Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to ÞjóðA Sex 16II

[5-8]: The second helmingr is textually difficult, and (or perhaps because) only preserved in copies of the lost vellum FskB. The ms. readings would yield konungr Jóta skóp snjǫllum skerði hrings furðu þá ‘the king of the Jótar performed for the valiant damager of the ring [GENEROUS MAN] a marvel then’, with skipun ǫll vas þá til heljar gengin ‘the whole company had then marched off to death’s realm’ as an intercalary, but this would leave hvern fótr ‘every foot’ unaccounted for, and the phrase is ungrammatical since hvern is acc. and fótr is nom. It may well be that skipun ǫll ‘the whole company’ has been taken as the subject of vas … gengin(n) ‘had marched, gone’ in error, with the consequence that an original hverr fótr ‘every foot’ has become corrupted and an original konungs in l. 4 taken as konungr in order to supply a subject to skóp ‘performed, furnished’ in l. 1. (a) If, then, it is assumed instead that hverr fótr vas genginn til heljar ‘every foot had marched off to death’s realm’ belong together, ǫll skipun and konungr Jóta remain to be assigned to clauses, and emending nom. sg. konungr to gen. sg. konungs is a paleographically minimal solution, especially if the word had been abbreviated in an exemplar. The helmingr then falls reasonably into place, as in the prose order and translation above, following Finnur Jónsson in Fsk 1902-3 and Skj B, and Bjarni Einarsson in ÍF 28. (b) Poole (1991, 63, 71) adopts a similar construal, but has skipun ǫll and hverr fótr in opposite positions, and hence f. nom. sg. gengin to agree with skipun. (c) One could assume that skipun ǫll and hverr fótr are in apposition to each other: ǫll skipun snjǫllum skerði hrings vas þá til heljar gengin, hverr fótr; konungr Jóta skóp þá furðu ‘the whole company of the valiant destroyer of the ring [GENEROUS MAN = Sveinn], every foot, had then marched to death’s realm; the king of the Jutes [= Sveinn] performed a wonder then’. This has the merit of avoiding emendation, and gives a slightly less disjointed arrangement of clauses in the metrical ll., but the assumption that the dat. snjǫllum skerði hrings has a more or less possessive sense is awkward, and the statement that Sveinn performed a wonder (skóp furðu) would be curious, whereas its application to his slain troops under interpretation (a) is cuttingly ironic: the marvel that Sveinn’s troops perform for him is getting killed. (d) Kock’s interpretation in Skald and NN §§860, 1853 combines aspects of these various solutions. He emends to konungs in l. 8, but takes this with hverr fótr, hence ‘every foot of the king of the Jutes’. He assumes that skipun ǫll and hverr fótr are in apposition and, uniquely, that skóp furðu in l. 5 is impersonal, hence ‘this marvel occurred’. As with interpretation (b), there is a difficulty with the dat. phrase snjǫllum skerði hrings, which he translates för den tappre fursten ‘for/before the valiant prince’.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  6. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. Poole, Russell. 1991. Viking Poems on War and Peace: A Study in Skaldic Narrative. Toronto Medieval Texts and Translations 8. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.


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