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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035

1. Contents (DW)
2. General Introduction (MCR)
3. Volume Editor’s Preface and Acknowledgements (DW)
4. General Abbreviations (DW)
5. Sigla used in this volume (TW)
6. Technical Terms in this volume (DW)
7. Contributors (DW)
8. Volume Introduction (DW)
-. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: The Corpus
A. Bibliography (HB)
B. Index of First Lines (TW)
C. Indices of Names and Terms (DW)
X. Changes and corrections since printing

(Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 > 8. Volume Introduction)

8. Volume Introduction (DW)

[Note: See also the General Introduction above. The Volume Introduction to SkP I is by Diana Whaley, with the following exceptions, gratefully acknowledged. Sections 1 and 6 contain materials originally produced by Margaret Clunies Ross for SkP VII and relevant to all or most of the SkP volumes. Section 3 was written by Kari Ellen Gade, Kate Heslop and Diana Whaley, with formatting of stemmata by Tarrin Wills, and Section 4 is the work of Kate Heslop and Diana Whaley.]

(subheadings only)

1. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages — a new edition

The present two-part volume (SkP I) is Volume I of the nine planned volumes of Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages (SkP), and it is the companion volume to SkP II, Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. In order of publication it is the third volume, SkP VII having appeared in 2007 and SkP II in 2009. There will be eight volumes of text in the SkP series, and a ninth containing indices and bibliography. The aim of this new edition, which is set out in more detail in Section 2 of the General Introduction to the series (above in this volume), is to provide a critical edition, with accompanying English translation and notes, of the corpus of Scandinavian poetry from the Middle Ages, excluding only the Poetic Edda and related poetry, and the rímur.

The edition is based on a thorough assessment of all known manuscript evidence and on a review of previous editions and commentaries, including Finnur Jónsson’s Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning (Skj A and B), which has been the standard edition of the corpus since the early twentieth century. The interpretation of individual stanzas and the layout of the corpus differ in many instances from those of Skj, often reflecting a more conservative approach to the manuscript sources, and Skj references (titles, dates, page numbers) are provided throughout the present edition for purposes of comparison. SkP is available in book form and as an electronic edition. The electronic edition is fully searchable and includes images of most of the manuscript texts used in the edition, together with transcriptions of the main manuscript text for each stanza and of other select manuscripts.

Whereas Finnur Jónsson was able to produce his edition single-handedly, current academic conditions make it difficult for one scholar to undertake such Herculean tasks, and we have seen collaboration both as a good in itself, and as the only way to achieve the more ambitious goals of the nine-volume edition. The work of those involved in SkP I is gratefully acknowledged in the Volume Editor’s Preface and Acknowledgements.

2. The poetry in this volume

The keynote of the poetry edited in SkP I is a note of war, and if there is a typical or classic poem it will be an extended encomium praising a Norwegian king or jarl (earl) for his battle-deeds, as he advances his standards into battle, reddens his sword, and either turns his enemies into food for the raven and wolf or puts them to flight. The poetry in the volume commemorates, or is associated with, the lives of Scandinavian kings and jarls from the legendary Yngling kings to 1035, the year that sees the death of Knútr inn ríki ‘the Mighty’ Sveinsson (Cnut the Great), ruler of England, Denmark and (through his son Sveinn Álfífuson/Knútsson) Norway, and the start of the rule of Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson in Norway. Among the Norwegian kings, Óláfr Tryggvason (r. c. 995-c. 1000) and Óláfr inn helgi Haraldsson (S. Óláfr, r. c. 1015-1030) stand out as subjects of contemporary and retrospective poetry, and of later saga, though their historical importance is perhaps exaggerated in the traditions that developed around them. Other rulers from this period are also the subject of significant amounts of extant poetry, among them the Norwegian kings Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ Hálfdanarson, Eiríkr blóðøx ‘Blood-axe’ Haraldsson, Hákon góði ‘the Good’ Haraldsson, and Haraldr gráfeldr ‘Grey-cloak’ Eiríksson; the jarls of Hlaðir (Lade) Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (about whom an outstanding array of poetry survives) and Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson; the Danish kings Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ Haraldsson and Knútr inn ríki; and the Swedish king Óláfr Eiríksson. The Norwegian magnates Erlingr Skjálgsson and Kálfr Árnason are also the subjects of encomia, as is Queen Ástríðr, widow of Óláfr Haraldsson, the only female dedicatee. The lives of all the main subjects of the poetry, and the poetry concerning them, are summarised in Section 4 ‘Biographies’ below.

