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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þórarinn (Þór)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Kate Heslop;

Lausavísa (Lv) - 1

Skj info: Þórarinn, Vistnok en Islænder, omkr. 1000. (AI, 153, BI, 145).

Skj poems:

Þórarinn (Þór), an Icelander and a poet, plays a minor role in ÓT. The ‘D’ redaction reports that he composed the stanza below while returning from Þrándheimr (Trøndelag) with King Óláfr Tryggvason after Óláfr’s missionary visit there, which would place the stanza in the winter of 998-9 AD. Þórarinn has been tentatively identified with the late tenth-century skald Þórarinn inn svarti ‘the Black’ Þórólfsson, who fled to Norway after a killing in Iceland (see Eyrbyggja saga, ÍF 4, 60; LH I, 521; Finnur Jónsson 1930b, 49), or with Þórarinn Nefjólfsson, who sailed to Niðaróss (Trondheim) in the late 990s and later became a retainer of Óláfr helgi (see Hkr, ÍF 26, 329; ÓT 1958-2000, II, 160-1; Ohlmarks 1958, 110-11), but according to the sources neither was in Norway when Óláfr’s missionary expedition set out.

Lausavísa — Þór LvI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þórarinn, Lausavísa’ 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. 445.


Skj: Þórarinn: Lausavísa (AI, 153, BI, 145); stanzas (if different): [v]

SkP info: I, 445

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Þór Lv 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórarinn, Lausavísa 1’ 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. 445.

Sitr við ôr, en etjum,
allvaldr, á sæ kaldan,
— vel rœr dróttar deilir
dýrr — en hundr við stýri.
Skelfir * gnap*mar Gylfa
gœðings skafit rœði;
jalmar hlumr við hilmis
hendr sem skildi vendir.

Allvaldr sitr við ôr, en hundr við stýri, en etjum á kaldan sæ; {dýrr deilir dróttar} rœr vel. Skafit rœði gœðings skelfir * {gnap*mar Gylfa}; hlumr jalmar við hendr hilmis, sem vendir skildi.

The mighty ruler sits at the oar, and a dog at the rudder, and we drive forward on the cold sea; {the worthy controller of the retinue} [RULER = Óláfr] rows well. The planed oar of the chieftain makes {the towering horse of Gylfi <sea-king>} [SHIP] shudder; the oar-handle squeals in the hands of the king, like swords on a shield.

Mss: 62(45rb), Flat(53vb) (ÓT)

Readings: [5] Skelfir: so Flat, skelfr 62;    * gnap*mar: á gnapi mar 62, Flat    [6] skafit: ‘skafaít’ Flat

Editions: Skj: Þórarinn, Lausavísa: AI, 153, BI, 145, Skald I, 79, NN §1082; ÓT 1958-2000, III, 9, Flat 1860-8, I, 405.

Context: King Óláfr Tryggvason calls on Þórarinn to take a turn at steering the longship, but Þórarinn replies that he is no helmsman. The king orders him to compose a verse to amuse the company, and to name a substitute to take the helm while he does so, and Þórarinn proposes Óláfr’s dog, Vígi. The king holds Vígi’s paws on the rudder as if the dog is steering and tells Þórarinn to compose his stanza.

Notes: [1] ôr ‘the oar’: According to the stanza the king is at the oar, while the prose specifies that he was steering (as noted by Finnur Jónsson, 1930b, 49). — [1] etjum ‘we drive forward’: Etja ‘to goad, incite, drive forward, set in motion’ is normally transitive, with a dat. object, and this is the only skaldic instance of absolute use (LP: etja). An object referring to the ship may be understood. — [5-6] rœði ... skelfir * gnap*mar Gylfa ‘the oar ... makes the towering horse of Gylfi <sea-king> [SHIP] shudder’: Line 5 is hypermetric in the mss, necessitating the deletion of two syllables, here á and -i. There are two main possible interpretations, each with rœði ‘oar’ as grammatical subject, but producing different images as to what is shuddering or trembling. (a) The Text above adopts skelfir ‘shakes, makes shudder’, from the verb skelfa, the causative counterpart of skjalfa ‘to tremble’, with gnapmar (acc. sg.) Gylfa ‘towering horse of Gylfi [SHIP]’ as its direct object. (b) Skj B on the other hand reads intransitive skelfr ‘trembles’, 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of skjalfa, and takes (gnap)mari (dat. sg.) Gylfa as equivalent to a prepositional phrase; but this involves emending ms. á mar to mari or assuming that endingless mar is dat., which is possible, though uncommon, in an a-stem m. noun at this date (Konráð Gíslason 1892, 224; Finnur Jónsson 1901, 12; ANG §§358.3, 4). — [8] sem vendir skildi ‘like swords on a shield’: The phrase is somewhat obscure. Vendir seems to be a half-kenning for ‘sword’ or possibly ‘spear-shaft’ (Meissner 77), and skildi to be a dat. sg. with a rare adverbial sense, ‘on a shield’. Previous commentators attach sem vendir skildi to the clause in ll. 5-6, assuming an understood repetition of the verb skelf(i)r ‘tremble, make shudder’, hence the oar trembles against, or shakes, the ship like sticks (Skj B; Reichardt 1930, 250-1), spear-shafts (Meissner 77) or swords (NN §1082) against a shield. However, it seems more likely that jalmar ‘squeals’ is understood from l. 7, so that the comparison is between the noise of the oar and the noise of a sword on a shield. This is supported by the fact that the related noun jalmr m. frequently collocates with terms referring to weapons or battle (LP: jalmr).

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