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Bardic Arts

Torvald Torgarson
May 2, 2003 (AS XXXVIII)

Freya's tears do freely
fall in streams from mighty
Ymer's bones. To bear the
burden shall the seekers
raise the river fire to
wrap the hands so boldly.
Given out so gladly
granted by the breaker.

Written for fun and posted to SCA-West. This is a riddle. Can you guess the answer? If not it is below ....

One of the most valuable and respected skills of the skalds of Scandinavia was the ability to extemporize verses on short notice. One skald, Sigvat Thordarson was noted for being able to compose poetry as fast as normal people could talk. Imagine, holding a conversation entirely in skaldic verse! The Occasional Verse was used whenever the skald was inspired, wished to make a point, or to draw attention to a situation.

Most of the examples of Occasional Verse I have been able to find have been in Dravkaet form, and in my work I follow that example. The structure of drakvaet consists of a pair of six syllable lines each with three stresses. There will be three alliterations in each pair of lines. In the first line there will be two alliterations that can fall on any stressed syllable. In the second line there will be one alliteration that must fall on the first stressed syllable. Then four pairs of lines will make a stanza. In traditional drakvaet there will also be two internal rhymes in each pair of lines. If these internal rhymes are imperfect rhymes such as ham and back, or pill and well, this would be known as a skothending, or glancing hit. If it was a perfect rhyme it is called adalhending, or a full hit. In addition the glancing hit must be in the odd numbered line, and the full hit in the even line. Moreover, the rhyme must fall on the second and last syllables of the line.

In my work I do not make use of the internal rhyming for the same reasons that Prof. Lee M. Hollander states in his book, The Skalds, A Selection of Their Poems, on the first page of the preface. I did not, frankly, because I found myself unequal to the task, but also because experience has shown that internal rhyme now falls on deaf ears. With all of the other strict parameters of the drakvaet this one area has proven to be beyond me, and with rest of the structure intact I believe I have still kept within the spirit of the form. -- Torvald

(This is from Torvald's collection of verse: Occasional Verses, and used with his permission.)

Answer: According to Norse Mythology Freya cries tears of gold. Ymers Bones is a kenning for mountains. Seekers is a heit for prospectors. River Fire is a tradional kenning for gold. Breaker is a heit, refereing to the traditional kenning Ring Breaker for King.

So translation of the verse is:
Gold falls in streams and rivers from the mountains and gathered by the prospectors. It is then made in to rings given out by the King.

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