Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, 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. 262.
Kná myrkdreki markaðr
minn, þars ýtar finnask,
æfr á aldar lófum
eikinn bezt at leika.
Æfr, eikinn, markaðr myrkdreki minn kná at leika bezt á lófum aldar, þars ýtar finnask.
My furious, raging, ornate dark-dragon <spear> can play best in the hands of people where men meet.
Mss: R(34r), Tˣ(35v), W(78), U(33v), A(11v) (SnE); papp10ˣ(52v), 2368ˣ(133), 743ˣ(99v) (LaufE)
Readings:  Kná: ‘kn[…]’ U; myrk‑: ‘[…]rk’ U; markaðr: so U, marka R, Tˣ, W, papp10ˣ, 2368ˣ, 743ˣ, markar A  finnask: finna U  lófum: ‘lo[…]’ U  eikinn: eikin Tˣ, W, A, 743ˣ, ‘[…]’ U; bezt: ‘bez’ Tˣ, ‘bozt’ W, 743ˣ, ‘[…]orþz’ U, borðs A; at: á U
Context: This helmingr is given as an example that the spear can be called ‘snake’ in Skm (SnE). In LaufE the half-stanza is cited in the context of a collection for heiti for ‘spear’ as an example that a spear is called ‘oxn’ (presumably an error for orm).
Notes:  markaðr myrkdreki ‘ornate dark-dragon <spear>’: (a) The reading markaðr (lit. ‘marked’, p. p. of the weak verb marka ‘mark’), present only in ms. U, has been preferred here because it solves the many problems that myrkdreki marka(r) ‘dark-dragon of the field(s)’ (so all other mss) poses for any interpretation of this phrase as a kenning for ‘spear’ or ‘snake’ (see below). The basis for the present interpretation is the way the stanza is introduced in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 71): Spjót er ormr kallat, sem Refr kvað ‘the spear is called snake, as Refr said’. In all other examples of weapon-kennings in this section of Skm (SnE 1998, I, 70-1) both the determinants and the base-words of the kennings are given, but here it is only said that a spear is called ‘snake’. Hence it is most likely that a heiti and not a kenning for ‘spear’ is meant. The context of LaufE (see above) points in the same direction; the stanza is cited after a collection of heiti for ‘spear’. This heiti could be myrkdreki ‘the dark dragon’; in this context one can compare such sword-names as Góinn (a mythical serpent; for the meaning see Þul Orma 2/2) and Naðr ‘Adder’ (Þul Sverða 9/2, 7 and 8). These names may derive from snake-like patterns on weapons resulting from pattern-welded steel. Cf. HHj 9/5-8 (NK 143) liggr með eggio | ormr dreyrfáðr | enn á valbǫsto | verpr naðr hala ‘a blood-coloured snake lies along the edge, and on the grip an adder whips its tail’ (see Kommentar IV, 463-6, Falk 1914b, 19 and Meissner 153; for lance heads with pattern-welding see Ypey 1984, 203-4). If myrkdreki is regarded as a heiti for ‘spear’, the word marka (or markar) found in most mss cannot be accommodated in the stanza, but markaðr ‘ornate, decorated’ (so ms. U) is a fitting adj. for myrkdreki, possibly referring to engraved patterns on such weapons. (b) Previous eds and interpretations tried to combine marka (R, Tˣ, W, papp 10ˣ, 2368ˣ, 743ˣ) or markar (A) with myrkdreki. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SnE 1848-87, III) and Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) were unable to find a suitable determinant for the base-word myrkdreki ‘dark-dragon’ that would allow them to form a complete spear-kenning. In Skj B, Finnur Jónsson adopts the variant borðs ‘of the plank’ (l. 4; so A and, possibly, U) and construes the kenning myrkdreki markar borðs ‘dark-dragon of the forest of the plank [SHIELD > SPEAR]’. ‘Forest of the plank’ is not a shield-kenning, however, and Finnur’s interpretation also results in a tripartite l. 4. Faulkes (SnE 1998 I, 196; see also his translation Faulkes 1987, 121) also seems to favour this solution. Kock (NN §783) regards myrkdreki markar ‘the dark dragon of the forest’ as a kenning for ‘snake’. However, dreki is synonymous with ormr ‘snake’ (see Þul Orma 2/4) and does not need a determinant. A kenning such as myrkdreki marka(r) would only work if dreki ‘dragon’ were an aquatic animal, making the kenning conform to the common pattern ‘fish of the land [SNAKE]’. A similar kenning is found in Ill Har 1/3II myrkaurriði markar ‘the dark trout of the forest [SERPENT = Fáfnir]’, but in this case the base-word is indeed a fish. Since there is no reason to believe that dreki was regarded as an aquatic animal – normally, dragons are lying or crawling on the ground, living in caves or flying (see Homann 1986, 132-4) – the kenning myrkdreki marka(r) would not conform to any known kenning pattern.
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