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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Hfr ErfÓl 17I

[5] hýjǫfnum ‘very straight’: This otherwise unattested epithet has not been satisfactorily explained, nor is it certain whether it describes the legendary horse Goti or the ship to which the whole kenning refers; the translation offered above is tentative. The problem is the hý- component, which must be different from the hý- that is attested in eddic poetry and is connected with hjú, hjón n. ‘household, married people’ (AEW: hýnótt). (a) SHI 3 suggests ‘perfectly made’, i.e. to hair’s-breadth accuracy, cf. ModIcel. hárjafn ‘not differing by a hair’; laukjafn ‘straight as a leek’ Sigv Berv 6/8II. The fine craftsmanship of Ormr inn langi was legendary (ÍF 26, 335-6), so an explanation along these lines seems most credible. AEW: 3 suggests hý- is an intensifying prefix like hund-: the cpd would thus mean ‘very even/straight’. (b) ÍO: hýjafn proposes n. ‘fine, sparse hair; down on a plant or bird’. No gloss is offered for the cpd, but perhaps the thought is the same as in (a). (c) Skj B emends to húfjǫfnum (nom. sg. húfjafn) ‘plank-equal, with even planking’ (first proposed LP (1860): hýjafn). (d) Kock (NN §1958) argues that the reading hverjafn in the minor mss is equivalent to hvarjafn ‘equal, even, everywhere’, cf. hvardyggr ‘all-doughty’, Sigv Berv 6/6II. His suggestion that ms. ‘hy’ arose from misreading of the sequence hv + er-abbreviation is plausible, but hý- is clearly the lectio difficilior.


  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. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  5. LP (1860) = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1860. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis. Copenhagen: Societas Regia antiquariorum septentrionalium.
  6. ÍO = Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon. 1989. Íslensk orðsifjabók. Reykjavík: Orðabók Háskólans.
  7. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  8. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  9. Internal references
  10. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 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. 17-18.


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