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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Refr Frag 5III

[All]: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) interpreted ll. 1-2, 4 of this helmingr as follows: Hinn hranna hádýra stýrir, es unir sínu vel, es sæll, which can be translated as ‘That commander of the tall animals of waves [SHIPS > SEAFARER], who is well content with his own condition, is happy’. That interpretation results in a tripartite l. 1 as well as a tripartite l. 2: Sæll es hinn, es, hranna | hádýra, vel, stýrir. Kock (NN §§1827Ec, 1837) justifiably objected to this tortuous word order, and he attempted to avoid a tripartite l. 2 by combining the last two words into a cpd (velstýrir lit. ‘well-steerer’). Kock’s suggestion is metrically acceptable, since l. 2 would then be an even E3-line which allows for such trisyllabic compounds in positions 3-6 (cf. Gade 1995a, 79-80). Kock (NN §1936G) himself also lists numerous lines of a similar metrical structure. The cpd velstýrir is problematic, however, because no cpd with vel- as the first element and a nomen agentis as the second is otherwise attested. According to the entries in Fritzner, the adv. vel- forms compounds with nomina actionis (e.g. velferð ‘wellbeing’), adjectives (e.g. velfœrr ‘easily traversed’) and participles (e.g. velborinn ‘wellborn’, velgerandi ‘well-doing’), but not with nomina agentis. Because Kock’s suggestion is untenable, the present edn emends hádýra (n. gen. pl.) ‘of tall animals’ to hádýri (n. dat. sg. and the object of the verb stýrir ‘steers’), which results in a simple syntax and a straightforward word order in ll. 1-2.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  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. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  5. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.


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