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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eyv Lv 12I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Lausavísur 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. 231.

Eyvindr skáldaspillir FinnssonLausavísur

Snýr á Svǫlnis vôru
— svá hǫfum inn sem Finnar
birkihind of bundit
brums — at miðju sumri.

Snýr á {vôru Svǫlnis} at miðju sumri; hǫfum of bundit {birkihind brums} inn svá sem Finnar.

It is snowing on {the spouse of Svǫlnir <= Óðinn>} [= Jǫrð (jǫrð ‘earth’)] in the middle of summer; we have tied up {the bark-stripping hind of the bud} [GOAT] inside just like the Saami.

Mss: (119r), F(21ra), J1ˣ(72v), J2ˣ(69r) (Hkr); FskBˣ(14r), FskAˣ(62) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] Snýr: snýr á F;    Svǫlnis: ‘Svalnis’ FskAˣ;    vôru: ‘varðer’ FskBˣ    [2] sem: ok F    [3] ‑hind: ‑hund FskAˣ;    bundit: bundinn FskBˣ, bundin FskAˣ    [4] brums: brims FskBˣ;    at: á J2ˣ, FskBˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 74, Skj BI, 65, Skald I, 40, NN §3049; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 253, IV, 70, ÍF 26, 221, Hkr 1991, I, 147 (HGráf ch. 16), F 1871, 95; Fsk 1902-3, 53 (ch. 13), ÍF 29, 98 (ch. 14); Krause 1990 , 266-9.

Context: Fsk places Lv 12 next after Lv 10. The sons of Gunnhildr, having accepted Christian baptism in England, destroy the sacrificial places in Norway on their return there. They go on progresses round the districts with a large entourage, thus oppressing the local people. Meanwhile the herring and other catches decline, the crops are ruined, and there is snow at midsummer. The people attribute the great famine that results to the anger of the gods. Hkr places the stanza differently but gives a broadly similar account of the circumstances.

Notes: [All]: Hkr treats the lausavísa as applying more closely to Eyvindr’s personal situation than does Fsk and links the mention of snowfall specifically to Hálogaland (Poole 1991, 14; cf. Turville-Petre 1976, 44). On the desolation of the land after Hákon’s death, see also Lv 13-14 below and Eyv Hák 21. — [1] snýr ‘it is snowing’: The 3rd pers. pres. indic. form of an otherwise unattested verb *snýja ‘to snow’ (ÍF 26); see further Note to SnSt Ht 62/1III. — [1] Svǫlnis ‘of Svǫlnir <= Óðinn>’: Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) suggests that choice of this Óðinn heiti plays ironically on the adj. svalr ‘cool’. — [1] vôru Svǫlnis ‘the spouse of Svǫlnir <= Óðinn> [= Jǫrð (jǫrð “earth”)]’: This kenning clearly belongs to the type denoting Jǫrð as the consort of Óðinn, who is named Svǫlnir in two other examples: see Meissner 87. However, vôru is unusual. It seems to be a common noun meaning ‘spouse’, and may be connected with várar (f. pl.) ‘pledges’ and with Vôr, the name of the goddess of pledges between men and women (on Vôr, see Note to Þul Ásynja 2/5III). Nom. sg. *vára is assumed in LP: Svǫlnir, but there is no separate entry for it in LP, and no evidence for the form. — [2] Finnar ‘the Saami’: A notable early mention of Saami people (Olsen 1945b, 177-8). — [3, 4] birkihind brums ‘the bark-stripping hind of the bud [GOAT]’: The agentive prefix birki- is evidently from verb birkja ‘to strip bark (with teeth)’ (Fritzner: birkja; cf. Hkr 1893-1901, IV). The animal which destroys buds and bark is normally identified as ‘goat’ (Hkr 1893-1901, IV, and Skj B; this is the sole goat-kenning in Meissner 111). Eyvindr’s comparison relates to known pastoral practice among the Saami, who practised sheep and goat husbandry in medieval and modern times. In a study of sites along the Bay of Bothnia, Broadbent (2010, 151) suggests that one type of structure, dated AD 700-1000 and usually situated near dwellings, may be a goat hut comparable to those found among the Forest Saami of Sweden; these huts ‘lack hearths but have doors and were intended to keep animals warm and safe from predators at night’. They would also have facilitated milking, generally done by women while the men spent the summer farther afield fishing, sealing, or hunting. These practices are also known further south and west, including in Norwegian coastal areas (Zachrisson 1992), where the contrast with the Scandinavian practice of transhumance, moving animals to outlying shielings during the summer, would have been striking. (The above references on Saami culture have been kindly suggested by Thomas DuBois.) For arguments that this kenning, with others in Lv 12-14, builds contrasting and shifting patterns of subsistence and livelihood (farming, fishing, hunting, gathering), see Poole 1991, 15-16. — [4] at miðju sumri ‘in the middle of summer’: The phrase is taken here (as in Skj B) primarily with the first clause, since snow other than in summer would be unremarkable, yet logically it belongs with both clauses in an apo koinou construction (NN §3049).


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. 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.
  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. Turville-Petre, Gabriel. 1976. Scaldic Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon.
  8. 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.
  9. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  10. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  11. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  12. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  13. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  14. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  15. Poole, Russell. 1991. Viking Poems on War and Peace: A Study in Skaldic Narrative. Toronto Medieval Texts and Translations 8. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.
  16. Krause, Arnulf, ed. 1990. Die Dichtung des Eyvindr skáldaspillir: Edition-Kommentar-Untersuchungen. Altnordische Bibliothek 10. Leverkusen: Literaturverlag Norden Mark Reinhardt.
  17. Olsen, Magnus. 1945b. ‘Skaldevers om nods-år nordenfjells’. In Festskrift til Konrad Nielsen på 70-årsdagen, 28. august 1945. Studia Septentrionalia 2. Oslo: Brøgger, 176-92.
  18. Broadbent, Neil A. 2010. Lapps and Labyrinths: Saami Prehistory, Colonization and Cultural Resilience. Washington, DC: Arctic Studies Centre: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
  19. Zachrisson, Inger. 1992. ‘Saami Prehistory in the South Saami Area’. In Kvist 1991-2, 3, 9-23.
  20. Internal references
  21. 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].
  22. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Fagrskinna (Fsk)’ 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. clix-clxi.
  23. Not published: do not cite (HGráfII)
  24. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Ásynja heiti 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 765.
  25. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Hákonarmál 21’ 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. 193.
  26. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Snorri Sturluson, Háttatal 62’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1173.

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