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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Hsv 80VII

Tarrin Wills and Stefanie Gropper (eds) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Hugsvinnsmál 80’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 408-9.

Anonymous PoemsHugsvinnsmál

text and translation

Hársíðan mann        sá ek í hölða liði;
        þó var honum skalli skapaðr;
svá er sá maðr,        sem mart á fjár
        ok verðr síðan snauðr.

Ek sá hársíðan mann í hölða liði; þó var honum skalli skapaðr; svá er sá maðr sem á mart fjár ok verðr snauðr síðan.
‘I saw a man with long hair in a host of men; he was, however, destined to be bald; like this is the man who has a lot of money but becomes poor later.

notes and context

Lat. parallel: (Dist. II, 26) Rem tibi quam scieris aptam dimittere noli: / fronte capillata, post haec occasio calva ‘The thing which you know to be fitting for you, do not give up; chance has a forelock in front, behind [that] is bald’. The Lat. distich draws upon a literary and iconographical tradition, originating in ancient Greece but well known in the Middle Ages, that the figure of Kairos, god of the fleeting moment (Lat. occasio) had a forelock in front, which those who were able could grasp, while the back of his head was bald to prevent people taking hold of him from behind. This symbolises the notion that the favourable moment must be grasped immediately, otherwise it is gone and cannot be regained; see further Moreno 1999. Clearly, the Icel. translator of this distich was unaware of the classical tradition.



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: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], [C. E/5]. Hugsvinnsmál 81: AII, 184-5, BII, 199, Skald II, 104; Hallgrímur Scheving 1831, 34, Gering 1907, 22, Tuvestrand 1977, 117, Hermann Pálsson 1985, 84.


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