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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjóð Yt 18I/6 — hjarta ‘the heart’

Þat stǫkk upp,
at Yngvari
Sýslu kind
of sóit hafði.
Ok Ljósham*
við lagar hjarta
herr eistneskr
at hilmi vá.
Ok austmarr
jǫfri sœnskum
Gymis ljóð
at gamni kveðr.

Þat stǫkk upp, at kind Sýslu hafði of sóit Yngvari. Ok eistneskr herr vá at hilmi, Ljósham*, við hjarta lagar. Ok austmarr kveðr ljóð Gymis at gamni sœnskum jǫfri.

Word spread quickly, that the people of Sýsla had slain Yngvarr. And an Estonian force attacked the ruler, Ljóshamr (‘the Light-skinned’), at the heart of the water [ISLAND]. And the Baltic sea sings the songs of Gymir <sea-giant> to the delight of the Swedish ruler.


[6] hjarta: bjarta 521ˣ


[6] hjarta lagar ‘the heart of the water [ISLAND]’: The prose sources diverge on the interpretation of this kenning. (a) HN (2003, 78) mentions an island, and this is assumed in the present edn. Åkerlund (1939, 105) cites ModSwed. island names containing hjärta ‘heart’ (and see Noreen 1919, 147-8). (b) Snorri in Yng (see Context) evidently thinks hjarta lagar a stone-kenning and as such an ofljóst for the p. n. Steinn, and it is cited as an expression for steinn ‘stone, rock’ in LaufE (see Context above, and cf. LaufE 1979, 307). Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; Yng 1912) concurs, as do Lindquist (1929, 67) and Hkr 1991. However, the periphrasis ‘heart of the water’ for ‘stone’ would deviate from usual stone-kennings, where normally only hard body parts such as beinn ‘bone’, leggr ‘leg-bone’, rif ‘rib’, tǫnn ‘tooth’ or jótr ‘molar’ serve as base-words (Meissner 90). The closest parallel would be hafnýra ‘sea-kidney’ (ÚlfrU Húsdr 2/6III), but here, too, the meaning is uncertain. (c) Schück (1905-10, 150) and Noreen (1912b, 131; Yt 1925) view hjarta lagar as a metaphor for the capital city of a country on the sea. Such a metaphor would be conceivable in modern literature, but hardly in skaldic poetry.




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