Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Verses for Cold Weather

So, back when I was beginning this quest, I wrote poems in dróttkvætt metre, but in English.  I did this as an exercise to keep my mind going between inspirations.  Here are three of these English verses, slightly extended and modified, in honor of the change of weather Upstate New York is now experiencing.  Not that long ago, we had temperatures in the 70´s, with sunshine and occasional thunderstorms.  Last night, we dipped below freezing and the "higher elevations" had measurable snowfall. It's what makes Upstate living so "interesting," in a Chinese curse way.

These three verses go in order - from late summer storm through the leaf fall to winter's cold grip.  One definition: a heiti is a one-word metaphor, usually a god's name or familiar name for a thing.  In these verses, I use three heiti which are listed with the kennings in the notes.

So, parkas on? Snow shoes ready? Here we go.  Enjoy!


Three Verses for Cold Weather

Through the storm-shrines tear-veil
torn by Vigþor's war-bolt,
shield-trees ride to safety
sheltered by the elm-masts.
Ash-bane flares in ice-homes.
Eyebrow-stones are blinded.
Lime-tree-bane knocks limbs down -
Loaf-bane flies for high-home.

Sviðrir´s yard-arm slumbers
Shields on ground he yields
Winter's onslaught waits he
Waking serpent-slayer.
Rostri - tree-top runner -
ruts through leaves on nut-quest;
Flyting with the flay-claw
Fleers at mouse-bane's queerness.

Forni's sacred fish-bath
frozen by Ull's chosen
servant - Norðri's sail-bane
settles waves to metal.
Neath the throne of narwals
neap-tide's wave-herds sleeping
wait for Suðri's warm breath
to welcome boat-land's melting.



storm-shrine > THE SKY
tear-veil > CLOUDS
Vigþor's war-bolt > [VIGÞOR =Thor of Battle] > LIGHTNING
shield-trees > MEN
Ash-bane > LIGHTNING
ice-homes > CLOUDS
eyebrow-stones > EYES
lime-tree-bane > WIND
loaf-bane > MAN

Sviðrir´s yard-arm > [SVIÐRIR = Óðinn] > TREE
shields on ground > LEAVES
serpent-slayer > FROST
Rostri > a heiti for SQUIRREL
flay-claw & mouse-bane > CAT

fish-bath > POND
Norðri > a heiti for THE NORTH
sail-bane > STORMS
throne of narwhals > WATER
wave-herds > FISH
Suðri > a heiti for THE SOUTH
boat-land > WATER


Please, comment!


  1. Too kenning-heavy for my taste. Reads like a long riddle.

  2. Hi, Hilda!

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, in many ways, this type of poetry does read like a riddle. We know that, in period, listening was more inter-active than it is today. In sagas, we read of people listening to a skald reciting, trying to memorize some lines and figure out where the skald is heading and what he's referring to.

    With time, it becomes easier to figure them out, if you're willing to keep "playing the game."


  3. a marvelous try. love it. Re: the 1st half of your 2nd stanza... Punctuation? and What do you mean to say with "Winter's onslaught waits he"?

  4. Hi,Dr. Braune, thanks for commenting. "winter's onslaught waits he" ... the tree is waiting for the beginning of winter's storms, for the waking of the serpent-slayer - freezing weather.

    As to punctuation in the first four lines of stanza two, try this on:

    Sviðrir´s yard-arm slumbers -
    Shields on ground he yields;
    Winter's onslaught waits he -
    Waking serpent-slayer.

    Thanks for the compliments. I greatly appreciate them.