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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Liðs 8I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Poems, Liðsmannaflokkr 8’ 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. 1025.

Anonymous PoemsLiðsmannaflokkr

Út mun ekkja líta
— opt glóa vôpn á lopti
of hjalmtǫmum hilmi —
hrein, sús býr í steini,
hvé sigrfíkinn sœkir
snarla borgar karla
— dynr á brezkum brynjum
blóðíss — Dana vísi.

Hrein ekkja, sús býr í steini, mun líta út — vôpn glóa opt á lopti of hjalmtǫmum hilmi —, hvé {sigrfíkinn vísi Dana} sœkir snarla karla borgar; {blóðíss} dynr á brezkum brynjum.

The chaste widow who lives in stone will look out — weapons often glint in the air above the helmet-wearing ruler —, [seeing] how {the victory-avid leader of the Danes} [DANISH KING = Knútr] attacks sharply the men of the city; {the blood-ice} [SWORD] clangs against British mail-shirts.

Mss: Flat(186vb) (Flat); DG8(73r) (ÓHLeg); JÓ(24), 20dˣ(9v), 873ˣ(11v), 41ˣ(9r) (Knýtl, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] ekkja: ekkjan Flat, DG8    [2] vôpn: járn DG8    [5] sœkir: om. DG8    [7] brezkum brynjum: brezkar brynjur JÓ, 20dˣ, 873ˣ, 41ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 422-3, Skj BI, 392, Skald I, 194, NN §2044; Flat 1860-8, III, 238, ÓH 1941, II, 684; ÓHLeg 1922, 11, ÓHLeg 1982, 52-3; Knýtl 1919-25, 46, ÍF 35, 116 (ch. 14).

Context: In the Óláfr sagas, as for st. 1. In Knýtl, King Knútr attacks London with his whole army, but the garrison defends it.

Notes: [All]: In Knýtl, sts 9/1-4 and 8/5-8 form a single stanza, which is introduced, Svá segir í flokki þeim, er þá var ortr af liðsmǫnnum ‘So it says in the flokkr which was composed then by the household troops’. — [1, 4] ekkja, sús býr í steini, mun líta út ‘the widow who lives in stone will look out’: De Vries (1964-7, I, 282) found the motif of the woman watching the fighting men from her window suspect, as suggestive of later romance tournaments, but Sigv Austv 12 and ÞjóðA Har 2II, datable to around c. 1019 and c. 1062 respectively, are very similar and Sigvatr is probably borrowing from the present stanza (Hofmann 1955, 83; Poole 1987, 284). The statement that the ekkja lives ‘in stone’ locates her in stone-walled London (cf. the corresponding reference to Ulfcytel in st. 6/7-8). The word ekkja strictly means ‘widow’ (AEW: ekkja 1), though in poetry it can have the extended meaning of ‘woman’ in general (LP: ekkja 2). The most prominent widow in England at this period would have been Æthelred’s queen Emma (Stafford 1978, 36) and since Knútr later married her she could with considerable relevance be associated with him in the present stanza (Poole 1987, 290). Alternatively, this could be an example of the generic woman whose role in skaldic poetry is to admire (or suffer from) masculine triumphs (cf. Fidjestøl 1976a; Frank 1990a). — [2] glóa ‘glint’: Stanzas 8 and 9 mark a return to pres. tense narrative. — [4] hrein ‘chaste’: De Vries (1964-7, I, 282), sceptical about the poem’s authenticity, noted that the adj. hreinn ‘chaste, pure’ is common in Christian terminology, and found it anomalous in the mouth of a retainer of Knútr, but it can be paralleled in Úlfr Lv 1/6II, datable to 1066 (Poole 1987, 284). — [7] brezkum ‘British’: The word brezkr here has been explained as ‘belonging to the inhabitants of Britain in general, i. e. the British Isles’ (Ashdown 1930, 207) or ‘English’ (Zachrisson 1927, 47), but skaldic attestations of brezkr/Bretar fit better with the gloss ‘Welsh, Briton’ (Poole 1987, 294; cf. Hermann Pálsson 1960, 43-6). There is support for the notion that Welsh people lent military aid to the defenders of London in Thietmar’s Merseburgensis episcopi Chronicon and Gaimar’s L’estoire des Engleis (Poole 1987, 294-6).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  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. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  5. 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.
  6. Frank, Roberta. 1990a. ‘Why Skalds Address Women’. In Pàroli 1990, 67-83.
  7. Vries, Jan de. 1964-7. Altnordische Literaturgeschichte. 2 vols. 2nd edn. Grundriss der germanischen Philologie 15-16. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  8. 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.
  9. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  10. ÓHLeg 1982 = Heinrichs, Anne et al., eds and trans. 1982. Olafs saga hins helga: Die ‘Legendarische Saga’ über Olaf den Heiligen (Hs. Delagard. saml. nr. 8II). Heidelberg: Winter.
  11. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  12. Hofmann, Dietrich. 1955. Nordisch-englische Lehnbeziehungen der Wikingerzeit. BA 14. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  13. Poole, Russell. 1987. ‘Skaldic Verse and Anglo-Saxon History: Some Aspects of the Period 1009-1016’. Speculum 62, 265-98.
  14. Fidjestøl, Bjarne. 1976a. ‘Ut no glytter dei fagre droser: Om kvinnesynet i norrøn litteratur’. SoS 82, 464-72. Rpt. as ‘“Out They Will Look, the Lovely Ladies”: Views of Women in Norse Literature’. In Fidjestøl 1997a, 333-42.
  15. ÓHLeg 1922 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert, ed. 1922. Olafs saga hins helga efter pergamenthåndskrift i Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, Delagardieske samling nr. 8II. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 47. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  16. Knýtl 1919-25 = Petersens, Carl af and Emil Olsen, eds. 1919-25. Sǫgur danakonunga. 1: Sǫgubrot af fornkonungum. 2: Knýtlinga saga. SUGNL 66. Copenhagen: SUGNL.
  17. Ashdown, Margaret. 1930. English and Norse Documents Relating to the Reign of Ethelred the Unready. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  18. Hermann Pálsson. 1960. ‘Athugasemd um nafnið Bretland’. Saga 3, 43-6.
  19. Stafford, Pauline. 1978. ‘The Reign of Æthelred II: A Study in the Limitations on Royal Policy and Action’. In Hill 1978, 15-46.
  20. Zachrisson, R. E. 1927. Romans, Kelts and Saxons in Ancient Britain: An Investigation into the Two Dark Centuries (400-600) of English History. Skrifter utgivna av Kungl. Humanistika Vetenskapssamfundet i Uppsala 24, no. 12. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.
  21. Internal references
  22. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 12’ 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. 600.
  23. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr 2’ 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. 151-2.
  24. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Úlfr stallari Óspaksson, Lausavísa 1’ 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. 348-9.

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