Liturgical Writing 1, #3

This entry was posted on September 22, 2013 under Clergy Program, Liturgical Writing 1. Written by:

Discuss a poem of at least eight lines as to its use of poetic elements (as defined by Watkins): formulaics, metrics, and stylistics. Pay particular attention to use of meter and phonetic devices, such as rhyme and alliteration. (Minimum 100 words beyond the poem itself.)

I decided I want to view a rather fun story within Northern Lore, of when Thor lost his hammer and the “comedy of errors” that happened in order to retrieve it back.

The Lay of Thrym, posted on the “New Northvegr Center” website.

When Thor awoke, his wrath was grim
To find his hammer gone from him.
He shook his beard, he tossed his hair,
The Son of Earth sought here and there.

And first of all he spake this word:
“Listen, Loki! never was heard
In earth or heaven what now I say—
The Thunderer’s hammer is stolen away!”

To Freyja the fair their way they take,
And this is the word that first he spake:
“Lend me thy feather-fell, I pray,
To seek my hammer, that’s stolen away.”

“Were it of silver, or were it of gold,
That would I give thee, that should’st thou hold.”

Loki he flew in the rustling fell
Out of the halls where the Aesir dwell

To Jôtunheim. On a howe sat Thrym,
King o’ the giants, a a-twisting trim
Golden bands for his hounds of speed,
And smoothing the mane of his trusty steed;
And this is the word that first he said:
“What of the Aesir? What of the Elves?
Why art thou come to the Giant’s door?”

“‘Tis ill with the Aesir, ill with the Elves!
Say, hast thou hidden the hammer of Thor?”

“Yea, I have hidden the hammer of thunder
Eight full fathoms the earth down under;
No man shall win it in all his life
Until he shall bring me Freyja to wife.”

Loki he flew in the rustling fell
Out of the halls where the Giants dwell,
Until he came to Asgard’s bound,
And Thor in the midmost garth he found.
And this is the word that first he said:
“What tidings, toiling, hast thou won?
For a man that sits tells a stumbling tale,
And a man that lies, a lying one.”

“News for my toiling do I bring;
Thrym has thine hammer, the Giant’s king,
No man may win it in all his life
Until he take him Freyja to wife.”

To Freyja the fair their way they take,
And this is the word that first he spake:
“Bind on thy bridal-veil amain,
For to Jôtunheim we must fare, we twain.”

Wroth was Freyja! she caught her breath—
The hall of the Aesir shook beneath,
The Brising necklace snapped in three.
“Marriage-mad is the name for me
If to Jôtunheim I fare with thee!”

All the Aesir to council went,
The mighty ones to parliament,
Gods and goddesses, all in wonder
How to win back the hammer of thunder.

It was Heimdall spake amain,
Whitest of gods, the wily Wane:
“Now bind on Thor the veil so fair,
The Brising necklace let him wear;
Hang round him many a clinking key,
Let woman’s weeds fall to his knee;
Jewels broad on his breast shall shine,
And neatly shall ye the topknot twine!”

Up spake he, mightiest at need:
“Call me a coward’s name indeed
If ever I wear a woman’s weed!”

Up spake Loki, Laufey’s son:
“Thor, with thy witless words have done!
Soon shall the Giants in Asgard reign
Unless thou win thine hammer again.”
On Thor they bound the veil so fair,
The Brising necklace did he wear;
They hung him with many a clinking key,
Let woman’s weeds fall to his knee;
Jewels broad on his breast did shine,
And neatly did they the topknot twine.
Then Loki, son of Laufey, said:
“I will go with thee as waiting-maid!”

The goats they harness by two and by one—
To the shafts they are shackled, well can they run!
Valley and hill burst into flame
When Odin’s son to the Giants came.

The King o’ the Giants did loudly call:
“Up now, Giants! strew the benches all!
See where the bride they bring adown,
Daughter of Niord, from Noa-town!

“Kine go here with gilded horn,
Oxen black my garth adorn;
Gold have I and goods galore—
For Freyja alone I long so sore.”

