Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr’ 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. 147-58.
These seven sts (ÞjóðA Har) describe the launch of Haraldr’s war-fleet, including a splendid new dragon-ship, and its stormy voyage to the Götaälv (Elfr); they are cited within prose accounts of Haraldr’s encounter with Sveinn Úlfsson at the Nissan (Niz) estuary in 1062. Their editorial title here refers to Haraldr’s leiðangr ‘expeditionary fleet’ (Har 5/3 and Note, and cf. Fidjestøl’s ‘flokk om leidangsfloten’, 1982, 172). They are all preserved in Hkr (Kˣ as main ms., F, E, J2ˣ) and H-Hr (H, Hr), with sts 1-4 additionally in HÍ (570a) and st. 3 in FGT (W, ll. 1-2 only). For the principal modern eds of Þjóðólfr’s poetry, including Har, see Biography above. The battle of the Nissan is also commemorated in ÞjóðA Sex 13-18, Arn Hardr 2-4, Stúfr Stúfdr 7, Steinn Nizv and Steinn Úlffl.
The sts have been taken as lvv. (SnE 1848-87, III, 589 and Skj), but there has also been a recognition that they may have belonged together as a set. This was suggested in a footnote to SnE 1848-87 (III, 589 n. 2) and by Guðbrandur Vígfússon, who referred to them as ‘Vísor’, distinguishing Har 1-4 as The Launch of the Dragon (and describing these as Þjóðólfr’s ‘best work’, ‘not surpassed by any court-poet’, CPB II, 199), Har 5-6 as The Levy or Levy-Ode, and Har 7 as Tryst with Sweyn (CPB II, 199 and 208-10). More recent scholarship has gone a step further by associating them with ÞjóðA Sex. Fidjestøl listed them as one of two strofegrupper med mogleg tilknyting til Sexstefja ‘stanza-groups possibly connected with Sexstefja’, but did not argue the case in detail (1982, 172, also 134); Poole subsequently argued, in detail and with conviction, for a place in the poem (1991, 59-72). He prints them as the first seven of a set of sts that he entitles ‘The Battle of the River Nissa (from Sexstefja)’ (pp. 59-62); the remaining sts are 13-18 in this edn and Sexstefja 12-17 in Skj.
The contentious matter of the status of the seven sts therefore requires rather extended discussion here. They are introduced with the formula, Svá segir Þjóðólfr ‘As Þjóðólfr says’ and variants, which would tend to suggest (but not to prove) origins in an extended poem. The sole exception to this is the first one, Har 1, which HÍ introduces Þá kvað Þjóðólfr ‘Then Þjóðólfr spoke’; HÍ was known to Hkr’s author Snorri, and it or its putative source, the Older Mork (*ÆMork) may be the source for the formula Þá kvað Þjóðólfr skáld which introduces Har 1 in all Hkr mss except F (as Poole remarks, 1991, 66, cf. 68-9). This formula, with its implication that a lv. follows, Poole regards as ‘a simple kind of error’ caused by the assumption that the address to the lovely lady (fagrt sprund) signalled a lv. He commends adopting the F reading Svá segir Þjóðólfr with its implication of an extended poem rather than assuming that Har 3, which shares the address to the lady, and all of Har 1-7 are lvv. (1991, 69; note that F also has sem segir ‘as … says’ as a variant to þá kvað ‘then spoke’ in the introduction to Magn 14).
Turning to the internal evidence, the subject matter of the leiðangr sts is entirely compatible with Sex, fitting into its chronology. On the other hand, the leisurely depiction of a single voyage might seem disproportionate in a poem apparently covering most of Haraldr’s career, and this objection is only partly answered by the fact that the battle of the Nissan (Niz) also occupies several sts.
Stylistic considerations in themselves rarely provide a firm basis for decisions about the (re)construction of extended skaldic poems, but there is a wealth of phonological and lexical concatenation both within Har and the Sex sts about the battle at the Nissan (Niz) and between these two groups, which for Poole adds up to a ‘marked artistic unity’ (Poole 1991, 69). Among the clearest examples are the echoes between Har 1 and 2, which have aðalhending of súð : prúð- in l. 4, which portray a magnificent warship (skeið) as a dragon (orms at the opening of l. 4 or 5), and feature female spectators (discussed below). Such devices put it beyond doubt that the Har sts belong together and strengthen the possibility that they are somehow linked with Sex.
