Words of Thanks for Thor of Scrolls

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Written as double-inlaid late-concluding alhent (variants of drottkvaett documented by Snorri in Hattatal) by Magnús hvalmagi.

On July 6, A.S. 48, I was inducted into the Order of the Maunche. Isabel Chamberlaine crafted the scroll - you can read about the project on her blog.

Quill-wielder - the willing-field of
water-steed thought-reeded
bears the marking - tearing-bark of
bale-eating ale-meter
stands as stone-face land of honed-much
stave-birds' graven word-cuts -
wise-elm's eyes-helm of
adder-cauldron - a skald gladdened.

© Peter Olsen


Analysis and Explanation

This poem contains two inlaid sentences - one inside the other - inlaid into the main statement. This results in a fairly obfuscated meaning. The correct parsing is:

"Quill-wielder a skald gladdened." (Main statement)
"The willing-field of water-steed thought-reeded bears the marking wise-elm's eyes-helm of adder-cauldron." (Inlay 1)
"Tearing-bark of bale-eating ale-meter stands as stone-face land of honed-much stave-bird's graven word-cuts." (Inlay 2)

Alhent is a demanding variant of drottkvaett wherein each line must contain two pairs of fully-rhymed stressed beats. This means that there are 4 stresses in each line, one more than in typical drottkvaett. Odd-numbered lines must contain at least two alliterating stressed beats (called props); the first stressed beat of even-numbered lines must alliterate with the props in the preceding line. All lines must end in a trochee. According to Snorri, it was the "best and choicest" of verse-forms when "composed well." It's also at its best when you avoid "particles" of all kinds. I didn't, because I wanted it to be somewhat intelligible.

The poem contains four rather elaborate kennings:

"willing-field of water-steed thought-reeded"

"willing-field" = field of willing = space for commanding/communicating
"water-steed" = ship or vessel
"thought-reeded" = covered in thought
"water-steed thought-reeded" = vessel covered in thought = scroll

Thus: "willing-field of..." = the text space on a scroll

"marking wise-elm's eyes-helm of adder-cauldron"

"marking wise-elm" = smart woman who is a talented scribe
"eyes-helm" = head = brains or knowledge
"adder-cauldron" = vat of poison - a reference to the verdigris that Isabel made expressly for the project

Thus: "marking wise-elm's..." = Isabel's knowledge of period scribal techniques

"tearing-bark of bale-eating ale-meter"

"tearing-bark" = removable hide/hide cuttings
"bale-eating" = leaf eating
"ale-meter" = that is, one who metes out ale
"bale-eating ale-meter" = Heiðrún, a legendary goat

Thus: "tearing-bark..." = legendary goat hide

"stone-face land of honed-much stave-bird's graven word-cuts."

"stone-face land" = surface for writing runes
"honed-much" = sharp
"stave-bird's" = quill or etching tool
"graven word-cuts" = engraved words
"honed-much stave-bird's graven word-cuts" = quill's etchings

Thus: "stone-face..." = surface suitable for enscribing = vellum

So putting it all together:

"Isabel made Magnus glad."
"Her scroll shows off her extensive scribal knowledge and skill."
"The scroll is made of prized goat vellum."

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