The Northern Way

 

Grimm Centenary: Sigfred-Arminivs and Other Papers

Page 2

The history of this one word 'aiþei' is a caution to the etymologist; for it alone is sufficient to prove the absolute necessity of the historic method being used along with the analytic method; if it is neglected the pure analysts are apt to fall into error, and follow false lights.

Of the Gothic poetry that Ermanaric's exploits inspired, a torso (4) has reached us in the Hamtheow Lay, but it is enough to show that the divine poet was not absent from Danpar-stead or the halls of the Goths. And just as through the paraphrases of Paul the deacon one can feel something of the fierce cruelty and generous chivalry of the Lombard dukes and kings, so in this most antique poem one can dimly see something of the magnificence and pride of life and masterful strength of this Gothic basileuj. After hearing this lay one can get near enough to the man to sympathise with the grief which, like his noble successor Charles the Great, he felt ere he died, in dreading that much of his work would be undone, and in knowing that the very kingdom, for which he had toiled and fought so many years, was in utmost imminence of peril.

The following table will give a skeleton, as it were, of the earlier Teutonic History as far as we can make it out with safety. The names in Italics are those which have not come down to us in the traditional vehicle of poetry or folk-tale.

WEST                                CENTRAL                              EAST
                                           Ariouistus .. fl. B. C. 60
                                                        A.D
                                           Sigfred .......... d. 21
                                                                                            Giferic ......fl. 300
                                                                                            Ermanaric ..... fl. 350
                                            Alaric ........ d. 410
Hengest ...... fl. 430
Beowulf ...... fl. 450                                                           Attila ............ fl. 450
                                            Theodric ...... d. 526
                                            Ælfwine (Alboin) d. 572
Anlaf Tretelgia fl. 675
Godfred ......... fl. 800
                                            Charles the Great d. 814
                                            William of Orange fl. 830
                                                                                            Ruric ............. fl. 860
Lodbrok's sons fl. 870
Ælfed ............. d. 901
Rollo & Harold fairhair fl. 925
Tryggwason ....... d. 1001
S. Olaf ............... d. 1030
Gretti ................ d. 1031
Cnut ................. d. 1035

                                                                                        G. V.
July 30, 1885

Notes:

4. For instance, lines 95-98, on the centenarian king's last feast, once noble words, now in ruin, how are we to restore them? I would now propose to read ----

þá Iormunrekr, hendi drap á kampa
breidde skegg à bringu, b......... at víni,
hann skör iarpa, hiassa skiall-hvítan,
hann ser or hendi hvarfa ker gollit.

What b-word can be concealed underneath the impossible 'bavðvaðiz' (brúnvolvi rolling one's brows, frowning, --- þá mælti konungr, ok var nokkat svá brunvolui, brun-ôlfi Cod. Holm. 1. c. Flat. i. 182, cp. iii. 357)? 'iarpa,' of the old king's hair --- how can that be right?
The Lays of Attila and Hamtheow have been mixed up in the oral tradition; both are written together (seperated only by the Greenland Lay); in cod. R. all three were most probably taken down from the same person's mouth; the lines on the Rosmons (Atlakv. 70) can only belong to the Hamtheow Lay. Atlakv. ll. 50-523, one wold also suspect to refer to the brothers Hamtheow and Sarila on their way to Ermanaric's hall. There is a great gap in that lay, just after the brothers' parting from their mother. [Back]

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