Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Sexstefja’ 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, pp. 108-47.
The thirty-two sts presented here as Sexstefja ‘Six-Refrains’ (ÞjóðA Sex) offer a grand survey of the career of Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-rule’ Sigurðarson, from his début, aged fifteen, at the battle of Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir) in 1030 to his fatal Engl. campaign in 1066.
The preservation history is complex. Nineteen sts (1, 2, 6, 7, 9-11, 13-15, 17-19, 21-26) are preserved in Hkr (Kˣ as main ms., 39, F, E, J2ˣ; papp18ˣ is occasionally used to supplement the witness of Kˣ); st. 1 is also preserved in ÓH (Holm2, 972ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm 4, 325VII, 325V, 61, Bb, Tóm). H-Hr (H, Hr) has the largest complement, with the same sts as Hkr plus sts 3-5 and 20. Fsk (FskBˣ, FskAˣ, occasionally supplemented by 51ˣ, 301ˣ and 302ˣ) has sts 1-3, 7, 11, 12, 15-18 and 20-23; Mork (Mork) has sts 4, 7, 11 (ll. 5-8), 15-18 and 20-23; Flat (Flat) has sts 2, 4, 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, and 20-23; HÍ (570a) has sts 11 and 13. Ten dróttkvætt sts attributed to Þjóðólfr are preserved in SnE (varying combinations of R, Tˣ, W, U, A, B, C, with 744ˣ supplementing B where it is severely damaged), and of these seven (3, 8, 27, 29-32) can safely be assigned to Sex and a further three may well belong there, but because evidence is lacking they are here printed as ÞjóðA Frag 1, 2 and 4. Similarly one citation in TGT (A) is printed as Sex 28 and the other (in W and A) as Frag 3. (Note that the information in this paragraph does not distinguish between whole and partial preservation of sts, nor between different mss of the same text: for details see the ms. listing for individual sts.) For the principal modern eds of Þjóðólfr’s poetry, including Sex, see Biography above.
All the sts presented here as Sex are securely attributed to Þjóðólfr in medieval sources. Most of them are also treated in the way usually associated with extended royal encomia: they are introduced with formulas such as Svá segir Þjóðólfr ‘As Þjóðólfr says’ or Þess getr Þjóðólfr ‘Þjóðólfr mentions this’. That the hero of the encomium in question is Haraldr Sigurðarson is suggested by the attachment of the sts to prose narratives about him, and in many cases the internal content of the verse confirms this. Haraldr is named in sts 6, 9, 21, 24, 25 and 28 and referred to as sonr Sigurðar ‘Sigurðr’s son’ in st. 31, while in st. 32 the reference to a ruler with sons points to Haraldr rather than Þjóðólfr’s other main patron, Magnús. In some cases these references can act as anchor-points for the assignment of other sts, as when the reference to Haraldr in st. 21 encourages the assumption that the other verses about the suppression of the Upplendingar (19, 20, 22, 23) are from the same poem. Other proper names in the sts are less clearly diagnostic, but nonetheless reassuring: references to the dedicatee’s adversaries (jǫfurr Afríka ‘prince of Africans’ st. 3, stillir Girkja ‘ruler of Greeks’ st. 7, Sveinn st. 12, konungr Jóta ‘king of the Jótar’ st. 16) or allies (sonr leifs ‘Óláfr’s son’ st. 10); to the dedicatee as king of Norway by reference to regions of Norway (allvaldr Egða ‘overlord of Egðir’ proleptically in st. 7, upplenzkr hilmir ‘Oppland king’ st. 15, gramr Sogns ‘lord of Sogn’ st. 17, fylkir/konungr Hǫrða ‘ruler/king of the Hǫrðar’ sts 23, 29); or to him as crusher of particular enemies (hneykir Holmbúa ‘confounder of Island-dwellers’ st. 21, eyðir Selundbyggva ‘destroyer of Sjælland-dwellers’ st. 24 and the unusual brennir Bolgara ‘burner of Bulgars’ proleptically in st. 1). Place-names are not numerous in the sts, but triumphs in Serkland ‘land of the Saracens’ and Sikiley ‘Sicily’ are celebrated in st. 2, and the battle fyr Nizi ‘off the Nissan’ introduced in st. 14, and these events are traditional highpoints in the career of Haraldr Sigurðarson, and among events for which there is a great deal of skaldic evidence, Haraldr having been an outstanding afficionado of skaldic poetry.
The title Sexstefja ‘Six-Refrains’ is preserved in the introduction to st. 1 in ÓH, which names Þjóðólfr and refers to his drápa for King Haraldr known as Sexstefja (see Note to st. 1), and much the same information is given in H-Hr. The title thus seems to survive thanks to the fact that st. 1 is quoted within Snorri’s account, in ÓH, of Óláfr Haraldsson’s last battle at Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir), where it was necessary to specify the source. Wherever a st. is attached to the adult deeds of Haraldr, including the citation of st. 1 in the opening ch. of HSig in Snorri’s Hkr, no poem is named, perhaps because only one extended dróttkvætt poem about Haraldr by Þjóðólfr was known, and this is also suggested by the reference to Þjóðólfr’s drápa for Haraldr that precedes st. 19, and by the reference to the drápa’s refrain which precedes 10/5-8, both in H-Hr.
