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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

8. Volume Introduction

1. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages — a new edition (MCR)
2. The poetry in this volume (DW)
3. Sources for skaldic poetry cited in the kings’ sagas: manuscripts, facsimiles and editions (KEG)
4. Biographies (KSH)
5. Metres and poetic diction (DW)
6. How to use this edition (MCR)

(Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 > 8. Volume Introduction > 6. How to use this edition)

6. How to use this edition (MCR)

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.

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.

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