OLD NORSE COURT POETRY 195
dit, nous avons affaire dés l'origine á une sorte de norme linguis-
For Irish this phenomenon has been described by Corkery (1956:
. . . the Irish language was the very apple of their eye to the bardic
schools. That language they took, and ruling out dialect and the
passing turn of speech, refined it and set it apart as a special
dialect, a language for literature, which became known from end
to end of Ireland. It was known also in Scotland. It remained
unchanged for centuries.
There are other examples still, for instance the language of the
German Minnes'ánger which has been compared to Norse poetic langu-
age by Kuhn (1969:111-112).
The discussion in (a)-(e) above leads to the somewhat unsurprising
conclusion that the court poems were indeed handed down orally
before being committed to parchment. Comparison with similar as well
as with different poetic genres elsewhere supports this.
4.0 The court poems have come down to us in manuscripts, mainly
embedded in the texts of the kings' sagas. Complete poems are seldom
found, only single verses. This is strikingly different from the Eddic
poems. The historians claim to use these verses as sources for their
works. This claim, as well as the historical value of the poems, will be
examined briefly below.
4.1 It is not known when the poems were taken to pieces but there
are at least two possible explanations:
(a) The historians based their works on the poems and at the same
time they took the poems apart and inserted single verses into their
story as a proof of its veracity.
This explanation leaves something to be desired, because the prose
sections contain a wealth of information not to be found in the verses.
(b) When the sagas were written there existed oral tales interspersed
with verses or poems accompanied by more or less detailed tales. The
historians collected these tales and committed them to parchment more
or less changed, thus working at the same time as collectors, editors