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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sturla Þórðarson (Sturl)

13th century; volume 2; ed. Kari Ellen Gade;

3. Hrafnsmál (Hrafn) - 20

Skj info: Sturla Þórðarson, Islandsk skjald og historiker, 1214-84 (AII, 101-29, BII, 112-36).

Skj poems:
1. Þverárvísur
2. Þorgilsdrápa
3. Hrynhenda
4. Hákonarkviða
5. Hrafnsmál
6. Hákonarflokkr
7. En drape om Magnús lagaböter
8. Lausavísur

The life of Sturla Þórðarson (Sturl) is chronicled in Sturlunga saga (Stu). He was born on 29 July 1214 as the second son of Þórðr Sturluson and his concubine Þóra, and he was the younger brother of Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson (Ólhv). In his early years he spent much time with his uncle, the poet, historian and lawspeaker Snorri Sturluson (SnSt, d. 1241), and later he took an active part in the events that played out before and after the collapse of the Icel. Commonwealth. Sturla was lawspeaker in Iceland 1251-2 and lawman, appointed by the Norw. king, 1272-82. In 1263 he went to Norway where he met King Magnús lagabœtir ‘Law-mender’ Hákonarson (d. 1280). After an initially very cool reception, the king commissioned him to write the saga of Magnús’s father Hákon Hákonarson (d. 1264) and also that of Magnús himself. Sturla later became the retainer (hirðmaðr, skutilsveinn) of Magnús and brought the law code Járnsíða ‘Ironside’ from Norway to Iceland in 1271. The story of Sturla’s journey to Norway in 1263 and his dealings with Magnús is recounted in Sturlu þáttr (StÞ), preserved in a version of Stu. In addition to the sagas of Hákon Hákonarson (Hák) and the no longer extant saga of his son Magnús lagabœtir (only two leaves are preserved in AM 325 X 4°), Sturla is the author of Íslendinga saga (Ísls) and of a redaction of Landnámabók (Ldn, in AM 107 folˣ = Stˣ). Some scholars believe that he may have been responsible for the extant redaction of Kristni saga (Kristni) (see LH 1894-1901, II, 98-105, 717-43), and he is also mentioned as an informant by the author of Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar (Gr; see ÍF 7, 157, 226, 289). Like his uncle, Snorri, and his brother, Óláfr, Sturla was a prolific poet. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 260, 272, 279, 384-96), he composed poems in honour of the Norw. kings Hákon Hákonarson and Magnús lagabœtir Hákonarson, and also about the Swed. jarl Birgir Magnússon (d. 1266). Nothing is preserved of Sturla’s panegyrics to the latter, but two sts from his poetry to Magnús are recorded in Hák (see Magnússdrápa (Sturl Magndr) below). The bulk of Sturla’s poetic oeuvre about Hákon Hákonarson is interspersed with the prose in Hák: Hrynhenda (Sturl Hryn), Hákonarkviða (Sturl Hákkv), Hrafnsmál (Sturl Hrafn) and Hákonarflokkr (Sturl Hákfl). In addition to these encomia, Sturla composed poetry about events and dignitaries in Iceland: namely Þverárvísur (Sturl ÞvervIV) and Þorgilsdrápa (Sturl ÞorgdrIV), both of which have been edited in SkP IV. That is also the case with his lvv. (Sturl Lv 1-4IV). One fragment which earlier eds assigned to Hryn (earlier st. 22) has been edited in SkP III as Sturl FragIII. Sturla died on 30 July 1284 and was buried in the Church of S. Peter at Staðarhóll.

Hrafnsmál — Sturl HrafnII

Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Sturla Þórðarson, Hrafnsmál’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 727-45.

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Skj: Sturla Þórðarson: 5. Hrafnsmál (AII, 119-24, BII, 126-31)

SkP info: II, 741-2

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

17 — Sturl Hrafn 17II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sturla Þórðarson, Hrafnsmál 17’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 741-2.

Sendi snarlynda
sverða blikskerðir
sveit inn sigrmæti
síð til brynhríðar.
Drap í dul greypa
drengja lof þengils,
drótt sá er dal-Gauta
dæmði hersæmða.

{Inn sigrmæti blikskerðir} sendi snarlynda sveit sverða síð til {brynhríðar}. Lof þengils drengja drap í greypa dul, sá er dæmði drótt {dal-Gauta} hersæmða.

