is often not shown in Hb), to make superior sense if the kenning sjǫt Hǫgna ‘the seat of Hǫgni <sea-king>’ can be explained, not as ‘sea’ (LP: sjǫt, with the present occurrence as the sole attestation; cf. Meissner 93), but as ‘ship’ (cf. SnSt Ht 75/2III hafbekks ‘of the sea-bench [SHIP]’; Meissner 222). Gunnlaugr uses sjǫt once elsewhere (II 16/5), in relation to a bishop’s seat. Thus emended, the line would fit well with the comment in l. 3 that the army is small; an army could be small yet still cover some ships, whereas the ships conveying it could scarcely be said to cover the sea. Other attempted solutions do not reckon with this necessary logic. (b) Finnur Jónsson (LP: herkorn), followed by Merl 2012, explains herkorn ‘army-grain’ ad hoc as an idiomatic expression for uncountable numbers. (c) Kock (NN §98; Skald) conjectures *herkorðr ‘military force’, on the basis of compounds in West Germanic, and interprets as skeppens krigiska skara höljer havet ‘the ships’ military force covers the sea’. Also in favour of Scheving’s conjecture are the appropriateness of describing a Cornish army as sailing from the south to attack Wales, as required by II 32/1-3, and perhaps too the association of an earlier boar-king with Cornwall in DGB (cf. I 24 Note to [All]). Gunnlaugr could be seen as furthering the attention to Cornwall that is already a remarkable feature of DGB (Padel 1984).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  5. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  6. Bret 1848-9 = Jón Sigurðsson. 1848-9. ‘Trójumanna saga ok Breta sögur, efter Hauksbók, med dansk Oversættelse’. ÅNOH 1848, 3-215; 1849, 3-145.
  7. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.
  8. Padel, Oliver. 1984. ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth and Cornwall’. Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 8, 1-28.
  9. Internal references
  10. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Snorri Sturluson, Háttatal 75’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1186.


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