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  • Haukur Thorgeirsson
    Hi! Just a few more words on that half-stanza from Ragnarsdrápa. I looked up fengr and fengeyðandi in Finnur Jónsson s Lexicon Poeticum and it turned
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2004
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      Just a few more words on that half-stanza
      from Ragnarsdrápa. I looked up 'fengr' and
      'fengeyðandi' in Finnur Jónsson's Lexicon Poeticum
      and it turned out like I had guessed. The word
      'fengr' never appears to mean "victory" elsewhere.
      Finnur's meaning is inferred from Snorri's
      version of the tale of Hildr, Högni and Héðinn.

      As for 'fyr hönd' this appears to be the only
      time it occurs in the poetic corpus. Finnur translates
      it 'on behalf of' in LP as well as in Skjaldedigtningen.

      Nevertheless I find 'instead' in the popular version
      I have at hand. Curious.

      As for 'eyðandi' it is clearly the present participle
      of 'eyða' which in turn is derived from 'auðr' - "waste,
      empty". The verb 'eyða' can thus mean "make empty" or
      "lay waste" but also "desert", "destroy" and even "spend"
      or "squander".

      The word 'fengr' is derived from 'fá' and thus basically
      means "something caught", "catch", "gain", "acquisition"
      or, as I suggested before, "booty".

      I think "booty-squandering" would be a tempting translation
      for 'fengeyðandi' if we didn't have any preconceived notions
      on what the stanza should mean.

      The same may be true with 'fyr hönd'. If we consider Snorri's
      account it would make sense to say that Hildr ruled in the
      island "instead of" Héðinn but if we only consider the stanza
      itself I would go with the only meaning I know the phrase to
      have, i.e. "on behalf of".

      This is just a tiny glimpse into the difficulty of translating
      poems like the Ragnarsdrápa. Should we go only by the preserved
      words, ignoring external context and trying to be as literal
      as possible - or should we try to find out what "makes sense"
      and what correlates with other accounts of the same story?

      There are pitfalls in both approaches. Trying to beat every
      piece of poetry Snorri quotes into meaning exactly what he
      thought it meant is an approach that has been found wanting
      in the past.

      On the other hand obstinately ignoring related evidence in
      favor of going by one's "gut feeling" of a particular poem
      can lead to flights of fancy far above what is probable.

      So, in this case I have those two versions:

      1. "It means what it seems to me to mean."

      'And the booty-squandering witch of a woman ruled in the
      island on behalf of the warrior.'

      2. "It means what fits best with Snorri's account."

      'And the victory-preventing witch of a woman ruled in the
      island instead of the warrior.'

      You can take your pick. I have no opinion on which is better.

      And mind you, this is a _lucid_ half-stanza! :)

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