Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Þoku-vísur (Fog verses)

Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Show That Never Ends!

It does, however, go on hiatus without warning.  I apologize for the past three or four weeks of silence.  Between the holidays, an attack of personal life revolving around getting my daughter back to college, and just plain dog-laziness, I haven´t written in about a month.  But this week, things are coming back.

So, you get two verses for the price of one today.  Both are Þoku-vísur [Fog verses]. They are inspired by a picture that a friend posted to FaceBook and by a verse from Þorleifs þáttr jarlsskálds. The poem, Jarlsnið contains a helmingr from a lost poem called þoku-vísur (Fog Verses). The helmingr is as follows:

Þoku dregr upp et eystra,
él festisk et vestra, 
mǫkkr mun náms, af nøkkvi, 
naðrbings kominn hingat.

I make it out to mean (in prose order):

The fog rises in the east, the snow grows to the west -
The mind studies the clouds, the snake-bed ship comes to the journey.

Between one thing and another, I am fascinated by making the fog come to life in some verses. You have two un-connected verses here. The only relationship between them is the metaphor of the fog. The first is in the first-person - a personification of fog.  The second is in the second-person, addressed to the unnamed person experiencing a fog.


Old Icelandic Line-by-Line Translation Prose-Order Translation
Dregg ek up a Eystra -
jaga ek a lappar;
þyrja fold ek fetum -
fjall ok fjörðu halda.
Hlymr þagga hrossa -
hjaldr breiða skjaldar:
rauðu grá-fá hræflóð
en rekja mara ekka.

Hlébarð sigltu hjúpat
hanka á ólginn jölla -
vápn-þrumu vánar,
vig-stríða þu sæki.
Blindað-þoku bana-
blígja aum-lig á draum-skrok;
hvískum váfa hvæsa
hvaðan aefa heyra.
Rise I up in the East -
hunt on cat´s paws;
I sweep over the fields -
fells and firths I hold.
hoofbeats I silence horse´s -
uproar cloak shield´s:
red gray-paint I carrion-flood -
but unwind nightmares sobbing.

Bear sail you shrouded
cleat's to the swell of strife -
weapon-thunder desire,
spear-strife you seek.
Fog-blind, death's
gaze piteously at dream-fiend;
whispering ghosts hissing
from all sides you hear.
I rise in the east (and)
hunt on cat's paws;
I sweep over the fields (and)
hold fells and flords.
I silence horse's hoofbeats (and)
cloak the shield's uproar;
I gray-paint the red carrion-flood,
but unwind sobbing nightmares.

You sail the shrouded cleat-bear
to the swell of strife -
weapon-thunder you desire,
spear-strife you seek.
You gaze fog-blind
at death´s nightmares
From all sides you
hear the hissing ghost whisper


Kennings Used


hjaldr skjaldar  >  uproar of shields  >  BATTLE
hræflóð  >  carrion-flood  > BLOOD


Hlébarð hanka >  bear of the cleat  >  SHIP
draum-skrok  >  dream-phantom  >  NIGHTMARE


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