{The victory-glorious gleam-diminisher} [GENEROUS MAN] finally sent a quick-witted company of swords to {the byrnie-storm} [BATTLE]. The ruler’s praise of the warriors was gravely misplaced, he who deemed the retinue {of the bow-Gautar <= Óðinn’s>} [WARRIORS] battle-famed.

Mss: F(123ra), 304ˣ(363v), Flat(185vb) (Hák)

Readings: [5] Drap í (‘drꜳpi’): so Flat, drap ina F, 304ˣ;    greypa: so Flat, miklu F, 304ˣ    [6] þengils: þengill 304ˣ    [7] dal‑Gauta: ‘dalm gamla’ 304ˣ    [8] ‑sæmða: sæmði Flat

Editions: Skj: Sturla Þórðarson, 5. Hrafnsmál 17: AII, 123, BII, 130-1, Skald II, 70, NN §§1360, 1361, 1779C, 2992D; F 1871, 576, Hák 1977-82, 202, Flat 1860-8, III, 225.

Context: The Scots attacked those Norwegians who had been forced ashore in the storm. The Norwegians defended themselves behind a beached merchantman until Hákon could send men ashore to help them. Few fell, but many were wounded.

Notes: [2] blikskerðir ‘gleam-diminisher [GENEROUS MAN]’: So NN §1360. According to this interpretation, blik- ‘gleam-’ is taken to mean ‘gold’ (see also LP: blik 1). Skj B emends bryn- ‘the byrnie-’ (l. 4) to brims ‘of the surf’ and construes the gold-kenning blik brims ‘the gleam of the surf’. Sverða ‘of swords’ (l. 2) is then taken with hríðar ‘of the storm’ (l. 4) (til hríðar sverða ‘to the storm of swords’, i.e. ‘to the battle’). This construction forces a separation of the unstressed prep. til ‘to’ from its object hríðar ‘the storm’ which does not otherwise occur in poetry. A more plausible emendation would be to change blik- to brík-: sverða bríkskerðir ‘the diminisher of the plank of swords’, i.e. ‘the diminisher of the shield’ (‘warrior’). — [3] inn sigrmæti ‘the victory-glorious’: Hap. leg. — [5-8]: This helmingr is difficult to make sense of. The present edn mostly follows NN §1361. The ruler whose flattering opinion about his troops is misplaced is likely to be Alexander, king of the Scots. Alternatively it could refer to Hákon, since the Norw. troops were in trouble at this point. Skj B construes the half-st. as follows: herr drengja þengils, sás lof sæmði, dæmði dulgreypa drótt dal-Gauta drápi, translated as kongens mænds hær, han, hvem lovprisning hædrede, dömte den indbilske, grumme krigerskare til døden ‘the army of the king’s men, he, whom praise honoured, sentenced the conceited, cruel band of warriors to death’. In addition to the convoluted w. o., which is unprecedented in Hrafn, there is a violation of syntax because the finite verb in the main cl. (dæmði ‘sentenced’ (l. 8)) occurs further back than syntactic position 1 or 2. The F version of ll. 5-8 can be construed as follows: drótt drap ina dulmiklu drengja lofþengils, sá er dæmði dal-Gauta hersæmða ‘the retinue killed the highly conceited warriors of the praiseworthy ruler, he who deemed the bow-Gautar battle-famed’. Aside from the fact that this version has no support in the accompanying prose, l. 5 lacks internal rhyme. — [7] drótt (f. acc. sg.) ‘the retinue’: Kock (NN §1361) takes this with the first cl. of the helmingr: lof þengils drótt drengja ‘the ruler’s praise of the retinue of the warriors’. However, lof ‘praise’ in the sense ‘praise of sby’ is construed with the gen. and not with the acc. or dat. (see Fritzner: lof). — [7] sá er ‘he who’: We would have expected the dem. pron. in the gen. (þess) to agree with the antecendent þengils (m. gen. sg.) ‘the ruler’s’ (l. 6), but in poetry the dem. could also occur in the nom. as the subject of the rel. cl. (see NS §260). — [8] hersæmða ‘battle-famed’: Hap. leg. Not in LP (see Notes to ll. 5-8 above).

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