The historical value of this poetry is immense. Most of it is reliably credited to named skalds or poets, and it is a precious testimony to the actual words of Viking Age people, preserved largely thanks to the intricate verse-forms in which they are cast. Most of the poetry in the volume can be dated with some confidence and is contemporaneous with, or composed shortly after, the events described. For many events it is the only early source of evidence, albeit often a tantalising one. Its subject-matter centres on some of the most important events of the period: major Scandinavian battles on sea and on land, and campaigns and raids in the British Isles, France, Spain, North Africa, the Baltic and Russia, as well as on topics such as alliances, law-giving and taxation. Straddling the crucial period of the conversion of western Scandinavia in the decades around the year 1000, the poetry in SkP I also throws much light on the pagan religion of the North and on the early days of Christianity, this being just one of several areas in which the poetry can offer valuable evidence to historians of culture and religion, archaeologists and others. Lighter moments of leisure and jest also feature in the corpus.

In keeping with its historical importance, the poetry is ordered in this volume along broadly chronological lines. Where possible, dates are assigned and reference is made to other poetic coverage of the same events. A few items of doubtful authenticity are ordered according to their subject-matter and purported date, accepting the witness of the medieval sources; any doubts about dating are discussed in the Introductions. A new genre of historical (non-contemporary) poetry arose in the later twelfth century in which poets looked back at much earlier events such as the battle against the Jómsvíkingar c. 985 and the battle of Svǫlðr c. 1000. Such poetry is placed towards the end of the volume, after the contemporary poetry. The other principle of ordering is that poetry attributed to named skalds precedes the anonymous poetry. The fact that the complete oeuvre of each skald is presented together and in some cases spans a wide date-range slightly modifies the chronological arrangement of the volume.

To affirm the historical importance of early skaldic poetry is not, of course, to deny its selective nature or to ignore legion interpretative problems. The poetry is elitist, propagandist and partisan, promoting a warrior ideology in which valour is all. It springs from a society in which the proceeds of raiding sustain the loyalty of warriors and skalds (many skalds being fighters too), and in which the technology and splendid craftsmanship of ships and metalwork are valued especially for their military applications. We see little of the other Viking Age, of farmers, traders and town-builders, and if home comforts and even romance are mentioned it is normally in disdainful contrast with the rugged life of the seaborne warrior.

The poetry in SkP I spans the reigns of several Scandinavian and English rulers, who are listed below. Not all of those listed are directly represented in the extant poetry: for those who are see Section 4.1 ‘Ruler biographies’). Some of the battles that feature most prominently in the poetry are also listed. As emphasised in Section 4, many of the dates are uncertain.

To a large extent the order corresponds with that of Skj (and Skald).

An extreme example is Þórðr Særeksson (ÞSjár), whose poetry spans events as early as c. 961 and as late as c. 1026.

