ŽÓRSDRĮPA 7:1-4

Codex RegiusCodex TrajectinusCodex WormianusEmended & Modernized
7 : 1-4 VariantsVariants 
Haršvaxnar ser heržirletlet ; HeršerHaršvaxnar lét heršir
hallandz of sic falla halllandzhalllands of sik falla;
gatar mašr niotr hiN neytrigatat ; enngataš ; enn ; nęytigatat mašr, njótr, hin neytri,
niarš raš firir ser giaržarfiri njarš-, rįš fyrir sér, -gjaršar.

This half-stanza consists of two clauses:

Heršir halllands lét haršvaxnar of sik falla; mašr, njótr njaršgjaršar, gatat hin neytri rįš fyrir sér, i.e. "the promoter of the whetstone-land [warrior] let the mightily-swollen ones [waves] fall over him. The man, who benefited from the girdle of might [Žjįlfi], knew no better course of action.

heršir halllands ] Heršir literally means "he who hardens, increases, promotes, impels", and is used in other kennings for war-leaders (cp. odda skśrar heršir, "the impeller of the arrow-showers"). The basic meaning of hall-land is "stone-land". I believe that hallr "stone" here means a whetstone, and that its "land", i.e. that on which the whetstone travels, is a sword (or any weapon with an edge or a point). The sword-promoter, i.e. the war-leader, is Thor. This unique kenning may also carry a secondary meaning: "he who sharpens (heršir) the sword by means of a (whet)stone".

haršvaxnar ] is an adjective "mightily-swollen". Here it is the used substantivally "the mightily-swollen ones". The ocean-waves are easily understood, having been referred to frequently in the previous stanzas.

mašr gatat hin neytri rįš fyrir sér ] literally means "the man knew no better course of action for himself". This "man" must be Žjįlfi, Thor's companion. Mašr, here, can hardly refer to Thor himself.

njótr njaršgjaršar ] Literally "he who benefits from the mighty belt". The njaršgjörš possibly refers to Thor's megingjaršir, his magical belt/girdle of strength. He who benefits is, of course, Žjįlfi, whose only chance of withstanding the mighty waves is to hang on to Thor's belt. However, in stanza 9, it seems that Žjįlfi hung on to Thor's shield-strap, and this indeed may be the meaning of njaršgjörš here. Thor's "belt of strength" is never mentioned in Eddaic poetry. Snorri's Edda is the only authority for the existence of such an item, and may be based upon a misunderstanding.

The obliqueness of the expression is of interest: "the man, benefiting from the great belt, knew no better advice for himself" = "the man saw that his best course of action was to save himself by grabbing the god's belt". The picture painted by the poet is extremely clear: Thor, the mighty god, to whom the Arctic Ocean is no more than a river, unflinchingly allows the icy waves to sweep over him. His servant Žjįlfi clings to his master's belt in order not to be swept away by the swollen waves. A comic effect may have been intended by the poet.

The fixed strength of Thor, as opposed to Žjįlfi's helplessness, is obviously expressed in a metrical manner by the poet. The first two lines (referring to Thor) are regular six-syllable lines, rhythmically identical. The second two lines (referrring to Žjįlfi) are both irregular, rhythmically non-identical, seven-syllable lines, expressing hurry, confusion, panic. I have already suggested that the poet was a sublime artist of his chosen form, and so have others (Hallberg, Ólason). That he was able to use metrical rhythms in a meaningful way, should not come as a surprise to anyone.

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