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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Mhkv 3III

Roberta Frank (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Málsháttakvæði 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1218.

Anonymous PoemsMálsháttakvæði

text and translation

Þjóð spyrr alt, þat er þrír menn vitu;
þeir hafa verr, er trygðum slitu;
ekki er því til eins manns skotit;
ýmsir hafa þau dœmi hlotit.
Hermðarorð munu hittask í;
heimult ák at glaupsa of því,
— nǫkkut varð hon sýsla of sik
svinneyg drós — hvé hon fór við mik.

Þjóð spyrr alt, þat er þrír menn vitu; þeir, er slitu trygðum, hafa verr; ekki er því skotit til eins manns; ýmsir hafa hlotit þau dœmi. Hermðarorð munu hittask í; heimult ák at glaupsa of því – hon varð nǫkkut sýsla of sik, svinneyg drós –, hvé hon fór við mik.
‘The world learns all that three people know; those who have broken sworn pledges come off worse; that is not aimed at any one person; several have had those experiences as their lot. Angry words shall be found here; I have the right to speak mouthfuls about that – she rather had to look after herself, the wise-eyed woman – how she treated me.

notes and context

[1]: Cf. Hávm 63/6 (NK 27): þióð veit, | ef þríro ‘the world knows if three do’; for other Old Norse-Icelandic examples of this proverb, see Ísl. Málsh.: þjóð. Several English versions of the adage exist; cf. Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack (July 1735): ‘Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead’. Additional examples in Whiting and Wescott (1968: T248, T544).



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 3: AII, 131, BII, 138-9, Skald II, 74, NN §3269; Möbius 1874, 3, Wisén 1886-9, I, 73.


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