Eysteinn Valdason: From a Thor poem [ca. 1000]

Stanza 1 [Sks # 46] [RWTU]
Sn bj Sifjar rni
snarla fram me karli
(hornstraum getum Hrmnis
hrœra) veiarfœri.

Sif's spouse quickly prepared his fishing-gear with the old one. We know how to stir the flow of Hrmnir's horn.

1. Sifjar rni "Sif's spouse" is rr. Cp. Sifjar verr "Sif's husband" in Hymiskvia 3, 15, 34.

2. karl "old one" - as in Hymiskvia 10, 31, 32.

3. hornstraumr Hrmnis "horn-flow of Hrmnir" is a kenning for the mead of poetry. "Stirring" this liquid is equivalent to composing a poem. Such phrases are common in the diction of the skalds. This particular one is suspiciously similar to the one found in stanza 3 of the rsdrpa of Eilfr Gornarson (also ca. 1000): yl ek granstrauma Grmnis "I recite Grmnir's lip-flows".

Snorri comments: "And when Thor had shipped his oars, he got out a line that was pretty strong, and the hook was no smaller or less mighty-looking." [Gylfaginning 48, Faulkes' translation]

Stanza 2 [Sks # 45] [RWU]
Leit brattrar brautar
baug hvassligum augum,
œstisk r at flausti
ggs b, fair rar.

rr's father gazed piercingly at the circle of the steep road, as the fish's abode surged against the boat.

1-2. baugr brattrar brautar "ring/circle of the steep road" is obviously a kenning for Jrmungandr. "The steep road" can hardly be anything but a circumlocution for the mountainous earth.

3-4. ggs b œstisk "the fish's abode raged" - is reminiscent of lvir's œstisk allra landa umgjr "the girdle of all lands became enraged". Both use the same verb œsask, but while one refers to the serpent, the other refers to the ocean. As pointed out in the commentary to Hymiskvia 22, the concepts of Serpent and Ocean commonly merged, and identical or similar kennings could refer to both.

4. fair rar "father of rr" is rr.

Stanza 3 [Sks # 47] [RWT]
Sv br vir, at sjur,
seir, rendu fram breiar,
jarar, t at bori
Ulls mgs hnefar skullu.

The fish of the earth responded so powerfully, that the broad boat-sides wrenched forward, and Ullr's stepfather's fists slammed against the gunwale.

Finnur Jnsson's interpretation of this stanza has been criticized, but no better solution has been offered. I accept (with Finnur) Konr Gslason's emendation of rendi to rendu. The suggestions offered by Faulkes (Skldskaparml I, note to verse 47, p. 164-165) may be ignored as grammatically impossible. What Faulkes (echoing Kock) refers to as Finnur's "tortuous syntax" is, in fact, rather a typical and straightforward example of "vertical alignment", thus:

Sv br vir -- at sjur
seir -- rendu fram breiar
jarar -- t af bori
    Ulls mgs hnefar skullu

Departing slightly from Finnur's arrangement, it seems natural to construe: Seir jarar br sv vir, at breiar sjur rendu fram, [ok] hnefar mgs Ullar skullu t at bori.

1. sjur, presumably "planks of a boat's sides" (see Lexicon Poeticum, p. 557). In the plural, as here, more or less equivalent to the boat itself.

2-3. seir jarar "fish of the earth" is Jrmungandr. Cp. grundar fiskr "ground's fish" in the helmingr by Gamli gnvaarskld, and reistr jarar "snake of the earth" in Ragnarsdrpa 14.

4. mgr Ullar "Ullr's stepfather" is rr. Cp. Haustlng 15.

Snorri comments: "The Midgard serpent stretched its mouth round the ox-head and the hook stuck into the roof of the serpent's mout. And when the serpent felt this, it jerked away so hard that both Thor's fists banged down on the gunwale." [Gylfaginning 48, Faulkes' translation]