Some encomiastic poetry is preserved outside the mss of the kings’ sagas and is therefore edited elsewhere in the SkP series. Setting aside fragments of uncertain identity, the chief instances are the following, in approximate chronological order (superscript numerals designate SkP volumes and rulers are specified in parentheses): Egill AðdrV (Æthelstan, English king); Egill HflV (Eiríkr blóðøx, king in York); KormǪ SigdrIII (Sigurðr jarl Hákonarson); Eskál HardrIII (Haraldr blátǫnn, Danish king); Hfr HákdrIII (Hákon jarl Sigurðarson); Gunnl AðdrV (Æthelred, English king); Gunnl SigdrV (Sigtryggr, king in Dublin); Hfr EirdrV (Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson); Ótt ÓldrIII (Óláfr Eiríksson, Swedish king); Hallv KnútdrIII (Knútr inn ríki). Although not conventional encomia, poems such as Bragi RdrIII, Þjóð HaustlIII, Eil ÞórdrIII and Skúli SvǫlðrIII are associated with courtly contexts or the deeds of kings, while ESkúl GeislVII is a retrospective encomium for a saint-king.

The rulers named did not necessarily control the whole of the territories named, and the extent of the territories differed somewhat from their modern counterparts.

1. [Table of rulers]
2. [Continued...]

3. Sources for skaldic poetry cited in the kings’ sagas: manuscripts, facsimiles and editions

The manuscripts (mss) which are the basis for the editions in SkP I are presented here, grouped according to the prose sources that they represent and with the sources in alphabetical order. For each source a stemma is shown where possible, followed by a listing of mss, facsimiles, and editions (for full details of which, see Bibliography); a brief account of the source; and a note of the skaldic poetry contained, normally in order of its appearance in the prose source. References to ‘stanzas’ refer to part stanzas as well as whole ones, and estimates of stanzas in prose sources are frequently approximate since mss may vary, as may the configuration of lines into stanzas. (For readers wishing to consult this volume for editions of the stanzas in a particular prose source the Index of First Lines is also a useful aid.) The prose (or strictly prosimetrum) sources concerned are mainly sagas of kings, whether single sagas or compilations, and these are ordered under the subheadings 3.1. ‘Sagas of the kings of Norway to c. 1035’, 3.2. ‘Sagas relating to Denmark and Orkney to c. 1035’; 3.3. ‘Other sources’. The sigla for the prose sources correspond to those of the Registre to Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog (ONP, 1989; see also General Abbreviations above and Bibliography at the end of the volume).

The mss for each of the prose sources are listed and described briefly. The full, standard ms. sigla in the SkP editions follow those of the Registre to ONP wherever possible; the sigla for the ms. collections and the mss used in SkP I are listed under ‘General Abbreviations’ above. The abbreviated sigla given below and used in the ms. sections in the individual editions were developed by Tarrin Wills for the SkP project. In keeping with the practice established by the Registre to ONP, a superscript ˣ is added to the sigla of all paper mss. The approximate dates of the mss also follow those of the Registre; for mss not cited in ONP, the standard editions have been consulted (see also Kålund 1888-94). Stemmata are drawn mainly from standard editions of the prose sources concerned. Asterisks in the stemmata indicate lost mss (in some cases hypothetical), and in many cases there may be further lost stages of transmission. On the use of stemmata see below.

Facsimiles and earlier editions are also listed for each prose source (for full details of which, see Bibliography). While some editions are core and are used throughout SkP I, some have not been found of equal value by all editors in the context of particular poetry, and therefore appear selectively throughout SkP I.

Before the information about sources is presented, some explanation of the editorial problems arising within this volume, supplementary to the principles outlined in Section 2.3 ‘Editorial methodology’ in the General Introduction, may be helpful. Here and throughout the SkP edition, the selection of mss, the choice of main ms. and the internal ordering of mss representing the same text are guided by the stemmata produced by modern editors of the sagas, reproduced below, for instance those which underpin the 1941 edition of the Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH) by Jón Helgason and O. A. Johnsen or the 1958-2000 edition of the Greatest Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason / Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta (ÓT) by Ólafur Halldórsson. These are in many cases based on analysis of the poetic texts as well as the prose, and give a firm foundation for the handling of ms. readings, provided it is borne in mind that the stemmata often show presumed relations between mss rather than proven ones, and that the transmission history of the poetry is not necessarily identical with that of the prose in which it is embedded. A further point to note is the possibility that certain skaldic texts are, as it were, too good to be true. If not supported by other available ms. witnesses, such texts might be suspected of having been ‘improved’ by a scribe or redactor; the scribe of the vellum K has, for instance, been suspected of such activity (ÍF 28, xcv n. 1).

