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From Manuscript to Received Text - Völuspá

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  • Haukur Thorgeirsson
    Heil. Those not previously familiar with philology are sometimes surprised by the wealth of interpretations and versions of various ancient poems. A perfectly
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2004
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      Heil.

      Those not previously familiar with philology are sometimes
      surprised by the wealth of interpretations and versions of
      various ancient poems. A perfectly natural question arises:
      "What are the exact words of the original and where can I
      get a straightforward translation of it?"

      But it's actually just there that the problems start.
      Many ancient texts exist in several versions and while
      one is often considered the 'best' it may not be the best
      in all respects and other versions may have to be taken
      into account.

      Take the Völuspá. It has three lines of preservation.
      It is recorded in the Codex Regius manuscript. Another
      version is found in the younger Hauksbók (Hawk's book)
      manuscript. And finally a large part of it is preserved
      in Snorri's Edda.

      The Edda, in turn, exists in various quite different
      manuscripts and there are differences in the Völuspá
      strophes preserved there.

      From these pieces scholars construct a version for the
      general reader. Usually the Codex Regius text is taken
      as the 'base' with the other sources used for corrections
      and additions. Let's take some specific examples.
      For one of the strophes Codex Regius has this text:

      Þar mvno eptir
      vndr samligar
      gvllnar ta/flor
      igrasi fiNaz.
      þers i ardaga
      attar hofðo.

      A quick translation: "There will again be found in the grass
      wondrous golden tablets - those which they had in days of yore."

      The Hauksbók, on the other hand, has this text:

      Þa munu æser
      undrsamlegar
      gullnar toflur
      i grasi finna
      þærs i aardaga
      ááttar hofðv.

      A quick translation: "Then the gods will find wondrous golden
      tablets in the grass - those which they had in days of yore."

      Both versions are inherently consistent and consistent with the
      rest of the poem. There are few innate grounds for preferring one
      to the other. In cases like this scholars tend to go with the
      Codex Regius version as it is older and 'generally better'.

      Sometimes, however, there is clearly something missing from the
      CR-version. Take this strophe:

      FiNaz esir
      aiþa velli
      &vm mold þinvr
      matkaN doma
      &a fimbvltys
      fornar rvnar.

      This strophe is not inherently consistent. There is no verb
      to tell us what is done with the 'fornar rvnar' of the last line.
      The Hauksbók, however, has a full sentence here:

      Hittaz æser
      a iða uelli
      ok um molld þinur
      matkan dema
      ok minnaz þar
      a megin doma
      ok a fimbultys
      fornar runar.

      In this case scholars will use the missing lines from Hauksbók.
      For the rest of the strophe they will use the CR-version.
      The 'received' version becomes:

      Finnask æsir
      á Iðavelli
      ok um moldþinur
      máttkan doema
      ok minnask þar
      á megindóma
      ok á Fimbultýs
      fornar rúnar.

      The CR-word 'finnask' is preferred to the Hauksbók word 'hittask'
      (the meaning is just about identical).

      For more comparative Völuspá see Eysteinn's excellent page
      (which I used here):

      http://www.hi.is/~eybjorn/ugm/vsp3.html

      If you haven't had enough after that you can see his comparative
      version of Hymiskviða:

      http://www.hi.is/~eybjorn/ugm/hymir/hymis.html

      The Hymiskviða is preserved in the Codex Regius and another
      manuscript called AM748fol. You can see pictures of it here:

      http://www.hi.is/~eybjorn/ugm/748/am748.html

      Kveðja,
      Haukur
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