Most of the sts can be grouped according to the events they commemorate (dates are traditional, but specifically indebted to Hkr 1991).
(a) Stanza 1 is clearly about the battle of Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir, 1030). There is then a striking silence about Haraldr’s long and well-attested sojourn with King Jaroslav (Jarizleifr) in north-west Russia (Garðar). The fact that this is covered in Þjóðólfr’s runhent poem for Haraldr (Run above) may have meant either that Þjóðólfr did not want to repeat the material in the dróttkvætt poem or that he did so, but the prose compilers did not choose to cite the dróttkvætt verses.
(b) Stanzas 2-8 relate adventures in the Mediterranean, but the internal ordering of this group is somewhat uncertain. Stanzas 2 and 3 clearly belong together. The couplet st. 5 refers to an attack on Langobard territory, which would naturally fit in the vicinity of st. 2, with its mention of Sicily. However, the couplet is only in H-Hr, which relates that after his sojourn in Russia, Haraldr (partly to strengthen his suit for King Jaroslav’s daughter Ellisif or Elizabeth) harried Vinðland, Saxland, Frakkland, Langbarðaland (the territories of Wends, Saxons, Franks and Langobards) and Rome before sailing to Byzantium; Ill Har 3 and this couplet are cited to confirm the attacks on the Frakkar and Langbarðar. Flat has the same story and Ill Har 3 but not Sex 5. But the earlier sources—the sparse Ágr (ÍF 29, 32) as well as Fsk (ÍF 29, 228) and HSigHkr (ch. 2, ÍF 28, 70)—make no mention of these campaigns, referring instead to activity víða um Austrveg ‘around the eastern Baltic’ (Hkr) during Haraldr’s sojourn in Russia (Garðar), and then showing him travelling direct to Byzantium. The H-Hr and Flat story could simply have grown from a false assumption that the Frakkar were harried from the north, while it seems much more likely that the attacks on the Frakkar and the Langbarðar were part of Haraldr’s Mediterranean adventures (see also Note to Ill Har 3/1). It therefore seems reasonable in this instance to place st. 5 later in the sequence than the prose Context would suggest. This is the decision taken in Skj, and Fidjestøl is inclined to agree, but since his methodology dictates that he must trust the evidence of the prose sources he places it as st. 2 (1982, 134-5). CPB placed it later still (II, 205).
The blinding of the Greek or Byzantine emperor in st. 7 is placed in its sources, Hkr and H-Hr, between sts 6 (a summary of eighteen battles) and 8 (Haraldr’s return to Scandinavia), and there is no basis for challenging this, except possibly for the phrase áðr hingat fœri ‘before you travelled here [to Norway]’ in st. 7; it may be on this basis that Skj placed them in the order 7, 6, 8. Stanza 8, like st. 7, narrates the blinding of the Byzantine emperor, partly in the same words, so that although it is preserved only in SnE and therefore lacks a narrative context, it can safely be assumed to belong with st. 7 (it is st. 25 in Skj). The compilers of the kings’ sagas had plenty of substantiating poetry for this grisly incident (HSigHkr ch. 14) and had no need to cite all of it.
(c) Stanzas 9-10 depict Haraldr’s return to Scandinavia, his alliance with the Swedes and then with Magnús (1044-5).
(d) Stanza 11 commemorates Haraldr’s autocratic rule in such general terms that it is aptly attached by the prose compilers to more than one episode: the assassination of Einarr þambarskelfir and the suppression of the Upplendingar (see Context). Lines 5-8 appear to be a stef ‘refrain’, in fact the only surviving one from this poem, and the definite form stefit ‘the refrain’ in H-Hr’s context to st. 11/5-8 is striking given the reference to six refrains in the poem’s title. The placing of the stef is problematic. By definition it would have appeared more than once in the poem, but where, and whether as the second half of an eight-l. st. or a freestanding helmingr, is unclear, and the prose sources do not agree, citing it variously as a second helmingr to st. 11/1-4 (the arrangement adopted in this edn), as a second helmingr to st. 21/5-8 and as a freestanding citation after st. 20; see further Context to st. 11.
(e) Stanza 12, concerning defections to Sveinn (Úlfsson), both follows st. 11 quite logically and leads smoothly into the battle against Sveinn (sts 12-18), though it cannot be certain that this was its original position in the poem (and CPB II, 210 prints it separately from Sex, as a witness to the Danes accepting Sveinn as their king in 1054). In sts 13-18 the pace of the poem slows to give a quite detailed description of a single battle: that at the Nissan (Niz) estuary in 1062, from the drawing-up of troops (13, 14), through the fight with missiles (15) to the flight of the enemy and boarding of their ships (16, 17). The prose sources do not all preserve all six sts, and sts 13 and 17 are isolated helmingar, but there is no disagreement about ordering. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson, in listing sts in Hkr that appear to be from Sex, marks st. 18 with a query, though without giving a reason (ÍF 28, 200 n.).