For each stanza, a ms. has been chosen as the main ms. – normally the one believed to represent most faithfully the notional ‘archetype’ of the stanza. A leading criterion in assigning priority to mss is their presumed position in the stemma of the work they represent and (where the stanza is preserved in more than one saga text) the status of the work they represent in relation to others. Other factors may also be important, such as the number, age and coverage of ms. witnesses to a particular work, and the apparent accuracy of their readings. As a general principle, the present edition avoids too frequent switching of main ms. within the presentation of a single poem or set of stanzas, with the result that sources containing a large amount of poetry, such as Heimskringla (Hkr) and Fagrskinna (Fsk), tend to be prioritised over those with little, though it should be stressed that the witness of the main ms. is never adopted automatically but is tested against the paradosis or range of mss as a whole. A further principle is that where there are multiple copies of lost mss, the approach is generally selective (see, for instance, the remarks on the Fsk mss below). Copies of mss whose exemplars are extant have not been consulted, since (however interesting in themselves) they are not of independent value for the establishment of the text.

Most of the skaldic poetry from the kings’ sagas is preserved in more than one saga (see the invaluable listings of stanzas occurring in only one saga, or in more, in Fidjestøl 1982, 33-7). The crucial and challenging question therefore arises of the relationships between these sagas and their implications for the editing of the poetry, especially the choice of main ms. Painstaking work by scholars including Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (1937), Beyschlag (1950) and Ellehøj (1965) produced a consensus that complex patterns of indebtedness connect many of the kings’ sagas (see Fidjestøl 1982, 9-12 and Andersson 1985 for summaries, stemmata and comments), but only partial scholarly agreement on the detail. Much remains unknown about the relations between the saga texts, and these are often complicated by the fact that many or most extant versions seem to have had predecessors which are now lost. Thus, for instance, a postulated early version of Orkneyinga saga (Orkn) seems to have influenced parts of Hkr, which in turn has influenced the extant version of Orkn. It is a courageous scholar, then, who attempts a combined stemma of the kings’ sagas, and when Fidjestøl (1982, 10) does so, the result, invaluable though it is, and complex though it is, is attended by caveats about uncertainties and oversimplifications. Moreover, the kings’ sagas alone do not give the full picture, since skaldic poetry was transmitted through other routes, notably Snorra Edda (SnE) among the known written sources (Fidjestøl 1982, 38, citing the example of ÞSjár Klœingr, which could have come from SnE or a common source of SnE and Hkr rather than from Fsk).

Where sagas have a known relationship, the selection of stanzas cited can differ markedly, and even where they share verse quotations it cannot necessarily be assumed that the textual transmission of the verse has followed the same path as that of the prose (cf. the same point noted above in relation to mss of the same saga text). Thus even when saga n is known to depend on saga m, the compiler or scribe of n may have obtained the stanzas from another source, oral or written. Addressing the thorny problem of possible oral sources, Fidjestøl (1982, 45-60) examined a range of candidates and found oral-type variation in, for instance, the stanzas he called ‘“Haraldskvæði”-komplekset’ and in BjHall Kálffl, but not in Þjóð Yt or Hfr Óldr. Overall he emphasises the stability of the textual tradition of the kings’ sagas, and finds that generally the textual variation that is found does not exceed what is normal in written transmission (1982, 45). Bearing in mind all these considerations, mss and readings are evaluated throughout SkP in the light of textual scholarship and especially of the stemmata proposed, but editors remain open to a range of textual situations as suggested by the evidence of particular configurations of readings.

While the great majority of stanzas in SkP I are preserved within a prose context, some are written out continuously and independently of a prose context: HSt Rst and Anon Ól in the ÓT ms. Bb (see ‘Greatest Saga’, Section 3.1 below), Bjbp Jóms 1-40 in the SnE ms. R (see Snorra Edda, Section 3.3) and miscellaneous stanzas in 761aˣ, 761bˣ (Section 3.3).

