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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Mhkv 19III

Roberta Frank (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Málsháttakvæði 19’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1233.

Anonymous PoemsMálsháttakvæði

text and translation

Lýtin þykkja skammæ skarar;
skrautligt kǫllum nafnit farar;
trautt kallak þann valda, er varar;
verða menn, þeir er uppi fjarar.
Ógipt verðr í umbúð skjót;
élin þykkja mǫrgum ljót;
engi of sér við ǫllum rokum;
jafnan spyrja menn at lokum.

Lýtin skarar þykkja skammæ; kǫllum nafnit farar skrautligt; trautt kallak þann, er varar, valda; menn verða, þeir er uppi fjarar. Ógipt verðr skjót í umbúð; élin þykkja mǫrgum ljót; engi of sér við ǫllum rokum; menn spyrja jafnan at lokum.
‘A haircut’s flaws seem of short duration; we call the name of an expedition ‘glorious’; I scarcely declare the one who warns to be the cause; men there are who end up high and dry. Misfortune is quick in preparation; snowstorms seem ugly to many; no one avoids all sudden gusts; people always ask about a conclusion.

notes and context

[3]: Cf. Njáls saga (Nj ch. 41, ÍF 12, 106): veldrat sá, er varar ‘he who gives warning is not the cause’; Hrafnkels saga (Hrafnk ch. 3, ÍF 11, 102): eigi veldr sá, er varar annan ‘he who warns another is not the cause’. — [4]: Wisén (1886-9, I) adopts the emendation of Jón Þorkelsson (in Möbius 1874, 615), who substituted þar’s (þar er) ‘where’ for þeir’s ‘who’. For fjara e-n uppi ‘strand (sby or sth.), leave high and dry’ used impersonally with the acc., see Fritzner: fjara. Fjara (f.) is the part of the beach left dry at ebb tide. — [7]: A known proverb: see, e.g., Grettis saga (Gr ch. 52, ÍF 7, 169): eigi má nú við ǫllu sjá ‘one can’t guard against everything now’. — [8]: The same proverb occurs as an addition to the Latin source in Anon Hsv 99/6VII æ spyrr lýðr at lokum ‘people always find out about a conclusion’. Lok (pl.) ‘conclusions, ends’ comes just before the final stanza of the stefjabálkr; cf. SnSt Ht 102/4 þats kvæðis lok ‘that is the end of the poem’; Anon Leið 45/1, 4VII lok bragar þessa ‘[the company shall now look on] the end of this poem’.


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], A. [1]. Málsháttakvæði 19: AII, 134, BII, 142-3, Skald II, 76, NN §3274; Möbius 1874, 9, Wisén 1886-9, I, 75.


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