Skáldskaparmál

31. Kennings for the heavens

“How should the heaven be periphrased? Thus: call it Skull of Ymir, and hence, Giant’s Skull; Task or Burden of the Dwarves, or Helm of Vestri and Austri, Sudri, or Nordri; Land of the Sun, of the Moon, and of the Stars of Heaven, of the Wains and the Winds; Helm, or House, of the Air and the Earth and the Sun.

So sang Arnórr Earls’-Skald:

So large of gifts ne'er mounted
Young Lord of Shields on ship-deck
'Neath the ancient Skull of Ymir:
Splendid this Prince's largess.

And as he sang again:

Bright grows the sun at dusking,
The earth sinks into the dark sea,
The Toil of Austri bursteth;
All the ocean on the fells breaks.

Thus sang Bödvarr the Halt:

For never 'neath the Sun's Plain
Shall come a nobler Land-Ward,
Keener in battle-onset,
Nor a brother of Ingi better.

And as Thjódólfr of Hvin sang:

Jörd's Son drove to the steel-play
(High swelled the godlike anger
In the mind of Meili's Brother),
And the Moon-Way 'neath him quivered.

Even as sang Ormr Barrey’s-Skald:

Lady of Draupnir's gore-streak,
However great I know him,
The wielder (by right he ruleth)
Of the Wain's Road sees me gladly.

Even as the skald Bragi sang:

He who threw the dead eyes
Of Thjazi, Skadi's father,
Into the Winds' Wide Basin
O'er the abodes of men-folk many.

And as Markús sang:

'Tis long since the dear-loved Warder
Of sea-men was born on the wave-girt earth-bottom
Of the Storm-Container; each man praises
The sublime age of the Ring-Dispenser.

Even as Steinn Herdísarson sang:

I sing the holy Ruler
Of the high World-Tent rather
Than men, for very precious
Is He: His praises tell I.

And as Arnórr Earls’-Skald sang:

Help, dear King of Heaven,
The Day's Plain, help my Hermundr.

And as Arnórr sang further:

Soothfast King of the Sun-Tents,
Help stout-hearted Rögnvaldr.

And as Hallvardr sang:

Knútr wards the land, as the Ruler
Of All wards the radiant Fell-Hall.

As Arnórr sang:

Michael, wise of understanding,
Weighs what seems done ill, and good things:
Then the Monarch of the Sun's Helm
At the Doom-Seat parts all mortals.

32. Kennings for the earth

How should one periphrase the earth? Thus: by calling her Flesh of Ymir, and Mother of Thor, Daughter of Ónarr, Odin’s Bride, Co-Wife of Frigg and Rindr and Gunnlöd, Mother-in-law of Sif, Floor and Bottom of the Storm-Hall, Sea of Beasts, Daughter of Night, Sister of Audr and of Day. Even as Eyvindr Skald-Despoiler sang:

Now the beaming gold is hidden
In the body of the Mother
Of the Giants' Foe; the counsels
Of a kindred strong are mighty.

As sang Hallfredr Troublous-Skald:

In council 't was determined
That the King's friend, wise in counsel,
Should wed the Land, sole Daughter
Of Ónarr, greenly wooded.

And he said further:

The Raven-Abode's brave Ruler
Got the broad-faced Bride of Odin,
The Land, with kingly counsels
Of weapons, lured unto him.

Even as Thjódólfr-sang:

The Ruler, glad in Warriors,
In the rowed hull doth fasten
The ships of men to the strand's end,
At the head of the sea keel-ridden.

As Hallfredr sang:

Full loath to let the Land slip
I hold the lordly Spear-Prince
Audr's sister is subjected
To the splendid Treasure-Spender.

Thus sang Thjódólfr:

Far off the dart-slow sluggard Stood, 
when the Sword-Inciter 
In ancient days took to him 
The unripe Co-Wife of Rindr.

33. Kennings for the sea

How should one periphrase the sea? Thus: by calling it Ymir’s Blood; Visitor of the Gods; Husband of Rán; Father of Ægir’s Daughters, of them who are called Himinglæva, Dúfa, Blódughadda, Hefring, Udr, Hrönn, Bylgja, Bára, Kolga; Land of Rán and of Ægir’s Daughters, of Ships and of ships’ names, of the Keel, of Beaks, of Planks and Seams, of Fishes, of Ice; Way and Road of Sea-Kings; likewise Encircler of Islands; House of Sands and of Kelp and of Reefs; Land of Fishing-gear, of Sea-Fowls, and of Fair Wind.

Even as Ormr Barrey’s-Skald sang:

On the gravelly beach of good ships
Grates the Blood of Ymir.

As Refr sang:

The mild deer of the masthead beareth
O'er the murky water from the westward
Her wave-pressed bows; the land I look for
Before the beak; the Whale-Home shallows.

Even as Steinn sang:

When the fallow fell-wall's Whirlwinds
Wove o'er the waves full fiercely,
And Ægir's storm-glad daughters
Tore, of grim frost begotten.

And as Refr sang:

Gymir's wet-cold Spae-Wife
Wiles the Bear of Twisted Cables
Oft into Ægir's wide jaws,
Where the angry billow breaketh.

It is said here that Ægir and Gymir are both the same. And he sang further:

And the Sea-Peak's Sleipnir slitteth
The stormy breast rain-driven,
The wave, with red stain running
Out of white Rán's mouth.

