Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Hrafnagaldur ÓðIns (Forspjallsljóð)

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Hrafnagaldur ÓðIns (Forspjallsljóð)

Article excerpt

Hrafnagaldur Odins (Forspjallsljód), ed. and trans. Annette Lassen (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2011). 120 pp. ISBN 978-0-903521-81-9. £12.00. Hrafnagaldur Odins ('The charm of Oöinn's ravens'), alias Forspjallsljód ('A pre-spell song5), is not a medieval text In this edition, Annette Lassen demonstrates conclusively what has long, although not universally, been held: that the work is a seventeenth-century antiquarian creation, albeit using the metre and imagery of medieval Old Norse poetry - in fact, drawing on both its eddic and skaldic forms. The poem consists of twenty-six eight-line stanzas. Reflecting a topic familiar in the mythological poetry of the Edda, Hrafnagaldur Odins contains a deeply buried narrative of a search by the gods for knowledge of the cosmos and especially of the future, which they hope to obtain from a seeress, the goddess Iöunn. Their quest is in vain, and the poem ends rather bathetically at nightfall and with a note of '... and so to bed'.

Annette Lassen's introduction efficiently reviews the history of scholarly attention to this poem, which has attracted a fair amount of genuine critical curiosity, although only one authoritative academic has ever been inclined to believe it genuinely old. She equally neatly lays out the linguistic evidence for a post-medieval date of composition, and the crucial intertextual evidence of a Greek proverb that can be traced to a late sixteenth-century European translation in Erasmus of Rotterdam's Adagia, which seems to have reached Iceland in 1638. …

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