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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson (Hfr)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Diana Whaley;

1. Óláfsdrápa (Óldr) - 14

Skj info: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, Islandsk skjald, død ved 1007. (AI, 155-73, BI, 147-63).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonardrápa
2. Óláfsdrápa
3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa
4. Eiríksdrápa
5. Lausavísur

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ‘Troublesome-poet’ Óttarsson (Hfr) was brought up in Vatnsdalur, northern Iceland, probably in the 960s. He is the subject of Hallfreðar saga (Hallfr), which survives both as a continuous text (ÍF 8, 133-200) and interpolated into ÓT. The main strands of the saga are Hallfreðr’s unhappy relationship with Kolfinna Ávaldadóttir, his travels as trader, fighter and poet, his conversion to Christianity and his devotion to Óláfr Tryggvason, and all these aspects of his life occasioned poetry which partially survives.

Fragments of an early drápa for Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (r. c. 970-c. 995) are extant (Hfr HákdrIII; ÍF 8, 151), but the greater part of Hallfreðr’s court poetry, and the poetry edited in this volume, concerns King Óláfr Tryggvason (c. 995-c. 1000): Óláfsdrápa (Hfr Óldr) and Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (Hfr ErfÓl). Like other Icelanders, Hallfreðr accepted Christian baptism under the influence of Óláfr. The difficulty, for a poet and pagan, of this switch of religious allegiance is the theme of Hfr Lv 6-10V, and is, according to the sagas, alluded to in his nickname vandræðaskáld, lit. ‘Poet of difficulties’. The sagas agree that the name was bestowed by the king, though they differ about the precise reason (ÓTOdd 1932, 125-6; Hkr, ÍF 26, 331-2; Hallfr, ÍF 8, 155; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 387). Hallfreðr is attributed with a lost Uppreistardrápa ‘Restoration drápa’ (?), supposedly composed to atone for his journey into pagan Gautland (Västergötland, ÍF 8, 178). He is also credited in Hallfr (ÍF 8, 194-5) with an encounter with Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (r. c. 1000-c. 1014) and in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 266, 280) with poetry for him; this is vestigially preserved in Eiríksdrápa (Hfr EirdrV). The saga also shows Hallfreðr presenting a flokkr to the Danish jarl Sigvaldi (ÍF 8, 168) and a poem to the Swedish king Óláfr Eiríksson (ÍF 8, 177-8), but no traces of these survive.

The marriage of Kolfinna, the love of Hallfreðr’s youth, to Gríss Sæmingsson provoked Hallfreðr both early and later in life to compose strikingly inventive stanzas which intertwine themes of yearning love and rivalry (Hfr Lv 1-3, 15-24V), and his níð against Gríss led to legal proceedings and indirectly to the killing of Hallfreðr’s brother Galti (Ldn, ÍF 1, 224; ÍF 8, 189-90). In the course of an adventure in Västergötland (Hfr Lv 12-14V), Hallfreðr met and married Ingibjǫrg Þórisdóttir, who died young, but not before bearing two sons, Auðgísl and Hallfreðr. According to Hallfr (ÍF 8, 196-9), Hallfreðr himself died at the age of nearly forty, from a combination of illness and injury as he sailed through the Hebrides; he was buried on Iona (cf. Hfr Lv 26-7V).

file 2002-03-21 - York Hfr paper notes
file 2002-03-27 - York Hfr paper draft

Óláfsdrápa (‘Drápa about Óláfr’) — Hfr ÓldrI

Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Óláfsdrápa’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 387.

 1   2   3   4   5   6 

for reference only:  1x   1y   2x   2y   4x   4y   8z   9z 

Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld: 2. Óláfsdrápa, 996 (AI, 156-9, BI, 148-50); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 2, 7 | 3 | 3, 4/1-4 | 4/1-4 | 4/5-8, 5 | 4/5-8 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8/1-4, 9/5-8 | 8/5-8, 9/1-4

SkP info: I, 398

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Hfr Óldr 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Óláfsdrápa 6’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 398.

Gerði seims (með sverði)
sverðleik í Mǫn skerðir
(eyddi ulfa greddir
ógnblíðr Skotum víða).
Ýdrógar lét œgir
eyverskan her deyja
— Týr vas tjǫrva dýrra
tírargjarn — ok Íra.

{Skerðir seims} gerði {sverðleik} í Mǫn; {ógnblíðr greddir ulfa} eyddi Skotum víða með sverði. {Œgir ýdrógar} lét eyverskan her ok Íra deyja; {Týr dýrra tjǫrva} vas tírargjarn.

{The diminisher of gold} [GENEROUS MAN] made {sword-sport} [BATTLE] in Man; {the battle-glad feeder of wolves} [WARRIOR] destroyed the Scots widely with the sword. {The terrifier of the bow-string} [WARRIOR] caused the army from the Isles and the Irish to die; {the Týr <god> of precious spears} [WARRIOR] was eager for glory.

