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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Jǫk Lv 1I/5 — ý ‘of the yew-bow’s’

Hlautk frá Sult, en sæta
síð fregn, at ek kvíða,
— vôn erumk hreggs at hreini
hlýrvangs — skipi stýra,
þvís, ýstéttar, átti
Ôleifr, funa kleifar,
— gramr vas sjalfr á sumri
sigri ræntr — inn digri.

Hlautk stýra skipi frá Sult, en sæta fregn síð, at ek kvíða — erumk vôn hreggs at hreini hlýrvangs —, þvís Ôleifr inn digri átti, kleifar funa ýstéttar; gramr sjalfr vas ræntr sigri á sumri.

I drew the lot to steer the ship from Sylte, and the lady will hardly hear that I’m daunted — I have a prospect of a storm hitting the reindeer of the prow-plain [SEA > SHIP] —, the one [ship] that Óláfr inn digri (‘the Stout’) owned, slopes of the flame of the yew-bow’s path [ARM/HAND > GOLD > WOMEN]; the king himself was robbed of victory in summer.


[5] ýstéttar: útstéttar 321ˣ, ‘ostrættis’ or ‘ostræitis’ 61, óstéttar 325V, FskAˣ, eystrætis 325VII, óstrætis Bb, Flat, Tóm


[5, 6] kleifar funa ýstéttar ‘slopes of the flame of the yew-bow’s path [ARM/HAND > GOLD > WOMEN]’: (a) The kenning in itself makes good sense, ý- referring etymologically to a bow made of yew (ýr m.), whose path is the arm or hand on which it rests. Though unexplained in the prose sources, the apparent address to women is somewhat in harmony with l. 1’s reference to the speculation of a lady (sæta), and this reading is adopted also in ÍF 27, ÍF 29 and Hkr 1991. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) finds a woman-kenning here unlikely and, expecting a man-kenning for which either stéttar ‘path’ or kleifar ‘slopes’ would have to be the base-word, assumes corruption. He suggests (out of several possible emendations) reading eim(s)þreytir ‘fire-destroyer’ in place of ýstéttar ‘yew-path’. Eim- ‘fire’ (partially supported by ‘ey’ in 325VII) would form a gold-kenning with the variant kleifar Haka ‘the slope of Haki <sea-king> [SEA]’ in l. 6, on the well-known pattern ‘fire of the sea/water’ = ‘gold’. This is turn yields the kenning ‘destroyer of gold [GENEROUS MAN]’, which can then be taken in apposition to nom. sg. Ôleifr (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) or as a vocative (Skj B, seemingly). (c) Kock (NN §780) accepts the emendation to -þreytir, but retains ýs to give ‘bow’s destroyer [WARRIOR]’, specified as ‘sea-warrior’ by kleifar Haka. He claims seven examples of phrases meaning ‘sea-warrior’ including this one (NN §1021).




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