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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Anon Líkn 11VII

[1-4]: The first helmingr presents difficulties, and none of the several possibilities is fully satisfactory. Sveinbjörn Egilsson and Rydberg maintain the ms. readings of hreinan (l. 2) and þverri (l. 4); Sveinbjörn also emends af (l. 1) to of and reads ástar for ms. ástum (l. 1). His arrangement, given in LP (1860): kosta, is hverr maðr kosti alls meira (= öllu fremr) ástar of hreinan svíka þverri, which, using a sense of kosta otherwise unattested, he translates loosely as ‘let each man show love (amorem erga quem exhibere, aliquem amare) all the more for the pure diminisher of falsehoods’. Without emendation, Rydberg construes as follows: hverr maðr kosti hreinan svíka þverri alls meira af ástum – þat er einsætt – magn stýri því ‘let each man prove/cost (?) the pure diminisher of falsehoods all the more out of love(s) – that is the only choice – may might govern it (?)’. The crux is the verb kosta (related to kjósa ‘to choose’). In the meaning ‘to try, put to the test’ it takes a gen. object (or inf. ‘to try to’); if ‘to cost’ or ‘defray expenses’ it takes acc. ‘Let each man cost Christ all the more out of love’ make no sense. If, however, an acc. object could work for ‘try, prove’, there would be a good biblical analogue in Mal. III.10 in which the Lord invites his people to try him (probate me) to see if he will not bless them abundantly. Another issue is whether stýri (l. 3) could be, rather than subj. of stýra ‘to rule, govern’, the acc. of stýrir in a Christ-kenning magnstýrir ‘might-ruler’ (or even magnstýrir alls ‘might-ruler of all/the universe’ (ll. 3,1)); cf. lífstýrir ‘life-ruler’ 5/2, himinstýrir ‘ruler of heaven’ 38/4, and vegstýrir ‘glory-ruler’ Has 59/6. Assuming, again, an acc. object of kosta and taking magnstýri in apposition to svíka þverri (l. 4), this would give hverr maðr kosti því meira hreinan magnstýri alls, svíka þverri, af ástum – þat er einsætt ‘let each man the more prove the pure might-ruler of all, the diminisher of falsehoods, out of loves – that is the only choice’. Not having found another attestation of kosta ‘try, prove’ with acc. object, however, this ed. reluctantly follows Skj B and Skald in emending ms. hreinan to hreinum and þverri to gen. þverris and in construing the helmingr with the w.o. above.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. LP (1860) = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1860. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis. Copenhagen: Societas Regia antiquariorum septentrionalium.
  5. Internal references
  6. Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 59’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 126.


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