Monday, April 2, 2012

In re Ball's Pyramid

A friend posted this photo on FaceBook yesterday:


Ball's Pyramid is a volcanic stack located off the coast of Australia. I have tried to imagine how it might have appeared to a Norseman, had he, not Lt. Ball, discovered it.


Old Norse Verse Word-by-Word Translation Prose-Order Translation
Ǫndru rísa unnheims
eldast at aesirs veldi
sævar-haukar skræktan
settisk á viðu kletta.
Sunds-mist kald-ráðs sókngífrs
sníða egg-skarp hríðrot
stapi-dreka stǫpla
stormar yfir mjǫrkva.
Ski rises wave-world
ancient to gods realm
sea-hawks shrieking
perch on mast rocky.
Sound-mist evil-minded battle-witch
slices edge-sharp stormy
steeple-dragon dashes
storms over murky.
The ski of the wave-home
rises to the ancient gods' realm
shrieking sea-hawks
perch on rocky mast.
Evil-minded battle-witch´s sharp-edge
slices stormy sound's mist
the murky storm dashes
over the dragon's-steeple.


This poem is pretty kenning-heavy, so  a brief reminder about kennings would seem to be appropriate. A kenning is a circuitous metaphor, a re-naming of a thing. kennings can range from simple, with an adjective added to a noun to form a heiti (a single noun that renames without an adjective) or a sankenningar (an adjective plus the referent noun) to a rekit (chased or driven ... three or more kennings strung together). For the most part, the kennings you find in my poetry are sankenningar or kenningar (simple two words, a noun distantly related to the subject plus a descriptive).

Other sources for learning about kennings are:

Frank, Roberta. Old Norse Court Poetry: the Dróttkvætt Stanza. Cornell: 1978.

Gade, Kari Ellen.  The Structure of Old Norse Drottkvætt Poetry.  Cornell: 1995.

Guðrun Nordal. Tools of Literacy. The Role of Skaldic Verse in Icelandic Textual Culture of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. University of Toronto Press: 2001.

Lee, Alvin A. Gold-hall and Earth-dragon: Beowulf as a Metaphor. University of Toronto: 1998.

Snorri Sturulson.  Edda. Everyman Press: 1995.

Any way, here are the kennings I used in this poem:

Ǫndru unnheims > ski of the wave-home > boat > ROCK (a tvikent - combining 2 kennings:   
          Ǫndru - ski - BOARD and unnheims - of wave-world - SEA, thus a BOAT)
aesirs veldi  > gods' realm > SKY (a kenningr)
sævar-haukar  > sea-hawks > BIRD (a sankenningr)
viðu kletta  > mast rocky > RIDGE (a kenningr)
Sunds-mist  > mist of the sound > FOG (a sankenningr)
sókngífrs  > battle-witch > axe > ROCK FACE (a kenningr)
egg-skarp  > edge-sharp > AXE BLADE (a sankenningr)
stapi-dreka  > dragon's steeple > ROCK (a kenningr)
mjǫrkva stormar  > murky storms > STORMS (a sankenningr)



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