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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamlkan Has 41VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 41’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 108-9.

Gamli kanókiHarmsól
404142

text and translation

Kosti hverr við harra
— hætts ella mjǫk — sættask
byrjar láðs — hvat bíðum?
blikvaldr þrimu tjalda.
Opt verðr Ægis leiptra
ein stund viðum grundar
nauðr erumk ǫll at eyða
andar mein — at seinum.

{{{Hverr blik}valdr} tjalda þrimu} kosti sættask við {harra {láðs byrjar}}; ella [e]s mjǫk hætt; hvat bíðum? Opt verðr ein stund at seinum {viðum {leiptra {grundar Ægis}}}; nauðr erumk at eyða ǫll mein andar.
 
‘Let every wielder of the gleam of the tents of battle [(lit. ‘gleam-wielder of the tents of battle’) SHIELDS > SWORD > WARRIOR] try to reconcile himself with the lord of the land of the fair wind [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]; otherwise, there is great danger; what are we waiting for? Often one hour will be too late for the trees of the lightnings of the plain of Ægir <sea-king> [SEA > GOLD > MEN]; it is a necessity for me to blot out all injuries of the spirit.

notes and context

[1-4]: The ms. reads blakkvaldr þrimu tjaldi (l. 4) and it is clear from the context that this is a man-kenning. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) assumes the man-kenning here to be blakkvaldr láðs byrjar ‘horse-steerer of the land of the wind [SEA > SHIP > SEAFARER]’. He then emends B’s þrimu to þrumu gen. sg. of þruma ‘thunder’, to form the God-kenning harri þrumu tjalda ‘king of the thunder-tents’. This makes for a rather cumbersome cl.-arrangement in the helmingr. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 258) dismisses Finnur’s interpretation of láðs byrjar ‘[of the] land of the wind’ as a sea-kenning as rather unlikely. Instead, he indicates that one would expect it to mean ‘heaven’, like, for example, byrjar vegr ‘path of the wind’, éla vangr ‘field of the storm’. If this interpretation is correct, láðs byrjar must be construed with harra acc. sg. of harri ‘lord’ (l. 1) to give a straightforward God-kenning in the acc. case. The w.o. is thus simplified considerably. Finnur’s emendation to þruma is unnecessary, since þrimu can be taken as gen. sing. of þrima ‘thunder’, which by a transfer of meaning is often used for ‘battle’ (see LP: þrima). Emendation to tjalda, gen. pl. would give blakkvaldr þrimu tjalda ‘horse-steerer of the tents of battle [SHIELDS > SHIP > SEAFARER]’. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 258) suggests that this kenning’s lack of regularity might be alleviated by a minor emendation to blikvaldr ‘gleam-wielder’. Blikvaldr þrimu tjalds (or tjalda) would provide a straightforward warrior-kenning, ‘wielder of the gleam of the tent(s) of battle [SHIELD(S) > SWORD > WARRIOR]’. Kock (NN §2933) concurs with Jón’s arrangement, and with his interpretation of láðs byrjar. However, he argues that emendation may be unnecessary, since the connection between ships and shields in poetry is so close that a kenning ‘shield’s steed’ for ‘ship’ is not impossible (cf. Black 1971, 243). Although, as Kock suggests, there are a small number of kennings for ‘shield’ which have ‘ship’ as their determinant (see Meissner, 166-9; LP: skip), this is scarcely grounds for arguing that the two entities were interchangeable, or that the poem’s original hearers would have understood blakkr tjalda þrimu ‘horse of the tents of battle’ to mean ‘ship’. There is no comparable kenning in which a shield-heiti is used as the determinant of a ship-kenning. Sword-kennings like blik þrimu tjalda on the ‘light, flame of the shield’ model are extremely common (see Meissner, 150-1; LP: blik), and blik here anticipates the man-kenning viðir leiptra grundar Ægis ‘the trees of the lightnings of the plain of Ægir’ in the second helmingr. Jón Helgason’s emendation has been adopted here. — [2-3]: Kempff, Finnur Jónsson and Kock follow Sveinbjörn Egilsson in taking hvat bíðum (l. 3) as part of the same sentence as hætts ella mjök (l. 2). Finnur translates ellers er det meget uvist hvad vi opnår ‘otherwise what we will receive is most uncertain’ (Skj B). Jón Helgason (1935-6, 259) claims that there is no reason to believe that the two clauses are connected, and suggests that hætts ella mjök should be taken to mean ‘otherwise, there is [or will be] great danger’ while hvat bíðum is construed as a straightforward question ‘what are we waiting for?’ This makes for a more straightforward w.o. than does Sveinbjörn’s arrangement, and makes a strong connection between the helmingar. Besides, as st. 39 makes clear, the poet is unlikely to imply that the fate of those who fail to reconcile themselves with God is in any way uncertain!

readings

sources

Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 41: AI, 568, BI, 558-9, Skald I, 271, NN §§2926, 2933; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 26, Kempff 1867, 12, Rydberg 1907, 27, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 258-9, Black 1971, 241, Attwood 1996a, 232.

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