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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to ÞjóðA Har 3II

[8] ferkleyf ‘splittable in four’: The reading is quite well established in the mss, with H’s fer klaufa as the only variation, though fer is separate in all mss, and a further complication is that the following ‑a is joined to kleyf in some mss but a separate prep. á in others. The hap. leg. ferkleyf should probably, as LP points out, mean ‘divided into four’, with kleyf- related to kljúfa ‘cleave, split’, but it is problematic in context and gives rise to a rich diversity of possibilities. Taking first the meaning of the word itself, further suggestions include ‘four-stranded’ (ferstrendur, ÍF 28, presumably thinking of lamination), ‘four-edged’ (Poole 1991, 60) or ‘rectangular’ (Jesch 2001a, 154). Emendation to fákleyf ‘rarely splitting’ is suggested by Kock (NN §153). There are also alternative construals: (a) The interpretation adopted here takes ferkleyf as n. nom. pl., qualifying sæfǫng ‘sea-gear [oars]’ in l. 6, hence the apt but odd áðr ferkleyf sæfǫng ganga í tvau ‘before the oars, splittable in four, break in two’. The oddity could be avoided by assuming one of the senses above, or adopting Kock’s emendation to fákleyf ‘rarely splitting’. (b) The adj. could instead be strong f. nom. sg. qualifying þǫll ‘fir, pine’ (l. 5), as assumed, e.g., by Poole 1991, 60 and Jesch 2001a, 154 (see (b) above).


  1. Bibliography
  2. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. 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.
  4. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  5. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  6. Poole, Russell. 1991. Viking Poems on War and Peace: A Study in Skaldic Narrative. Toronto Medieval Texts and Translations 8. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.


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