Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Arn Hardr 11II/4 — styggr ‘mediocrity’

Hafðit brjóst, né bifðisk
bǫðsnart konungs hjarta
í hjalmþrimu, hilmir
hlítstyggr fyr sér lítit,
þars til þengils hersa
þat sá herr, at skatna
blóðugr hjǫrr ins barra
beit dǫglinga hneitis.

Hlítstyggr hilmir hafðit lítit brjóst fyr sér, né bifðisk bǫðsnart hjarta konungs í hjalmþrimu, þars herr sá þat til þengils hersa, at blóðugr hjǫrr ins barra hneitis dǫglinga beit skatna.

The prince, shunning mediocrity, had no small courage in himself, and the battle-swift heart of the king did not tremble in the helmet-din [BATTLE], where the army saw, watching the lord of hersar [RULER], that the bloody sword of the zealous subduer of princes [RULER] bit men.


[4] hlítstyggr ‘shunning mediocrity’: This cpd adj. occurs in only one other context, Steinþ Frag l. 4III, where it is applied to Óðinn. Styggr ‘shy of, shunning’ is recorded in compounds with first elements meaning ‘delay’ (bilstyggr), ‘flight’ (flóttstyggr, flugstyggr) or ‘guile/harm’ (læstyggr, meinstyggr). The meaning of hlít- is more elusive. (a) Hlít f. ‘sufficiency’ and hlíta við ‘suffice, do’ suggest the meaning ‘shunning (mere) sufficiency, mediocrity’, i.e. ‘energetic, zealous’, adopted above for hlítstyggr, and this finds support in the adj. óhlítuligr ‘not trivial, great’ applied to the battle of Århus (Áróss) in Okík Magn 1/6. (b) The verb hlíta, governing the dat., can mean ‘rely on’. Hlítstyggr could therefore mean ‘shunning reliance (on others), relying solely on himself’, as in the adj. einhlítr, lit. ‘one-reliant, sole-relying’.



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