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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bjarni Frag 4III

unallocated (ed.) 2017, ‘Bjarni ...ason, Fragments 4’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 24.

Bjarni ...asonFragments


This stanza (Bjarni Frag 4) is recorded only in mss 742ˣ (main ms.) and 1496ˣ of LaufE and is not included in Skj (or Skald). It was first published by Jón Helgason (1966a, 178-9). The helmingr is composed in direct speech and could have been a lausavísa or part of a poem. It could be a speech by a man who is forced by an executioner to tell the truth or to confess his offences. Since the executioner is called ‘frightener of the meeting-wheel of the marrow-world [BONE > TORTURE-WHEEL > EXECUTIONER]’, it calls to mind a wheel used as an instrument of execution. Breaking people on a wheel was a particularly gruesome method of torture and execution. A criminal’s bones were broken by striking a wheel or a hammer against his limbs, after which the body was woven through the wheel and displayed on a pole (Schild 1997, 202-4; Althoff, Goetz and Schubert 1998, 332).

text and translation

Enn lægi mér, œgir,
eirsa*m*r við þik fleira,
mœtihjóls, at mæla,
mergheims, á hraðbergi.

Enn lægi mér á hraðbergi, eirsa*m*r, at mæla fleira við þik, {œgir {mœtihjóls {mergheims}}}.
‘Still I would be prepared, as a peaceful man, to speak more with you, frightener of the meeting-wheel of the marrow-world [BONE > TORTURE-WHEEL > EXECUTIONER].

notes and context

The helmingr provides an example of a kenning for leggir ‘limbs, extremities’.



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.

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