Some sources introduced here are also relevant to other volumes of SkP, especially SkP II, while others are introduced only summarily here and more fully in other volumes, especially SkP II and III, where they are of greater importance.

3.1. Sagas of the kings of Norway to c. 1035
3.2. Sagas relating to Denmark and Orkney to c. 1035
3.3. Other sources

4. Biographies

This section offers a brief overview of the lives of the kings and jarls of Norway, and of other Scandinavian rulers and dignitaries who lived in the period to c. 1035 and are commemorated in the poetry edited in SkP I; the Biographies are in alphabetical order. (A chronological list of rulers of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and England is given in Section 2 of this Introduction.) Section 4.1 ‘Ruler biographies’ presents lives of all the Norwegian rulers from Rǫgnvaldr heiðumhæri Óláfsson in the late ninth century to c. 1035; for the still more shadowy figures who preceded Rǫgnvaldr, see Þjóð Yt, Yng (ÍF 26, 9-83) and HN (MHN 97-103). Biographies of kings of Denmark and Sweden follow; only those who figure significantly in the events, and the skaldic poetry, of the period are covered. Section 4.2 then provides ‘Biographies of other dignitaries’; here only individuals about whom extant poems were composed are included. The focus in the biographies is primarily on events recorded in the poetry, above all major battles such as those at Hafrsfjǫrðr (Hafrsfjorden, c. 885-c. 890), Fitjar (c. 961), Svǫlðr (c. 1000), Nesjar (1016), Á in helga (Helgeå, c. 1026), and Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad, 1030). The biographies are far from exhaustive, and the nature of the sources is such that a great deal remains highly uncertain, including crucial dates and the extent and depth of territorial control attained by individual rulers. Much of what follows must therefore be taken more as a summary of traditions than as established fact. On problems of chronology, see Ólafía Einarsdóttir (1964), and summary in Andersen (1977, 80-3). Following each biography, references to primary Norse sources are given, then the skalds listed for each ruler in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 251-86), and finally ‘Events documented in poetry’, a list of stanzas or part-stanzas describing particular events or topics. Included here is a small amount of relevant poetry preserved outside the kings’ sagas, and hence to be found in other volumes of SkP, which are indicated with a superscript Roman numeral (e.g. Skúli SvǫlðrIII, preserved chiefly in SnE and edited in SkP III). The caveat should be noted that, while the poetry contains a wealth of proper names and specific details, in many cases other evidence is needed to attach a stanza to a particular event. For instance, Gsind Hák 8 describes a fierce advance by a warrior king, but the hero is only identified as Hákon góði by the (justifiable) assumption that the stanza is from the poem Hák, and the enemy are only identified as Gamli Eiríksson and his brothers by the medieval prose context. Further historical and cultural information is provided in the Introductions, Contexts, and Notes to the respective stanzas, and in the Indices at the end of this volume. For the sigla of the individual sagas and compendia, see ‘General Abbreviations’ above.

The Biographies are greatly indebted to the primary sources and to modern sources from which further information, and especially bibliography, can be obtained. Among these are Andersen (1977), Krag (2003b), and entries for the individual kings in RGA, MedS and Auty et al. (1977-99). Hkr 1991, III (the Lykilbók ‘Key’) contains a number of useful maps and genealogical tables.

In accordance with the overall practice of SkP, and reflecting the Old West Norse dialect of most of the written sources, personal names are normalised to their standardised Old Icelandic forms of c. 1200, irrespective of the date or provenance of the subject. For instance, the name of Kálfr Árnason (d. c. 1050-1) appears thus, although the vowel lengthening in Icelandic that produced Kálfr did not take place until c. 1200, and the names of Sveinn tjúguskegg and Eiríkr Eymundarson appear thus, although Danish and Swedish respectively. The names of poets listed in Skáldatal are given in the normalised form used throughout SkP, which may or may not be identical to that given in the Skáldatal manuscripts. For translations of poets’ nicknames, see the skald Biographies preceding the editions in this volume, and for the nicknames of rulers, see their Biographies in this section. Place names are normally given both in the form found in the Old Norse sources and in their modern form, where this is known and differs from the Old Norse.

