This review concludes with some comments on Malmros's central tenet that skaldic poetry is a trustworthy source for information on social conditions and on ships and sea-faring generally although such information is generally incidental to the poem's theme. As Malmros and her philologist colleagues contend (and Judith Jesch has shown in Ships and Men in Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse, 1991) skaldic poetics did assure quite accurate transmission, principally of vocabulary but less explicitly of power relations. But accurate is not the same as comprehensive. As one example, the sea-going lexis of skaldic poetry is notably deficient in the area of the standing and running rigging of ships, as if the myriad lines--shrouds, stays, braces, sheets, bowlines--lent themselves less well than other ship's parts to metonymical poetic use (the tiller as the ship itself or even the king) or were somehow less concrete, less open to graphic representation. As well as being patchy, for our purposes, skaldic verse was avowedly encomiastic and poet-patron relations must always have resulted in a skewed, idealist representation of the interplay between king and earls, earls and commoners. We should never forget that most of the poets
Scandinavian Studies – Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study
Published: Apr 11, 2011
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