Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Sex 18II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Sexstefja 18’ 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. 131-3.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonSexstefja

Sveinn át sigr at launa
sex þeim, es hvǫt vexa,
innan eina gunni,
ǫrleiks, Dana jǫrlum.
Varð, sás vildit forða,
vígbjartr, snǫru hjarta,
í fylkingu fenginn
Fiðr Árnasonr miðri.

Sveinn át at launa þeim sex jǫrlum Dana sigr innan eina gunni, es hvǫt ǫrleiks vexa. Fiðr Árnasonr, sás vildit forða snǫru hjarta, varð vígbjartr fenginn í miðri fylkingu.

Sveinn does not have to reward those six jarls of the Danes for victory in one battle, in whom the incitement of munificence does not swell. Finnr Árnason, who did not want to save his valiant heart, was, battle-bright, captured in the midst of the troop.

Mss: (562r), 39(27rb), F(49ra), E(21v), J2ˣ(284r) (Hkr); FskBˣ(76r), 51ˣ(68r), FskAˣ(280-281), 302ˣ(103v) (Fsk); Mork(13r) (Mork); H(56v), Hr(41va) (H-Hr); Flat(200va) (Flat)

Readings: [1] át: átt 39, F, J2ˣ, H, á E, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, Hr, Flat, ‘a at’ 51ˣ, 302ˣ    [2] hvǫt: styr F, Flat;    vexa (‘vęxa’): vaxa FskBˣ    [3] innan: ‘her mann’ FskAˣ;    eina: einna E    [4] ǫrleiks: ‘aurrecks’ or ‘aurreiks’ Flat    [5] Varð: ferð Hr;    vildit: vildi Hr;    forða: forðask H, Hr    [6] víg‑: folk‑ Hr;    snǫru: so 39, F, E, J2ˣ, 51ˣ, FskAˣ, 302ˣ, Mork, H, Hr, Flat, ‘snóru’ or ‘sno᷎ru’ Kˣ, snara FskBˣ    [7] fenginn: fanginn 39, H, Hr, Flat    [8] Fiðr: ‘finnr’ 39, FskBˣ, Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 373, Skj BI, 343, Skald I, 173, NN §§806, 861; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 165, IV, 230-1, ÍF 28, 151-2, Hkr 1991, 658 (HSig ch. 63), F 1871, 230, E 1916, 76; Fsk 1902-3, 271-2 (ch. 47), ÍF 29, 268-9 (ch. 57); Mork 1928-32, 213, Andersson and Gade 2000, 231, 478 (MH); Flat 1860-8, III, 364 (MH); Fms 6, 320 (HSig ch. 78), Fms 12, 157.

Context: The Norwegians (Haraldr in person, Hkr and H-Hr) pursue the fugitives on the Dan. side, but Finnr Árnason, who has fought for Sveinn, refuses to flee and is captured. Except in Hkr, the st. is introduced with the comment that Sveinn had six jarls with him in the battle. Fsk, Mork and Flat follow it with a spirited dialogue in which a defiant Finnr greets offers of his life with bravado and obscenity, but is nevertheless granted it.