(f) Stanzas 19-23 clearly concern Haraldr’s ruthless suppression of a rebellion by the Upplendingar. Stanzas 21-23 (23 being a single helmingr) present an east-west progression of regions punished (Raumar in st. 21, Heinir slightly to the north and Hringar in st. 22, Hǫrðar in st. 23) and this ordering is the agreement of the prose sources (though only Hkr and H-Hr have st. 21/1-4, and see above on the stef). Stanza 19 is a summary which could either precede or follow the other sts; it follows them in Hkr and H-Hr, the only prose sources to preserve it, but since st. 23 reports the end of hostilities in the third year, it seems reasonable to conclude, with Skj and Fidjestøl (1982, 135), that st. 19 originally started the group.
A major problem with the ordering of the Sex sts is the relative order of groups (e) and (f). Mork and Flat place the Oppland (Upplǫnd) rebellion before the battle at the Nissan (Niz), while Hkr and H-Hr place it shortly after. Fsk narrates the rebellion immediately after the battle but explicitly says that it took place shortly before. The Icel. annals date the battle at the Nizzan (Niz) in 1062 (Storm 1888, 18, 109, 250 and 318) and the Oppland raids c. 1065 (Storm 1888, 109 and 318; see also Schreiner 1928; Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson in ÍF 28, xxvii.) This ordering is followed in the present edn, as in Skj, but the matter cannot be finally resolved, and Fidjestøl (1982, 135) leaves the question open.
The remaining sts are all quoted in non-narrative contexts: sts 24, 25 and 26 in an epitaph or summary at the end of HSig in Hkr and H-Hr, and the others only in SnE or TGT. This makes it difficult, unless there is clear internal evidence, to be certain whether they belong to Sex and if so, where they should be placed. Haraldr is named in sts 24 and 25, and although st. 26 does not name Haraldr, its association with sts 24 and 25 in HSig encourages belief that it belongs to Sex, and since it shares with st. 27 the theme of royal generosity it can logically be placed before 27.
Next are placed sts 27, 28 and 29. A particular difficulty is whether sts 29 and 30 belong together. They are cited as a complete st. in mss R, Tˣ and U of SnE, but are separated in A by Sva qvað hann enn ‘He further recited thus’, and in C by Ok enn ‘And further’ written above the l. It may be noted that A is also the only source to preserve st. 28, in its text of TGT. Finnur Jónsson printed sts 29 and 30 separately in SnE 1848-87, III, 586 but together in Skj (as Sex 30). Fidjestøl (1982, 139-42), developing an argument of Björn Magnússon Ólsen, argued that they are separate and that instead the striking harmony of imagery in sts 28 and 29 where a sequence of corpse-kennings have base-words referring to grain or corn, points to their integrity as a single st. Fidjestøl goes on to suggest that the harmony based on the metaphorical use of terms for ‘grain’ extends also to st. 27, albeit there in ‘gold’ kennings, and that if st. 27 is placed before sts 28+29, the base-words create a chiastic sequence ǫrð (‘grain’)—barr (‘barley’)—hveiti (‘wheat’)—bygg (‘barley’)—barr—ǫrð and a running metaphor of ploughing, sowing, growth and reaping. This is a very attractive idea, albeit unprovable, and perhaps less convincing when one considers the very different subject-matter of the verses: generosity praised in the pres. tense in st. 27, rather specific warfaring images in sts 28-9, with a pret. verb lét ‘let’ in st. 28. Nevertheless, with the caveat that nothing of the ordering of these final sts can be certain, Fidjestøl’s proposal is adopted here, except that sts 28-9 are not printed as a single st., since there is no ms. warrant for that. His further tentative suggestion that st. 30 and ÞjóðA Frag 2 may also form a single st. is also not accepted here. It is true that they are both pres.-tense warfaring descriptions containing metaphorical allusions to the sea or seafaring, but these are so unlike that it is safer to leave the vv. separate, and indeed, there is no certain external or internal indication that Frag 2 belongs to Sex, and it is therefore printed in this edn along with other Þjóðólfr fragments preserved only in SnE.
Stanza 31 (in SnE) identifies the subject as sonr Sigvorðar ‘Sigurðr’s son [Haraldr]’, who fed the wolf (pret. tense), but there are textual difficulties and no clue as to what stage of what military action is depicted. Finally, st. 32, voicing a wish that the ruler will bequeath his inheritance to his sons, makes a suitable end to the poem, though as ever one cannot be certain whether this was its original placing, and SnE, its only source, gives no clue.
A further seven sts, associated with Sex by some scholars, are printed in this edn as ‘Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr’ (ÞjóðA Har), and four fragments which have also been associated with Sex but whose subject is unspecified are printed as Frag 2-5: see Introductions to these.
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