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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Óttarr svarti (Ótt)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Matthew Townend;

3. Lausavísur (Lv) - 3

Skj info: Óttarr svarti, Islandsk skjald, 11. årh. (AI, 289-99, BI, 267-75).

Skj poems:
Lausavísur
1. Óláfsdrápa sœnska
2. Hǫfuðlausn
3. Knútsdrápa

The Icelandic poet Óttarr svarti ‘the Black’ (Ótt) was remembered in the twelfth century (ESk Geisl 12) as one of the hǫfuðskǫld ‘chief skalds’ of the late Viking Age. His nickname would seem to locate him within the tradition of poets being ‘dark’ in either appearance or temperament (see Clunies Ross 1978b; Finlay 2000). According to Styrmir Kárason (ÓH 1941, II, 688), the poet Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) was a mikill vinr ‘great friend’ of Óttarr, and indeed Óttarr’s Hǫfuðlausn (Ótt Hfl) is greatly indebted to Sigvatr’s Víkingarvísur (Sigv Víkv, see Introduction to Hfl). Snorri Sturluson (ÍF 27, 144; ÓH 1941, I, 203) further describes Óttarr as Sigvatr’s maternal nephew, and if this is correct he would have been the grandson of Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld ‘Poet of Sigvaldi’ (see Biography of Sigvatr Þórðarson). Óttarr features in the various sagas of Óláfr Haraldsson, but the only major anecdote about him is the story surrounding his Hfl (see Introduction).

Skáldatal, in one or both of its recensions (SnE 1848-87, III, 252, 253, 258, 260, 261, 267, 269), lists Óttarr as having composed for six patrons: the Danes Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ Haraldsson and his son Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great); Óláfr sœnski ‘the Swede’ Eiríksson and his son Ǫnundr Óláfsson; and the Norwegian King Óláfr inn helgi Haraldsson (S. Óláfr), and the Norwegian magnate Dala-Guðbrandr (‘Guðbrandr of the Dales’, on whom, see ÍF 27, 183-90; ÓH 1941, I, 271-82). For Sveinn and Dala-Guðbrandr, Óttarr is the only poet listed in Skáldatal. Panegyric poetry by Óttarr is certainly extant for three of these patrons: Óláfsdrápa (ÓldrIII) for Óláfr Eiríksson (preserved only in SnE and therefore edited in SkP III), Hfl for Óláfr Haraldsson, and Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) and Lv 2 for Knútr. It has, moreover, been suggested that one stanza in Knútdr may have been misplaced from an earlier poem for Sveinn (see Note to st. 9 [All]). No poetry survives for Ǫnundr or Dala-Guðbrandr. From all the evidence, it is likely that Óttarr visited, and composed, for, his patrons in this order: Sveinn until his death in 1014; Óláfr Eiríksson until his death c. 1021 (though ÓHLeg 1982, 130-1, has Óttarr, a young man fresh from Iceland, approaching him as his first patron), then his son Ǫnundr; Óláfr Haraldsson in the early 1020s, and Dala-Guðbrandr in the same period; Knútr by c. 1027 for an unknown period (Knútr died in 1035). For previous discussions of Óttarr’s career, see SnE 1848-87, III, 326-33, LH I, 574-7 and Poole (1993b).

Lausavísur — Ótt LvI

Matthew Townend and R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Óttarr svarti, Lausavísur’ 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. 783.

 1   2   3 

Skj: Óttarr svarti: Lausavísur (AI, 299, B)

SkP info: I, 788

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Ótt Lv 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Lausavísur 3’ 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. 788.

Ótt Lv 3 is preserved in ÓHLeg (DG8, used as main ms. here), where it is attributed to Óttarr, and in the excerpts (articuli) from Styrmir Kárason’s Lífssaga of S. Óláfr appended to ÓH (Flat, with parallel texts in Tóm, 73aˣ, 71ˣ and 76aˣ, the last three representing a lost part of Bæb, Bæjarbók á Rauðasandi), where it is attributed to Sigvatr Þórðarson and follows his Lv 19. The stanza is somewhat likelier to be the work of Óttarr than of Sigvatr: ÓHLeg is older than Styrmir’s work, and in it the stanza is found in a rambling chapter with poetry by various skalds, where it follows Ólhelg Lv 3. Styrmir might have altered the ascription in order to lend more narrative unity to his saga, while there is no obvious reason why the author of ÓHLeg would have altered it. Similarities in the preceding prose show that the different ascriptions in ÓHLeg and ÓH are not just oral variants.

Heðan sék reyk, þanns rjúka
rǫnn of fiskimǫnnum
— stór eru skalds of skærur
skellibrǫgð — ór helli.
frýrat mér nýrar
nenningar dag þenna;
hlíti ek fyr hvítan
hornstraums dǫgurð Naumu.

 

From here out of the cave I see smoke, which mansions waft over fishermen; great are the roaring tricks of the poet in the dawn light. Now no-one will be jibing me into a new achievement today; I am content {with a Nauma {of the horn-stream}} [ALE > WOMAN] instead of a white breakfast.

context: According to ÓHLeg, one day Óttarr told King Óláfr helgi Haraldsson about a small farmer named Karli whom he had stayed with in Iceland. Óttarr said that he took Karli’s wife and went into a cave and sat there and delivered this vísa as he looked over the farm. The same story is told of Sigvatr Þórðarson in the extracts from Styrmir in the ÓH mss. There the prose adds that Karli thought Sigvatr lazy, and Bæjarbók (73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76ˣ) adds further that the wife was young and attractive, and that they ‘played’ (liekum ockr) in the cave. In all texts, the king smiles and responds with Ólhelg Lv 3.

editions: Skj Sigvatr Þórðarson: 13. Lausavísur 12 (AI, 269; BI, 249); Skald I, 128ÓHLeg 1922, 57-8, ÓHLeg 1982, 136-7; Fms 5, 177, Fms 12, 109-10, Flat 1860-8, III, 241, ÓH 1941, II, 687, 700, 701.

sources

DG 8 (DG8) 91v, 1 - 91v, 4 (ÓHLeg)  transcr.  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 187ra, 42 - 187ra, 42 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  image  
GKS 1008 fol (Tóm) 122v, 14 - 122v, 16 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 73 a folx (73ax) 127r, 7 - 127r, 14 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 71 folx (71x) 105v, 8 - 105v, 11 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 76 a folx (76ax) 135r, 3 - 135r, 10 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 761 b 4°x (761bx) 320r, 2 - 320r, 9  transcr.  image  
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