Notes: [2, 4] es hvǫt ǫrleiks vexa ‘in whom the incitement of munificence does not swell’: Hvǫt and ǫrleiks clearly go together. Hvǫt refers to ‘impulse, incitement’, and often in battle poetry to keenness or valour. Ǫrleiks (nom. sg. ǫrleikr), meanwhile, can mean generosity, as clearly in Þjóð Har 2/8I, or it can be a routine kenning, ‘arrow-sport [BATTLE]’. The reference here could therefore be ‘incitement of munificence’ (the impulse of the warrior to repay his patron’s generosity) or on the other hand ‘valour in battle’, or ‘incitement to battle’. Vexa is also capable of more than one interpretation. (a) The assumption tentatively made here is that vexa is vex-a ‘does not grow, swell’, i. e. 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of the strong verb vaxa, with negative suffix. A negative would follow naturally after the negated át ‘has not’, matching the first cl.’s assertion that Sveinn did not have to reward his men for victory (though it must be conceded that the mss do not show variation of -a and -at which would prove that the scribes understood vexa as a negative). Moreover, the strong, intransitive verb vaxa is much more common than vexa ‘increase’ which is required by interpretation (b), and the use of vaxa in contexts referring to prowess is attested in Eil Þdr 8/5, 6, 8III láta sér megin vaxa ‘let one’s strength increase’. Under this interpretation the point is that the Danes failed in valour, and let Sveinn down, because they were not possessed by hvǫt ǫrleiks, the encouragement of his generosity (which would chime meaningfully with launa ‘reward’), or by valour in battle. (b) Previous eds have assumed a weak, transitive verb vexa ‘grows’ here, referring to the Danes’ valour. This verb is at best rare in early sources, however, and is not included in Fritzner, though it is in ONP Ordliste, and see LP: vexa 2. Further, a statement about the bravery of the Dan. jarls sits rather uncomfortably with the statement that Sveinn does not have to reward them for victory, and editorial discomfort is registered by Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV, where his translation reads, Sven har (kan) ikke at lönne (takke) de seks danske jarler ‘Sveinn has not to (cannot) reward (thank) the six Danish jarls’. External evidence which helps to arbitrate between options (a) and (b) is sparse. The second helmingr of the Þjóðólfr st., with its emphasis on the heroic bravado of Finnr Árnason, might serve as a contrast: this Norwegian fights his utmost, unlike the six jarls of the Danes (some of whom may have been the Norw. defectors mentioned in st. 11), but on the other hand it could illustrate and elaborate on the first helmingr. The prose context to the st., both the immediate and wider one, does not really help to arbitrate between interpretations (a) and (b), but after initial references to the superior numbers of the Danes, and their confidence, they are mainly shown fleeing, which would support (a). — [3] innan eina gunni ‘in one battle’: (a) The adverbial is here construed with sigr ‘victory’ (l. 1), as also by Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901 and Skj B. (b) It is taken with vexa by Kock (NN §§806, 861, also ÍF 28, 29 and Hkr 1991), but this adds to the strangeness of vexa as interpreted by them: if the jarls on the Dan. side were brave in this one particular battle, why is vexa in the pres. tense? If there are cowardly survivors these must be different from the dead brave ones in st. 15. — [5, 6] forða snǫru hjarta ‘save his valiant heart’: The phrase is a variant of forða fjǫrvi ‘save one’s life’ in Arn Hryn 6/7 and widely in prose, rather as hverr fótr ‘every foot’ stands for the whole warrior in st. 15/8 of the present poem. — [8] Fiðr Árnasonr ‘Finnr Árnason’: The form Fiðr rather than Finnr is indicated by the aðalhending on miðri, and is found in several mss. Finnr Árnason, though of Norw. stock, is portrayed among the leaders of Sveinn’s forces in HSigHkr ch. 62, and see Context above.


  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. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. 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.
  7. Andersson, Theodore M. and Kari Ellen Gade, trans. 2000. Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030-1157). Islandica 51. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  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. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  10. Mork 1928-32 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1928-32. Morkinskinna. SUGNL 53. Copenhagen: Jørgensen.
  11. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  12. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  13. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  14. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  15. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  16. E 1916 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1916. Eirspennill: AM 47 fol. Nóregs konunga sǫgur: Magnús góði – Hákon gamli. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske historiske kildeskriftskommission.
  17. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  18. ONP Ordliste:, accessed July 2008.
  19. Internal references
  20. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  21. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Flateyjarbók (Flat)’ 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, pp. clxi-clxii.
  22. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Hulda and Hrokkinskinna (H-Hr)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  23. Not published: do not cite (HSigII)
  24. Not published: do not cite (MHII)
  25. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 6’ 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. 190-1.
  26. Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Eilífr Goðrúnarson, Þórsdrápa 8’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 91.
  27. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Poem about Haraldr hárfagri 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. 61.

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