4.1. Ruler biographies
4.2. Biographies of other dignitaries

5. Metres and poetic diction

The topics covered in this section are discussed in the General Introduction to the SkP series (above in this volume), and therefore only brief surveys of these features in SkP I are given here.

5.1. Metres
5.2. Poetic diction

6. How to use this edition

SkP is intended for a variety of users: for students and scholars of Old Norse and other medieval European languages and literatures, for scholars in cognate disciplines such as history, archaeology, the history of religion, and comparative literature, as well as for those whose primary interest is in skaldic poetry. In view of its likely augmented readership, SkP contains a greater proportion of introductory and explanatory material than is to be found in most previous editions, certainly in comparison with Skj, where it is minimal. Most of the explanatory material in SkP is to be found in the skald Biographies, which appear at the head of the oeuvre of named skalds whose authorship of poetry is known; in the Introductions to poems; in the Context sections (explained below); and in the Notes to each stanza.

Each poem, single stanza (lausavísa) or fragment has a distinct designation and siglum in SkP, which in many cases is different from that used in Skj and in the list at the beginning of Lexicon Poeticum 1931 (LP). The new sigla are designed to be more consistent and transparent and to reflect reconstructions of poems that differ at some points from those in Skj. A list of sigla used in SkP, with their counterparts in Skj and LP, is included in the prefatory material of this volume, as of each volume of SkP.

The text of each poem, single stanza or fragment has been established by its editor on the foundation of a main or base manuscript, judged by the editor to be the best or (in some cases) the only witness to the text. Where a reading in one or more other manuscripts appears to be more original than that of the main manuscript, it is adopted in the text. Any emended text, that is letters or words that have no manuscript attestation, is given in italics. Where editors have omitted letters or words that are present in the manuscript(s), the symbol * appears in the text and prose order. On the matter of emendation, this edition is more conservative than most of its predecessors, avoiding emendation as far as reasonably possible, though previous editors’ conjectures may be mentioned in the Notes. The orthography of the text is normalised to the standard appropriate to its probable date of origin; normalisations are also undertaken on metrical grounds, such as those involving cliticisation or the omission of superfluous pronouns and suffixed articles inserted by later scribes. Normalisations are not regarded as emendations, and they are therefore not marked as such in the printed text.

Since stanzas are written out continuously, as if prose, in medieval (and some post-medieval) manuscripts, the lineation is partly editorial, though normally unproblematic, as are the stanza divisions; any problems are discussed in Introductions and Notes. Stanzas are printed with the two helmingar or half-stanzas side by side, except where the metre is fornyrðislag, ljóðaháttr or málaháttr, in which case the stanzas are printed in long lines.

Below the stanza is the same text rendered in a prose order, and underneath that is an English translation. The translation provides a version as close as reasonably possible to the sense of the Icelandic text. Unlike many other translations of skaldic poetry, those in SkP give kennings their full sense values, that is, both base-word and determinant are translated and the referent, not being part of the actual text but implicit in it, is given within square brackets, and normally in small capitals (e.g. ‘the stallion of the wave [SHIP]’). Referents of one category of kennings, the so-called sannkenningar, however, are given in lower case preceded by an = sign, in order to indicate that these referents are literally equivalent to the periphrasis of base-word and determinant within the text. For example, ‘the son of Óðinn’ is designated [= Þórr] and ‘the son of Tryggvi’ as [= Óláfr]. Angle brackets within the English translation are used to provide the generic sense value of Old Norse mythological and legendary names, such as Hildr <valkyrie> and Hálfr <legendary king>, or alternative poetic names for mythological beings, such as Viðurr <= Óðinn>. In the latter case, an = sign appears to the left of the ‘normal’ name.