As Einarr Skúlason sang:

The stern snow-wind has thrust out
With strength, the ship from landward:
The Swan-Land's steed sees Iceland
Into the surf receding.

And as he sang further:

Many a stiff rowlock straineth,
And the noisy Strand of Fish-Gear,
The Sea, the lands o'ercometh:
Men's hands oft span the stays.

And he sang yet further:

The gray Isle-Fetter urges
Heiti's raven-ship onward;
Gold beaks the fleet ships carry:
Rich that faring to the Chieftain.

And he sang again:

The Isle-Rim autumn chilly
Impels the dock's cold snowshoe.

And thus also:

The cool lands' Surging-Girdle
Before the beaks springs asunder.

As Snæbjorn sang:

They say nine brides of skerries
Swiftly move the Sea-Churn
Of Grótti's Island-Flour-Bin
Beyond the Earth's last outskirt,

They who long the corny ale ground
Of Amlódí; the Giver
Of Rings now cuts with ship's beak
The Abiding-Place of boat-sides.

Here the sea is called Amlódi’s Churn.

As Einarr Skúlason sang:

The sturdy drive-nails weaken
In the swift swirl, where paleth
Rakni's Heaving Plain: wind
Puffs the reefs against the stays.

34. Kennings for the sun

How should one periphrase the sun? By calling her Daughter of Mundilfari, Sister of the Moon, Wife of Glenr, Fire of Heaven and of the Air.

Even as Skúli Thorsteinsson sang:

Glenr's god-blithe Bed-Mate wadeth
Into the Goddess's mansion
With rays; then the good light cometh
Of gray-sarked Máni downward.

Thus sang Einarr Skúlason:

Whereso the lofty flickering
Flame of the World's Hall swimmeth
O'er our loved friend, who hateth
And lavisheth the sea-gold.

35. Kennings for the wind

How should the wind be periphrased? Thus: call it Son of Fornjótr, Brother of the Sea and of Fire, Scathe or Ruin or Hound or Wolf of the Wood or of the Sail or of the Rigging.

Thus spake Sveinn in the Nordrsetu-drápa:

First began to fly
Fornjótr's sons ill-shapen.

36. Kennings for fire

How should one periphrase fire? Thus: call it Brother of the Wind and the Sea, Ruin and Destruction of Wood and of Houses, Hálfr’s Bane, Sun of Houses.


37. Kennings for winter

How should winter be periphrased? Thus: call it Son of Vindsvalr, Destruction of Serpents, Tempest Season.

Thus sang Ormr Steinthórsson:

To the blind man I proffer
This blessing: Vindsvalr's Son.

Thus sang Ásgrímr:

The warlike Spoil-Bestower,
Lavish of Wealth, that winter
Snake's-Woe--in Thrándheim tarried;
The folk knew thy true actions.

38. Kennings for summer

How should one periphrase summer? Thus: call it Son of Svásudr and Comfort of Serpents, and Growth of Men.

Even as Egill Skallagrímsson sang:

We shall wave our swords, O Dyer
Of Wolf's Teeth, make them glitter:
A deed we have for wreaking
In the Comfort of Dale-Serpents.

39. Kennings for man and for woman

How should man be periphrased? By his works, by that which he gives or receives or does; he may also be periphrased in terms of his property, those things which he possesses, and, if he be liberal, of his liberality; likewise in terms of the families from which he descended, as well as of those which have sprung from him. How is one to periphrase him in terms of these things? Thus, by calling him accomplisher or performer of his goings or his conduct, of his battles or sea-voyages or huntings or weapons or ships. And because he is a tester of weapons and a winner of battles,–the words for ‘winner’ and ‘wood’ being the same, as are also those for tester’ and ‘rowan,’–therefore, from these phrases, skalds have called man Ash or Maple, Grove, or other masculine tree-names, and periphrased him in such expressions in terms of battles or ships or possessions. It is also correct to periphrase man with all the names of the Æsir; also with giant-terms, and this last is for the most part for mocking or libellous purposes. Periphrasis with the names of elves is held to be favorable.

“Woman should be periphrased with reference to all female garments, gold and jewels, ale or wine or any other drink, or to that which she dispenses or gives; likewise with reference to ale-vessels, and to all those things which it becomes her to perform or to give. It is correct to periphrase her thus: by calling her giver or user of that of which she partakes. But the words for ‘giver’ and ‘user’ are also names of trees; therefore woman is called in metaphorical speech by all feminine tree-names. Woman is periphrased with reference to jewels or agates for this reason: in heathen times what was called a ‘stone-necklace,’ which they wore about the neck, was a part of a woman’s apparel; now it is used figuratively in such a way as to periphrase woman with stones and all names of stones. Woman is also metaphorically called by the names of the Ásynjur or the Valkyrs or Norris or women of supernatural kind. It is also correct to periphrase woman in terms of all her conduct or property or family.


40. Kennings for gold

How should gold be periphrased? Thus: by calling it Ægir’s Fire, and Needles of Glasir, Hair of Sif, Snood of Fulla, Freyja’s Tears, Talk and Voice and Word of Giants, Draupnir’s Drop and Rain or Shower of Draupnir, or of Freyja’s Eyes, Otter’s Ransom, Forced Payment of the Æsir, Seed of Fýris-Plain, Cairn-Roof of Hölgi, Fire of all Waters and of the Hand, Stone and Reef or Gleam of the Hand.

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