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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Arn Þorfdr 19II/6 — tjaldi ‘awnings’

Ek em, síz ýtar hnekkðu
jarla sætt, es vættik,
— jǫfn fengusk hræ hrǫfnum —
hegju trauðr at segja.
Sleit fyr eyjar útan
allvaldr blôu tjaldi;
hafði hreggsvǫl dúfa
hrími fezk of líma.

Ek em trauðr at segja hegju, síz ýtar hnekkðu sætt jarla, es vættik; jǫfn hræ fengusk hrǫfnum. Allvaldr sleit blôu tjaldi fyr útan eyjar; hreggsvǫl dúfa hafði fezk hrími of líma.

I am loath to speak of events, since men thwarted the truce between the jarls, as I anticipated; from both sides alike flesh was found for ravens. The mighty ruler wore to shreds the dark awnings out beyond the islands; the snow-cold billow had fastened itself in frost about the mast.

notes

[5, 6] sleit blôu tjaldi ‘wore to shreds the dark awnings’: (a) Slíta ‘tear, break’ usually governs an acc. object, but it is also used in the sense ‘wear out’ with a dat. object denoting some kind of clothing or footwear. Jesch (2001a, 164-5) suggests that tjald here, as in Arn Hryn 16/4, refers to a sail. She points out that a sail is more likely than awnings to have been worn out at sea and that sails are described as ‘blue, dark’ in Sigv Knútdr 8/2I bl segl; reference to a sail would also be consonant with the probable reference to a mast in l. 8 (líma). (b) An attractive alternative would be to take slíta tjǫldum as a phrase synonymous with bregða tjǫldum ‘strike tents/take down awnings’ and related idioms. Clearing a ship of its awnings would be a pregnant action: a necessary preliminary to a battle or a great voyage (cf. ÞjóðA Har 2), but slíta tjǫldum/tjaldi does not appear to have been used in this sense. (c) Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1909a, 299) suggested that sætt ‘truce, peace’ in l. 2 is carried over into the second helmingr and understood as object to allvaldr sleit ‘the mighty ruler tore’ in l. 5, but this seems improbable, especially since there is no trace of such a linkage between the two helmingar in any other st. by Arnórr.

grammar

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