Mss: (150v), 39(6ra-b), F(25ra), J1ˣ(89r) (Hkr, ll. 3-4, 1-2, 5-8); 61(17ra), 53(15rb), 54(12rb), Bb(22va), 62(9va) (ll. 1-4), Flat(16ra) (ll. 1-4) (ÓT, ll. 3-4, 1-2, 5-8); FskBˣ(33v), FskAˣ(121) (Fsk); 310(98) (ÓTOdd)

Readings: [1] Gerði: gerðisk J1ˣ, 310;    seims: sveims 53    [2] sverð‑: sund‑ 62, Flat;    ‑leik: leiks 53, 54, Bb;    Mǫn: muna Flat;    skerðir: skerði 53, 62, skerðisk 54, Bb, grundar Flat    [3] greddir: græddir 39, 54, Bb, 62, 310, græddi 53, bræddir Flat, grœðir FskBˣ    [4] ógn‑: ‘og‑’ 39;    ‑blíðr: ‘blyð’ FskBˣ;    Skotum: liði 62, skipum Flat;    víða: víði Bb    [5] Ý‑: ver‑ J1ˣ, ‘V‑’ 54, Bb;    ‑drógar: ‑draugar J1ˣ, ‑drauga 61, 53, 54, Bb, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, 310;    lét: læt 39    [6] eyverskan: ‘ꝍverkann’ FskAˣ    [7] vas (‘var’): batt Bb, vann FskBˣ;    tjǫrva: tjǫrvar FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    dýrra: so 53, dýra Kˣ, 39, F, 61, 54, Bb, 62, FskAˣ, 310, bura J1ˣ, ‘dýran’ FskBˣ    [8] tírar‑: so F, J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, 310, ‘týar’ Kˣ, ‘tiran’ 39, tígnar FskBˣ, ‘tinar’ FskAˣ;    ‑gjarn: ‑garm Bb

Editions: Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 2. Óláfsdrápa 8/5-8, 9/1-4: AI, 158-9, BI, 150, Skald I, 81-2; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 308 (ÓT ch. 30), IV, 85-6, ÍF 26, 265, Hkr 1991, 177-8 (ÓTHkr ch. 30), F 1871, 114; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 160-1 (ch. 77); ÓTOdd 1932, 248; Fsk 1902-3, 111 (ch. 21), ÍF 29, 144 (ch. 23).

Context: see Introduction.

Notes: [All]: The pairing of helmingar here follows Fsk and 310. In Hkr and ÓT, st. 5/1-4 (beginning Gerðisk) + st. 6/7-8 (Eyddi), 5-6 (Gerði) form a stanza, and st. 6/1-4 (Ýdrógar) + st. 5/5-8 (Barði) form a stanza. Thus the two couplets of ll. 1-4 (Gerði; Eyddi) are in reverse order in Hkr and ÓT. Although it remains uncertain which arrangement of the poem is the more original, the evidence tends to favour Fsk and 310 (see Introduction). — [1] með sverði ‘with the sword’: This may well qualify both clauses in ll. 1-4. It could be taken specifically with the rest of ll. 1-2, but the effect would be slightly banal. — [3] greddir ‘feeder’: There are discrepant readings here, and the etymology is somewhat uncertain. However, a base-word with the sense ‘feeder’ is clearly needed, and greddir co-occurs elsewhere with terms for beasts of battle (see LP: greddir). It may be related to OE gereordian ‘feed’ (AEW: greddir; ÍF 26, 259 n.). — [5] œgir ýdrógar ‘the terrifier of the bow-string [WARRIOR]’: Either of the readings -drógar or -drauga(r) could form a warrior-kenning with ýr ‘yew’, hence ‘bow’, and œgir ‘terrifier’; cf. Gsind Hákdr 7/1 œgir almdrógar ‘terrifier of the bow-string [WARRIOR]’, where the majority of mss have -draug. (a) Dróg f. is recorded in prose with the sense ‘stripe’ but with the sense ‘string’ only in poetry; drógar is the reading of the main ms. and is adopted by most eds in this stanza. (b) Draugr elsewhere, probably in the sense ‘log’, combines with determinants referring to weapons, treasure or battle to form warrior-kennings (Meissner 264-5, and cf. Note to ÞHjalt Lv 1/5). This reading in the present stanza would yield ýdrauga œgir ‘terrifier of bow-logs [WARRIORS > RULER/WARRIOR]’. — [6] eyverskan ‘from the Isles’: Generally, and in the context of the stanza, this adj. is most likely to refer to the Northern Isles off Scotland, especially Orkney (cf. Fritzner: eyverskr) or else the Hebrides. The latter would be encouraged by their proximity to Ireland (Íra ‘the Irish’, l. 8) and is suggested in ÍF 26 and ÍF 29. — [7] tjǫrva dýrra ‘of precious spears’: Tjǫr ‘spear’ is rare and not entirely secure (see LP: 2. tjǫr), and it is puzzling that the reading dýrra appears only in 53, against a significant consensus in favour of dýra. Storm (MHN 113, n. 19) assumed Tjǫrvi to be an unrecorded sea-king heiti which would produce dýr Tjǫrva ‘Tjǫrvi’s animals [SHIPS]’ here.

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