Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞHjalt Lv 2I

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorvaldr Hjaltason, Lausavísur 2’ 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, p. 273.

Þorvaldr HjaltasonLausavísur

Illr varð ǫlna fjalla
auðkveðjǫndum beðjar
til Svíþjóðar síðan
sveimr víkinga heiman.
Þat eitt lifir þeira,
— þeir hǫfðu lið fleira —
— gótt vas her at henda
Hundings — es rann undan.

Sveimr víkinga heiman til Svíþjóðar varð síðan illr {auðkveðjǫndum {beðjar {ǫlna fjalla}}}. Þat eitt þeira lifir, es rann undan; þeir hǫfðu fleira lið; gótt vas at henda her Hundings.

The vikings’ surge from their home to Sweden turned out afterwards [to be] disastrous {for the wealth-demanders {of the bed {of fish of the mountains}}} [SNAKES > GOLD > MEN]. Only that part of them survives, that ran away; they had the more numerous force; it was good to catch Hundingr’s army.

Mss: Flat(87va) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Illr: ill Flat;    ǫlna: elfar Flat    [4] sveimr: ‘sæíms’ Flat    [7] henda: ‘hannda’ or ‘hennda’ Flat    [8] undan: unda Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 117, Skj BI, 111, Skald I, 63, NN §§380, 1946; Fms 5, 251, Fms 12, 115, Flat 1860-8, II, 73 (Styrb).

Context: The stanza follows Lv 1 almost immediately. The citation is followed by a remark that Þorvaldr received a ring worth half a mark for each stanza.

Notes: [1-4]: As with Lv 1, a certain amount of emendation is unavoidable, and the problems are interdependent. The general meaning of the first helmingr seems to be that the vikings’ journey from their home into Swedish territory was disastrous for men (probably themselves; see below), but since there is no word for journey, sveim n. or sveimr m. ‘bustle, surge’ needs to replace the word which appears in Flat as ‘sæím-’, normalised seim- ‘gold, riches’. This stands at the right-hand edge of the column in Flat, with a superscript abbreviation that seems to indicate <s> (as assumed in 761bˣ, Flat 1860-8 and Skj A) or possibly <ir> (Fms) or <ar>. Emendation to sveim n. or sveimr m., adopted in all the eds listed above, brings with it a consequential emendation of ill in l. 1 to illt n. or illr m. respectively, which is reasonable since there is nothing for ill (f. nom. sg. or n. nom./acc. pl.) ‘bad, disastrous’ to qualify. The analysis of auðkveðjǫndum ‘wealth-demanders’ in l. 2 is uncertain, though under any interpretation it must presumably refer to the viking attackers themselves (so Fms 12 and subsequent eds). The gen. nouns elfar, fjalla, beðjar are most likely to form part of a kenning, in which case there are two main options: (a) The construal tentatively adopted above takes as a starting-point the fact that beðjar ‘of the bed, couch’ fits most naturally within a gold-kenning of the type ‘bed, lair of the serpent’ (cf. Meissner 237-41). Emendation of elfar to ǫlna ‘of fish’ (also adopted in Skj B) supplies this since ǫlunn fjalla ‘fish of the mountains’ would be a serpent or snake. This emendation is less drastic than it appears since the <e> and <ǫ> graphs are similar in many hands, and the <n> in an original ǫlna could have been misread as <u>, understood as [v], and written as <f> in Flat; corruption could also have been encouraged by elfar in Lv 1/7. Under this interpretation, auðkveðjǫndum ‘wealth-demanders’ (l. 2) becomes slightly problematic in that auð- ‘wealth’ and the gold-kenning both supply a determinant for the overall man-kenning, so that a mildly tautological ‘wealth of gold’ has to be assumed. In order to obviate this problem auð- could be taken as a descriptive element rather than integral to the kenning, with the sense ‘easy’ as in numerous adjectives such as auðfenginn, auðsóttr, both ‘easily obtained’, though normally, as in these cases, the second element is a p. p. A further possibility is to emend, for instance to ǫr- ‘eager’ as in Skj B and LP: ǫrkveðjandi, though the fact that ǫrr can mean ‘generous’ would seem problematic in an epithet describing ‘demanders’ of gold. (b) Fms 12 retains elfar, assuming that elfar fjalla ‘of the river of the mountains’ is a reference to the Rhine, qualifying auð(kveðjǫndum) ‘wealth(-demanders)’, and hence alluding to the legendary Nibelung hoard. This leaves til beðjar Svíþjóðar as a unit, which would mean ‘to the shore of Sweden / the Swedish realm’. (c) If elfar, fjalla and beðjar are not kenning-elements, auðkveðjǫndum could constitute a man-kenning in its own right, and this is how Kock (Skald and NN §1946) reads it. He also retains ms. elfar, reading elfar fjalla beðjar as a geographical description, lit. ‘beds of the mountains of the river’, which he takes with auðkveðjǫndum, hence (männen) från fjällen vid älvens strand, ‘(the men) from the mountains by the river’s shore’, or alternatively från fjällflodens strand ‘from the mountain river’s shore’. However, this is stylistically improbable. — [4] víkinga ‘vikings’’: A force of Jómsvíkingar led by Styrbjǫrn: see Introduction to Anon (Styrb) 1-3. — [7-8] gótt vas at henda her Hundings ‘it was good to catch Hundingr’s army’: Or, as Skj B has it, it was easy (let) to catch them. (a) Reading Hundings, these troops could be the vikings of l. 4 (so Kock, NN §380), though the identity of Hundingr is unknown, and it is even uncertain whether Hundingr is a pers. n. here or a heiti. A heiti is possible since Hundingr is a legendary king in the Nibelung legend and the word is among the heiti for sea-kings (Þul Sækonunga 3/3III). (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends hundings to hundmargs and her to hers, hence hundmargs hers ‘immense host’, cf. hundmargr herr in Hfr ErfÓl 5/1, 2. He further takes hundmargs hers, not with the rest of l. 7, but with the subject of the principal clause, hence þat eitt þeira hundmargs hers ‘only that part of their immense army’. As well as removing the shadowy Hundingr, this improves the semantic context for þat eitt ‘only that, only that part’ in l. 5, which might seem oddly dehumanised, but it is at the cost of two emendations, and a very contorted word order. For another context in which the readings hundmarg- and Hunding- are both possible, see Bjbp Jóms 22/4 and Note. — [7] henda ‘catch’: This fits well in context, providing an inf. to follow at, and producing a collocation which is paralleled in hendi hermenn ‘captured warriors’ in Arn Þorfdr 10/7-8II. It is marked as an emendation here since Flat’s reading consists of <h> with a horizontal bar through the ascender, which is the normal abbreviation for hann, followed by <anda>, so ‘hannda’, normalised handa, seems the likeliest expansion, though henda is written in 761bˣ, printed in Skj A and B and preferred in Flat 1860-8, which notes handa as an alternative. Meanwhile, neither henda nor handa provides skothending, so the line may be corrupt. — [8] undan ‘away’: Emendation of ms. ‘unda’ is necessary.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj A = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15a. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. A: Tekst efter håndskrifterne. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1967. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  4. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  5. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  7. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  8. 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.
  9. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  10. Internal references
  11. Not published: do not cite (StyrbI)
  12. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Sækonunga heiti 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 681.
  13. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa 1’ 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, p. 1076.
  14. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 10’ 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. 241-2.
  15. Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 22’ 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, p. 978.
  16. Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 5’ 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, p. 408.

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