Evening fell on the blithe bridàle;
The Giants sat a-drinking ale.
The greedy spouse of Sif, he ate
Seven salmon, every cate
For the ladies spread, and a goodly steer—-
And he drank three tuns, his heart to cheer.

The King o’ the Giants, he up and cried:
“Never was known such a hungry bride!
Ne’er saw I lady so full of greed,
Nor maiden drink so deep of mead!”

Sitting apart, the wily maid
Answered what the Giant said:
“This se’nnight past no meat had she,
So fain she was to come to thee!”

He lifted the veil to kiss the bride,
And the hall’s full length he sprang aside:
“Why are her eyes so full of ire?
Methinks they are darting sparks of fire!”

Sitting apart, the wily maid
Answered what the Giant said:
“This se’nnight past no sleep had she,
So fain she was to come to thee!”

The Giant’s sister entered in,
Greedy a bridal-gift to win:
“Give me thy ring of red, red gold,
If thou my love wouldst have and hold!”

The King o’ the Giants, he up and cried:
“Bear in the hammer to hallow the bride!
To the maiden’s knees now Miöllni bring,
And Var shall hallow our hand-fasting.”

Deep in his breast laughed the heart of Thor,
When his hammer he held once more!
He slew the King o’ Giants, Thrym,
And all his race smote after him.
He smote the Giant’s sister old,
She who begged a gift of gold—
For pence, a pound was what she won,
And a hammer-blow for a gay guerdòn!

Thus back to his hammer came Odin’s son!

The main format for this particular poem is a form of quatrain (Watkins), due to its rhymed syllabic verse which uses letters, or the sound of those letters, to be similar with the next line.  These are generally sectioned off into four lines for each quatrain, but can end in different patterns of rhymes.  This particular pattern is an AABB quatrain, in that the first two line rhyme with each other, and then the remaining two lines rhyme with each other.

So for example, in the first four-line quatrain, we see:
When Thor awoke, his wrath was grim
To find his hammer gone from him.
He shook his beard, he tossed his hair,
The Son of Earth sought here and there.

At the end of the first line, “Grim” rhymes with the end of the second line, “Him”.  In the next set, “Hair” at the end of the third line rhymes with “There” at the end of the fourth line.

The phonetics of the poem are mostly normal.  In the third stanza, when the author speaks of the words initially spoken with Freyja, he uses the word “Spake” in order to rhyme with the prior line “Take”, which is a general play on words from what we’re used to in our common tongue.

There are also a few instances where the poem does not add up to your typical four-line quatrain, but instead they are divided into two stanzas for form in the general story.

In the 6th stanza, when Thor asks Loki what he has found out, the last three verses do not appear to follow the quatrain format at all, but I chock this up to still trying to follow the story.  So for this section, “Here”, “Elves”, and “Door”, are in position and throw off the rhythm from the rest of the poem.  This happens again in the 9th stanza and 14th stanza, but the rest of the poetry follows your typical quatrain format with rhythmic endings.

Theme-wise, this is a more diachronic formula as it relates to Indo-European poetry.  By diachronic, I mean less about the historical value and more about the evolution or structure of the poem.  The outcome is more predictable than what history normally dictates (which is not really predictable).  The loss of Thor’s hammer and the retrieval of it by a method that is either humorous or epic, such as the slaying of giants,  is a predictable evolution of the poem which is similar to how many old Indo-European poems were formulated.  Specifically, if you look at ancient Indo-European poetry or text that might have been built around mainly metaphoric references rather than not, depending on the language.

Gregory Nagy gives reference to this in his review of “Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford 2007)” when he mentions the varying stories and poems regarding the sun as a war-chariot (Nagy).  The term “wheel” in Indo-European languages as varied meanings such as to “run” (ret? in Italian), or “wheel” (rota in latin), and even “runs” (rethid in irish).  Because these words are so similar but not exact, we can assume this shining wheel in the sky may not actually be a wheel at all, but just a movement.  So much of what we view in ancient poetry could have been written or manipulated for the emphasis and integrity of the poem (such as slaying of giants) rather than a literal story.  Much of what we’ve read and how these poems evolve may just be our interpretation.

(Word Count: 595, not including poem bits)



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