Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Frag 4II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Fragments 4’ 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. 162-3.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonFragments

text and translation

Snart við sæþráð kyrtat
sík; lá blær á díki.

Not applicable

notes and context

The fragment illustrates tapinosis, the device by which grandiose concepts are demoted, referred to by terms for more modest ones. It is followed by a comment drawing attention to the use of sík and díki for sea or ocean (A version).

In the absence of the presumed rest of the helmingr there can be no certainty about the interpretation, and emendation is probably futile. — [1] snart: This could be (a) n. nom. or acc. sg. of the adj. snarr ‘swift, keen’, either used as an adj. or adverbially, ‘swiftly, soon’; (b) pret. sg. of snerta (við) ‘touch (on)’, as assumed in SnE 1848-87, II, 129 (tetigit ‘touched’), and cf. note on sík below. — [1] kyrtat: (a) Kock (NN §865) also favoured interpretation of sæþráð as a fishing-line, adding that kyrtat could be p. p. of a postulated *kyrta ‘to shorten’ (cf. German kürzen); the line would shorten when reeled in. This, however, is less than plausible. (b) Another desperate remedy, adopted in CVC, is to assume an adv. kyrtat ‘gently’ related to kyrr ‘quiet, calm’. — [1] sæþráð: Lit. ‘sea-thread’, but the sense is elusive. Finnur Jónsson in LP suggested ‘fishing-line’ or an allusion to the mythical Miðgarðsormr ‘World Serpent’. — [2] sík: Sík n. generally means ‘ditch, trickling stream’, but is also a heiti for ‘sea’ found in the same þula as díki (Þul Sjóvar 3/4III), and the Context suggests the sense ‘sea’ here. The word could alternatively be acc. sg. of síkr m., a type of whitefish, Coregonus lavaretus. CVC: snerta emends sík to síkr, reading: síkr snart við sæþráð ‘the fish snapped at the hook’. — [2] lá blær á díki: This could well mean ‘a breeze wafted over the sea’. Díki would be dat. sg. either of dík n. or díki n. both ‘ditch’ but here with the sense ‘sea’, in light of the Context and of the fact that díki appears among sea-heiti, as already noted.


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: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, 3. Sexstefja 33: AI, 376, BI, 346, Skald I, 174, NN §§865, 2989C; SnE 1848-87, II, 128-9, 414, TGT 1884, 20, 83, TGT 1927, 59, TGT 1998, 156-7. 


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