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skaldic

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Anon 732b 2III

[7] maks og leista ‘of grease and [leather] footwear’: Mak is not otherwise recorded in Old Norse. It is not listed as a headword in LP, but the whole phrase magister maks ok leista is quoted under leistr ‘foot of a stocking, sock, shoe’, where it is identified as an ironisk betegnelse for en graver (?) ‘an ironic term for a tanner (?)’, but left untranslated. Elsewhere, Finnur Jónsson (1886a, 194) interprets maks as gen. sg. of n. mak ‘ointment, fat’, which is known in Modern Icelandic and may derive from Old Norse (cf. ÍO: 3 maka ‘smear’). Tallow-based grease can be used to curry tanned leather and render finished leather goods supple or make them waterproof. The noun leistr ‘foot; foot of a stocking, sock, shoe’, might refer here to some sort of leather footwear, the end-product of the labour to which the stanza refers: either stockings such as the socked leggings of waterproofed leather worn by Icelandic seamen, or else leather shoes, boots or galoshes (cf. Ulset 1975, 131). An alternative would be to treat ms. ‘maks’ as máks, gen. sg. of mák(u)r ‘fore-paw, hand’, which is only unambiguously attested in post-Reformation Icelandic; in this case leistr might be read in its older sense ‘foot’. The phrase ‘master (magister) of front- and hind-feet’ would invoke once again the business of skinning, during which the feet of the animal were cut off; but it would disrupt any sequential progression of terms in the stanza. Leistr is seldom used in skaldic poetry, yet it also appears in the only other material in the skaldic corpus referring to a leatherworker, in one of two lausavísur attributed to Þjóðólfr Arnórsson that were composed in mockery of an enraged tanner (Sneglu-Halla þáttr ch. 3, ÍF 9, 267-9; ÞjóðA Lv 5-6II). Employing leistr in the sense ‘foot’, Þjóðólfr depicts the tanner crawling like the dragon Fáfnir across the heiði leista ‘heath of feet [FLOOR]’ during his fight with a blacksmith (ÞjóðA Lv 6/4II). The use of the same rare term in the only surviving skaldic compositions mentioning leatherworkers suggests that the choice of the word in the C14th macaronic could have been influenced by familiarity with the earlier satire.

References

  1. Bibliography
  2. 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.
  3. Finnur Jónsson. 1886a. ‘Lønskrift og lejlighedsoptegnelser fra et par islandske håndskrifter’. In Kålund et al. 1884-91, 185-94.
  4. ÍO = Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon. 1989. Íslensk orðsifjabók. Reykjavík: Orðabók Háskólans.
  5. ÍF 9 = Eyfirðinga sǫgur. Ed. Jónas Kristjánsson. 1956.
  6. Ulset, Tor. 1975. Merknader til en del skaldedikt. Oslo: Novus.
  7. Internal references
  8. Not published: do not cite (SneglII)
  9. Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Biography of) Þjóðólfr Arnórsson’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 57-176.
  10. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 169-71.
  11. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur 6’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 171-2.

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