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Lexicon Poeticum

Lexicon Poeticum

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Anon Liðs 8I/1 — ekkja ‘widow’

Út mun ekkja líta
— opt glóa vôpn á lopti
of hjalmtǫmum hilmi —
hrein, sús býr í steini,
hvé sigrfíkinn sœkir
snarla borgar karla
— dynr á brezkum brynjum
blóðíss — Dana vísi.

Hrein ekkja, sús býr í steini, mun líta út — vôpn glóa opt á lopti of hjalmtǫmum hilmi —, hvé sigrfíkinn vísi Dana sœkir snarla karla borgar; blóðíss dynr á brezkum brynjum.

The chaste widow who lives in stone will look out — weapons often glint in the air above the helmet-wearing ruler —, [seeing] how the victory-avid leader of the Danes [DANISH KING = Knútr] attacks sharply the men of the city; the blood-ice [SWORD] clangs against British mail-shirts.


[1] ekkja: ekkjan Flat, DG8


[1, 4] ekkja, sús býr í steini, mun líta út ‘the widow who lives in stone will look out’: De Vries (1964-7, I, 282) found the motif of the woman watching the fighting men from her window suspect, as suggestive of later romance tournaments, but Sigv Austv 12 and ÞjóðA Har 2II, datable to around c. 1019 and c. 1062 respectively, are very similar and Sigvatr is probably borrowing from the present stanza (Hofmann 1955, 83; Poole 1987, 284). The statement that the ekkja lives ‘in stone’ locates her in stone-walled London (cf. the corresponding reference to Ulfcytel in st. 6/7-8). The word ekkja strictly means ‘widow’ (AEW: ekkja 1), though in poetry it can have the extended meaning of ‘woman’ in general (LP: ekkja 2). The most prominent widow in England at this period would have been Æthelred’s queen Emma (Stafford 1978, 36) and since Knútr later married her she could with considerable relevance be associated with him in the present stanza (Poole 1987, 290). Alternatively, this could be an example of the generic woman whose role in skaldic poetry is to admire (or suffer from) masculine triumphs (cf. Fidjestøl 1976a; Frank 1990a).



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