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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þhorn Harkv 10I/4 — holm ‘an islet’

‘Leiddisk þá fyr Lúfu         landi at halda
hilmi inum halsdigra;         holm lét sér at skjaldi.
Slógusk und sessþiljur,         es sárir vôru;
létu upp stjǫlu stúpa;         stungu í kjǫl hǫfðum.

‘Inum halsdigra hilmi leiddisk þá at halda landi fyr Lúfu; lét holm at skjaldi sér. Slógusk und sessþiljur, es vôru sárir; létu stjǫlu stúpa upp; stungu hǫfðum í kjǫl.

‘The fat-necked prince [Kjǫtvi] grew tired then of holding the land against Lúfa (‘Shaggy-locks’) [Haraldr]; he let an islet be a shield to himself. They threw themselves under the bench-planks, those who were wounded; they let their rumps stick up; they plunged their heads into the bilge.

notes

[4] lét holm at skjaldi sér ‘he let an islet be a shield to himself’: This could mean that Kjǫtvi fled onto an islet (so Munch and Unger 1847, 137; Nygaard 1875, 317; Uppström 1919, 41; Larsen 1943-6, II, 315) or that he fled behind one (so Herbert 1804, 36; Lindquist 1929, 5; Hollander 1964a, 75). Snorri’s interpretation is the former (see Context above), but it seems questionable, since seeking a place to fight out the contest on land would not make Kjǫtvi appear cowardly, though that seems to be the intent of the line. Indeed, Du Méril (1839, 159 n. 2) remarks in a related context that combats waged on an island were bloodier, since flight was easier at sea. In Flat, however, before Þjóð Har 4, it is said that Kjǫtvi got away onto an islet, so that he could not be captured (Flat 1860-8, I, 574). As for skjaldi (dat. sg.) ‘shield’, this is apparently an old analogical variant for the usual skildi (as in Flat and the Fsk mss; see Finnur Jónsson 1901, 56 and 1912, 42). The form is also found on the Rök stone (Run Ög136VI), from the first half of the C9th.

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