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Icelandic: Sæmund's bet with the devil (of which there were many) Options
milehigh
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 9:57:00 PM

Rank: Newbie

Joined: 9/1/2010
Posts: 5
Neurons: 5,711
OK, I'm not really new here but a hiccup caused my older msg's. to be flushed.

Anyway, I'm translating an 1850's book by Konrad v. Maurer about Icelandic folklore and I think I've found (again) an error. I need someone who either knows Icelandic and/or the legends of the 11th-century Icelandic priest Saemund (aka, "the Learned") Sigfusson.

The story goes that Saemund and the devil had a wager that the devil could not come up with a Latin or Icelandic verse to which Saemund would not be able to immediately offer a second verse that rhymed. The stakes: Saemund's soul, naturally.

They went at it for a spell in Latin, and Saemund always had a rhyming answer. So the devil thought he'd try Icelandic, and shouted to Saemund:

Quote:
allt er runninn ú í botn
áttúngr með hreina vatn


-- "A small mug just ran out onto the floor with clean water" (OK, don't look for sensible here...)

And to this, Saemund answers:

Quote:
allt er vald hjá einum drottn
á hans náð ei verður sjatn


-- and according to the author this is, "All power is with the Lord; there is no taking/acceptance of his grace".

Do you see the problem here? That last bit doesn't, well, sound very Lord-like. I think the author or editor made a mistake when he used the word "Abname" (nowadays, Abnahme) instead of "Ausname" (modern: Ausnahme) because the latter means "exception". That would read more logically to my ecclesiastical eye.

So please -- can anyone either translate that last Icelandic bit, or tell me how the story really goes?

Much obliged!

J. in CO/US

p.s.: --sorry, I should have said that if "Ausnahme" is used then the translation would be ""All power is with the Lord; there is no exception to his grace" -- i.e., we're all candidates for it.

...formerly "webistrator" but I forgot my login -- sorry.
uuaschbaer
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 10:23:11 PM

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Joined: 10/18/2009
Posts: 1,930
Neurons: 6,180
I fall outside your criteria but doesn't abnehmen also mean to diminish? All power is with the Lord. His grace is undiminished? You'd probably know if it were the right translation but it sprung to mind.

*
thar
Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 5:53:09 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
Posts: 15,767
Neurons: 63,047
I don't know the story, I will try to ask my sister, she is the historian in the family (although did her thesis on South American history, not sure if this is her area) and she is into the sagas. But she is working in a production on tour in Europe at the moment, so it will have to wait a bit.

As for the Norse translations, I think it makes a bit more sense than your Germanic version!:

sorry, I thought I had time, I will try and post my ideas later if I have some time

I do not know where your first verse translation came from, but botn is 'bottom' 'base' and also the head of a valley or fjord, and vatn is not just water, it is also any body of water - a lake or a river (like wasser or water, in lake names)!

milehigh
Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 6:47:33 PM

Rank: Newbie

Joined: 9/1/2010
Posts: 5
Neurons: 5,711
uuaschbaer wrote:
I fall outside your criteria but doesn't abnehmen also mean to diminish? All power is with the Lord. His grace is undiminished? You'd probably know if it were the right translation but it sprung to mind.


Hey, that's possible! And of course it would fit. I guess I was looking for an absolute in "Aufnahme" (which isn't the best fit either, really). I'm going with "diminish" -- thanx!

thar wrote:
I do not know where your first verse translation came from, but botn is 'bottom' 'base' and also the head of a valley or fjord, and vatn is not just water, it is also any body of water - a lake or a river (like wasser or water, in lake names)!


Yes, and I'm confused by Saemund's unrelated response to the devil, there. In all his other encounters Saemund's answer related to the devil's puzzle verse.

So I'm going to let you look at the original text from Maurer's "Islaendische Volkssagen der Gegenwart...", p. 126, here:

http://www.archive.org/stream/islndischevolks00maurgoog#page/n143/mode/2up

-- that should bring up the Open Library reader to the correct page.

And now that I've re-read the two Icelandic verses, I see I had the devil's verse wrong and it should be "A mug of clean water has overflowed onto the floor/ground"...

It's wise for me to reread my work, eh? But the problem of the two verses making sense together is still there for me.

Cheers, and thanks to you both!

J.



...formerly "webistrator" but I forgot my login -- sorry.
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