The editorial apparatus allows the reader to compare the edited version of the main manuscript with the text in other manuscript witnesses. The Mss listing gives the main manuscript first in bold type, followed by the other manuscript witnesses ordered primarily on the basis of the assumed stemma, each with folio or page number in round brackets immediately following. Paper manuscripts are distinguished from those of parchment or vellum by having a superscript ˣ after the manuscript siglum. Abbreviated reference to the prose source represented by each group of manuscripts is given in italics within round brackets immediately after the group, and where the stanza is found in more than one prose source the groups of manuscripts are separated by semicolons.

All significant manuscript variants, but not simple orthographical variants, are given in the Readings line. They are given in normalised orthography unless the non-normalised manuscript reading is ambiguous, difficult to interpret or of particular interest or significance, in which case it is placed within inverted commas. Where variants are given, the lemma (the reading of the text and normally that of the main manuscript) is given first, followed by the readings of the other manuscripts, separated from the lemma by a colon. The lemma is shown in the same normalised form as in the text, and if this differs significantly from the manuscript form, the manuscript spelling is added in round brackets and within inverted commas (e.g. þars (‘þar er’):). In cases where the editor has not followed the main manuscript, the variant reading selected for the text is in first place as the lemma, followed by a colon and the formula ‘so X’, to indicate that the lemma is not the reading of the main manuscript.

The Editions line lists all significant previous editions of the text, beginning with Skj, Skald and (where applicable) NN; the text’s designation in Skj B is specified, comprising the poet’s name (if any) as given there, the title of the poem, stanza or fragment and equivalent stanza number. Editions of prose sources containing the stanza are then listed, with date of publication and relevant page number. The editions are followed, in round brackets, by abbreviated references to the relevant saga within a compilation (if applicable), and by the chapter in which the stanza occurs. Chapter numbers apply to all editions of the same source, unless otherwise specified; they are omitted if chapter divisions are too unstable in the source in question. If a stanza is found in more than one prose source, the editions of the individual prose sources are grouped together and separated by semicolons. Where there are separate editions of the poem in question, these are listed last.

The Context sections are summaries of the prose context(s) in which a stanza or set of stanzas has been preserved, those in SkP I being drawn most often from the kings’ sagas. It should be emphasised that the Contexts represent understandings, on the part of medieval authors and compilers, of the stanzas and the historical circumstances to which they refer. These historical interpretations range from the plausible and possibly reliable to the highly dubious and clearly fictional. They can rarely be tested against independent evidence, and in several cases there is disjunction of some kind between prose and verse.

The Notes are intended to address significant linguistic, metrical, lexicographical and above all interpretative issues as well as questions of a broader contextual nature. Although the editors do not aim to give a comprehensive history of scholarship and previous editorial practice, significant alternative interpretations and editorial emendations are discussed and evaluated in the Notes.

A sample stanza with graphic explanations of the main features of the edition appears in the endpapers to all SkP volumes. Abbreviated sigla for manuscripts, and sigla for þættir, sagas and compendia are listed and explained in the prefatory material to this volume; see also Section 3 ‘Sources’ above. Also listed are general abbreviations (aside from standard ones such as e.g., and cf.) and technical terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader. Abbreviated references to all editions and secondary works cited are expanded in the Bibliography at the end of the volume.

Note that biographies of some Norwegian and Danish kings to whom poetry edited in SkP is attributed are included in Section 4.1 ‘Ruler biographies’ above.

On the editorial methodology, see Section 2.3 of the General Introduction to SkP above.

A full discussion of normalisation in the SkP edition as a whole is in Section 3.2 of the General Introduction. Section 9 of the Introduction to SkP VII covers the fourteenth century. The actual orthography of the main manuscripts for most stanzas can be seen in the transcriptions available in the electronic edition, where images of the manuscripts are also available.

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