Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Sigv Austv 19I

[5-8]: Editors have proposed very diverse interpretations of the helmingr, none of which provides a conclusive answer to its linguistic and historical difficulties. (a) The text and translation above are indebted to a suggestion of Kari Ellen Gade. ‘Þvi at’ in most mss (l. 5) is taken straightforwardly as þvít ‘because’, and ‘er’ (l. 7) as a subordinating conj. es ‘that’ (see LP: es 7 for alternation of es and at in this role), dependent on kveðk ‘I declare’. Stóðusk (l. 8) is taken as 3rd pers. pl. pret. indic. ‘supported’, since a pl. verb is possible with the collective noun lið ‘troop’ (see NS §66 Anm. 2). Grammatically it could, alternatively, be taken as a past inf., together with kveðk ‘I declare’. (b) Ternström (1871, 51) makes of bróður lið (l. 8) a cpd ‘brother-support’ (so also Tveiten 1966, 93), on which he would have frænda ‘kinsman’s’ (l. 5) depend, and he would have eins ‘alone’ in l. 6 modify frænda, while jarla ‘of jarls’ in l. 5 would modify jǫrð. With other eds he reverses ms. ‘þvi at’ (l. 5), taking it as at því ‘to this end’, with es (l. 7) depending on it. The resulting meaning is ‘But I say, the brotherly help of Úlfr’s kinsman (i.e. Rǫgnvaldr) alone was useful to you to the end that you gained the jarls’ land (i.e. Norway), which you took from Sveinn’. Ternström (1871, 52) takes Sigvatr to mean that the best sign of Rǫgnvaldr’s loyalty to Óláfr Haraldsson is the help he afforded in the defeat of Sveinn (on whom, see Note below), though Snorri makes no mention of this in ÓH or Hkr. However, þvít, being unstressed, cannot be construed as at því. (c) Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27, owing much to Sveinbjörn Egilsson, SHI 4, 183, and to Ternström 1871, 51-2) also analyses þvít ‘because’ in l. 5 as if it were at því ‘to this end’ (or ‘when’: Hkr 1991), and assumes that þvís ‘that which’ in l. 6 takes its n. dat. sg. form from an unexpressed landi ‘land’ rather than agreeing (if emended) with f. jǫrð ‘land’. (d) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; 1934a, 37) shares many of Ternström’s editorial preferences, but he alters þvís ‘that which’ in l. 6 to þás, to agree with jǫrð ‘land’ in l. 7, and he takes es in l. 7 to introduce a clause from which the word order isolates it. Also, for en ‘but’ in l. 5 he reads enn ‘again’, which is likewise taken to stand outside its clause. The meaning produced is, ‘By this means only (þvít eins) did you manage again to keep the jarls’ land, which you took from Sveinn, [the means] that Úlfr’s kinsman’s brother-help, as I say, was given to you’. Finnur Jónsson (1932, 18) understands this to mean that in the face of the conspiracies against him, Óláfr might have lost control of Norway, had Rǫgnvaldr not been so trusty. (e) The interpretation of Kock (NN §629) is similar, but he would emend frænda to nom. sg. frændi, making of frændi jarla a vocative addressed to King Óláfr. This reduces some of the tortuousness of the word order, but there is no ms. evidence for this reading. The strained syntax of these interpretations results from efforts to have the text say that Óláfr Haraldsson was assisted by Rǫgnvaldr, who cannot be called ‘Úlfr’s brother’ (see below). It is natural to expect that the text should refer to him, since the preceding two stanzas indicate that Sigvatr’s message to Óláfr is that he can rely on Rǫgnvaldr’s loyalty; but no very plausible interperetation of the syntax will allow this helmingr to be about Rǫgnvaldr.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  5. NS = Nygaard, Marius. 1906. Norrøn syntax. Kristiania (Oslo): Aschehoug. Rpt. 1966.
  6. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  7. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  8. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  9. Tveiten, Hallvard, trans. 1966. Norrøne skaldekvad. Oslo: Saabye.
  10. Finnur Jónsson. 1932. Austrfararvísur. Avhandlinger utgitt av Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi i Oslo, II. Hist.-filos. kl.1931, 1. Oslo: Dybwad.
  11. Ternström, Alfred. 1871. Om skalden Sighvat Thordsson och tolkning af hans Austrfararvísur, Vestrfararvísur och Knútsdrápa. Lund: Ohlsson.
  12. Internal references
  13. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  14. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH)’ 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, pp. clxxvi-clxxix.


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