As with the problem of distinguishing, within Þjóðólfr’s sts about Magnús góði, between those which do and do not belong to Magnfl, the most crucial internal evidence involves verb tenses. The narrative in Har contains a mix of pret. and pres. tenses that is not paralleled in the sts about the battle at the Nissan (Niz), nor elsewhere in Sex, as Poole concedes (1991, 68 and 72; pres. tense verbs in Sex are few and normally refer to enduring situations or the performance of the poem). However, he argues that ‘there are enough preterite verbs in the previous stanzas [i.e. the Har sts] to establish that the speaker’s point of view is retrospective’ (p. 68). He gives the example of Har 1 where the gold glows (glóar) on the dragon-ship and its stems ‘bore’ (bru) burnished/burnt gold. Perhaps in this case bru was chosen for metrical reasons, but it is certainly an oddity. Otherwise, however, pret. verbs in the Har sts are rare and are best explained on the basis of a viewpoint that is not retrospective but rather is situated imaginatively in the present moment of the events themselves, with brief flashbacks into the very immediate past and anticipations of the future. In Har 1 the skald tells his female interlocutor that he saw the great ship launched from the river (sák ... hrundit); now it is lying (liggr) offshore, ‘since’ (síz—a significant conjunction) it was launched (ýtt vas) from the roller. In Har 2 again we seem to have two phases of the same action: the young ruler ‘steered’ (réð at stýra) out of Nidelven (the river Nið), and (now) oars ‘plunge’ (falla) into the sea. In Har 7 Haraldr þeysti ‘impelled’ his men to the Götaälv (Elfr), but very recently (nú), and is now overnighting (náttar) at the boundary. There are no other pret. verbs in the Har sts except for minor variant readings. In fact, not only do pres.-tense verbs dominate, but there is pres. tense with future meaning: the mighty oars will be severely tested (Har 3), and so will the men wielding them (Har 4), and there is more than a hint that the Danes might flee (nema Danir haldi undan ‘unless the Danes head away’, Har 7). (Poole 1991, 65 sees the anticipatory quality of this as a link between the Har sts and the Sex description of the battle of the Nissan (Niz), which later depicts the Danes in flight.)
The problem here is very much the same one as discussed above under Magnfl. If the lvv. belong in the longer poem, we have to assume a sharp departure from the retrospective mode that otherwise dominates the poem, and one more complex and large-scale than the occasional use of historic pres. for vivid narration: rather, one that involves glances back into the immediate past and anticipation of the immediate future. This must at least give one pause before accepting that the Har sts can be a fully integrated part of the poem.
The use of the female figure in Har 1-3 also points in the same direction. It is not too surprising that the scene Þjóðólfr paints includes admiring female onlookers (cf. Fidjestøl 1976) but there is also an apostrophe to one of these real or imaginary ladies in Har 1 and 3. Embedded in a poem whose narrative mode is normally past tense and 3rd pers. or, rarely, 2nd pers. (Sex 6, 9), such apostrophes would require performers and hearers to make the imaginative effort of accommodating another interlocutor and a different, embedded performance situation. It is possible that Þjóðólfr, whose poetic panache is at its height in these fine sts, took this bold step to enhance still further the feeling that the poetry is uttered in the midst of events, but one is left wondering why this effect is, so far as we can see, confined to this part of the poem.
To summarise the evidence: with the important exception of the introductions to Har 1, the positioning of the voyage verses in the prose sources and the manner of citation tend to favour the view that they belong together as a sequence, either as a stefjamél within Sex or as a flokkr in themselves. The same can be said of the lexical and phonological concatenation, which is too marked to be coincidental. However, the narrative viewpoint created by the use of tenses and reinforced by conjunctions or adverbs and the addresses to a woman mark out the leiðangr sts from the more certain Sex verses, and if they formed part of Sex they were a rather extraordinary part, which perhaps originally had a life of its own and was later adopted into the poem either by the skald himself or in later tradition. The situation seems too uncertain to warrant the printing of these sts as an integral part of the poem in this edn.
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