Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamlkan Has 43VII/6 — hag ‘state’

Ræfrs esat lǫngu lífi
lungbeitǫndum heitit
— raun finna þess runnar
randéls — af gram landa.
Þvís hringstyrjar hverjum
hag sinn með trú fagri
yngra þoll ok ellra
einsætt at vel hreinsi.

Lungbeitǫndum esat heitit lǫngu lífi af gram ræfrs landa; runnar randéls finna raun þess. Þvís einsætt hverjum þoll hringstyrjar, yngra ok ellra, at hreinsi vel hag sinn með fagri trú.

Ship-steerers [MEN] are not promised long life by the prince of the roof of lands [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]; bushes of the shield-storm [BATTLE > WARRIORS] gain experience of that. Therefore it is evident to each fir-tree of the sword-din [BATTLE > WARRIOR], to young and old, that he should thoroughly purify his state with beautiful faith.


[5] hag ‘state’: This word, which is difficult to translate adequately, occurs several times in Has, always with reference to the effects of sin on a man’s spiritual condition. Its resonances appear to be at once specific (as in 49/2) and general (12/6-8), and it seems to refer to situations palpable (49/2) and psychological (23/7, 43/6). In his confession of sin in thought, word and deed (st. 12), Gamli admits that margir hagir mínir sýnask mér meginljótir ‘many of my actions seem to me extremely ugly’ (12/6-8). The penitent thief fears that, unless Christ listens to his pleas for mercy, ek á til hættan hag ‘I am in a rather too perilous situation’ (23/7). Similarly, in st. 49, King David is said to have decided to ask God for mercy eftir þungan hag ‘after his grevious (lit. ‘heavy’) sinfulness’ (49/2), hagr presumably being used to allude to David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the death of her husband, Uriah the Hittite (see Note to st. 48).



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