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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (FoGT) 1III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Stanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 573.

Anonymous LausavísurStanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise


These three helmingar are cited in the second chapter of FoGT, in which the author gives examples of the figure of litotes, or understatement for rhetorical effect. He first cites Eviðs Lv 7V, then Anon (FoGT) 1, and follows it with Anon (FoGT) 2 and 3. All three helmingar are in dróttkvætt metre.

text and translation

Sprungu eigi aungir
út ór — … sútir —
bæum, þvíað hyrr á hávar
heitr giekk fira sveitir.

Eigi aungir sprungu út ór bæum, þvíað heitr hyrr giekk á hávar sveitir fira; … sútir.
‘Not none [= all] ran out from the farmsteads, because hot fire spread towards the distinguished groups of men; … sorrows.

notes and context

This helmingr illustrates the use of a double negative for a positive, and is introduced with the statement: Stvndvm er líptota út þanning orðanna sv er allt merker, þar er svmt er talit, sem her ‘Sometimes liptota is the stretching out of words, which signifies the whole, where [only] some is mentioned, as here’. The stanza then follows, and after it the author comments: her er sagt, at æigi ǫnger menn rynni af bęivm, þar sem aller rvnnv [rynni W] ‘Here it is said that not no men ran from the farmsteads, whereas all were running’.

The helmingr poses some difficulties of interpretation and has been the subject of a number of conjectural emendations. The first problem is that the scribe of W has left a gap in l. 2 between ór and sútir, making it difficult to understand how sútir fits into the syntax of ll. 1-3. Presumably the scribe was unsure of the line himself and intended to check what the word should be, but forgot to do so. SnE 1848-87 followed Árni Magnússon in 761aˣ(93v) in reversing the ms. order of the words ‘svtir’ and ‘bęvm’ to give two regular lines. út ór bæjum sútir | þvíat hyrr á havvi … Both Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SnE 1848-87, III, 153) and Árni Magnússon (the latter apparently rather than explicitly) understood the ms.’s ‘havvi’ (l. 3) as a form of the noun hǫfuð (Sveinbjörn citing a Norwegian form håve) and regarded sútir (l. 2), i.e. svítir, as another form of sveitir ‘groups, bands [of men]’. If ‘svtir’ is not regarded as a form of sveitir, it must be construed, as Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), Kock (Skald), Björn Magnússon Ólsen (FoGT 1884, 240), Longo (FoGT 2004, 87) and this edn have done, as the nom. or acc. pl. of the f. noun sút ‘sorrow, grief, sickness’.



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], D. 3. Vers af den 4. grt. afhandling 1: AII, 214, BII, 231, Skald II, 120, NN §1442; SnE 1848-87, II, 192-3, III, 153, FoGT 1884, 121, 239-41, FoGT 2004, 31-2, 60, 86-7, FoGT 2014, 2-3, 54-5.


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