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The Icelandic Rune Poem

R. I. Page

Viking Society for Northern Researches

University College London, 1999

The text commonly called the Icelandic rune-poem is only a poem by courtesy. It consists of a series of stanzas of common pattern. Each is a single sentence, its subject one of the runes of the sixteen-letter futhark. There follow three groups of periphrases or kennings defining, or alluding to, the rune-name. For this reason the form has been called frrideilur, ‘three parts, triads’ (at any rate as early as 1627 when Arngrimur Jonsson defined the term: prydeylur, qvasi triplices expositiones),’ though that begs the question too, as I hope to show. Here, for convenience, I shall use the more common English appellation, the Icelandic rune-poem. This work survives in two quite early manuscripts, AM 687d 4° and AM 461 12° as well as a number of later ones, and there are texts of and quotations from it in seventeenth-century printed books. There are at least four modern editions of the poem, those of Kalund, Wimmer, Lindroth and Dickins.

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