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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Gamlkan Has 17VII

[7-8] ýta ferð at yrði aldýr ‘so that the race of men might become blessed’: There have been several attempts to interpret this cl. Finnur Jónsson construes þú biðr ǫlð sátta, almáttigr goð, en aðrir valda sǫkum, at ýta ferð yrði aldýr, translating du beder menneskeheden om forlig, almægtige gud, men andre volder, at menneskeheden blev meget dyr ‘you ask mankind for a settlement, almighty God, but others bring it about that mankind became very costly’. His implication is presumably that, as a result of sin, mankind became very costly for God to redeem (by the Crucifixion). The main problem with this, as Jón Helgason explains (1935-6, 256; see also Black 1971, 184) is in the interpretation of aldýr. Konráð Gíslason (and Eiríkur Jónsson 1875-89, II, 253) objects to the use of aldýr here to refer to men, as it is used elsewhere in Has (as at 29/6, for example) only to refer to God. As Black (1971, 184) points out, the distinction seems to be between alldýrr, in which the prefix all- is an intensifier, meaning ‘very’, and aldýrr, where al- (cognate with OE eall) means ‘wholly’. The B scribe retains this distinction, writing almáttigr and aldýrr, and al- is required here for aðalhending with valda. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 256-7) follows Sveinbjörn Egilsson in construing the at-clause with sátta, but objects to his translation of aldýr as præstantissimus, egregrius ‘most excellent’ (LP (1860): aldýr). Instead, Jón quotes the expressions eilíf dýrð ‘eternal glory’ and at fara til dýrðarlífs ‘to go to the life of glory’ (Unger 1877, I, 289; see Fritzner: dýrð), and the angel-kenning drótt dýrðar ‘company of glory’ in Has 36/1-2 in support of his interpretation of aldýr as meaning ‘members of the company of the blessed’.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Unger, C. R., ed. 1877. Heilagra manna søgur. Fortællinger og legender om hellige mænd og kvinder. 2 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Bentzen.
  3. LP (1860) = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1860. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis. Copenhagen: Societas Regia antiquariorum septentrionalium.
  4. Black, Elizabeth L. 1971. ‘Harmsól: an edition’. B. Litt. thesis. University of Oxford.
  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.
  6. Jón Helgason. 1935-6. ‘Til skjaldedigtningen’. APS 10, 250-64.
  7. Internal references
  8. Katrina Attwood 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Gamli kanóki, Harmsól’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 70-132.
  9. Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 36’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 104-5.


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