Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hfr ErfÓl 25I

Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 25’ 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. 436.

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ÓttarssonErfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar

Illt vas, þats ulfa sultar
optþverri stóðk ferri,
mest þars malmar brustu,
mein, þótt smátt sé und einum.
Skiliðr em ek við skylja;
skalmǫld hefr því valdit;
vættik virða dróttins;
vils mest ok dul flestum.

Illt mein vas, þats stóðk ferri {optþverri sultar ulfa}, þars malmar brustu mest, þótt smátt sé und einum. Skiliðr em ek við skylja; {skalmǫld} hefr valdit því; vættik {dróttins virða}; flestum [e]s mest vil ok dul.

It was an evil, harmful thing that I stood far from {the frequent diminisher of the famine of wolves} [WARRIOR], where metal weapons clashed most, though little may depend on one man. I am separated from the ruler; {a sword-age} [BATTLE] has caused that; I hope for {the lord of men} [RULER]; to most it [that hope] is the greatest wilfulness and delusion.

Mss: 61(69vb), 53(66rb), 54(67va), 325VIII 2 g(1va), Bb(103ra) (ÓT); R(39v), Tˣ(41r-v), U(37r), A(15r), B(6v), 744ˣ(41r), C(9r) (SnE, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [2] optþverri: opt þverri all;    ferri (‘fjarri’): so all others, ‘fierri’ 61    [4] þótt (‘þo at’): ‘þo et’ 53    [5] Skiliðr: ‘skildr’ A, B, ‘skylíndr’ C;    skylja: ‘skyha’ 325VIII 2 g, ‘skvha’ Bb, ‘sk(yia)’(?) ‘sk[…]’ U    [6] skalmǫld hefr því valdit: ‘ska[…]’ B, skalmǫld hefir því valdit 744ˣ;    skalm‑: ‘skam’ U    [7] vættik (‘vætti ek’): ‘uetta ec’ Tˣ, ‘v[…]ti […]’ B, vætti ek 744ˣ;    virða: ‘[…]’ B, virða 744ˣ, ‘vida’ C    [8] vils (‘vil er’): vil ek 53, A, B, vilja 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb, villa er U;    dul: ‘[…]vl’ U

Editions: Skj AI, 165-6, Skj BI, 156, Skald I, 85, NN §§514, 1779D, 1835, 2213; SHI 3, 10, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 294 (ch. 256); SnE 1848-87, I, 520-1, II, 343, 461, 540, 607, SnE 1931, 182, SnE 1998, I, 102, 221.

Context: In ÓT, this follows st. 24 as part of a discussion of rumours about Óláfr’s fate after the battle. In the Skm section of SnE, ll. 5-8 come eighth in a series of nine helmingar exemplifying heiti for rulers, in this case skyli. The prose explains these heiti as the names of the last nine sons of Hálfdan gamli ‘the Old’.

Notes: [All]: Ms. 744ˣ, a copy of B by Jón Ólafsson, has been used selectively, to supply readings (whether these match or differ from the main text) where B is not legible.  — [2] optþverri ‘the frequent diminisher’: Reichardt (1928, 90-1) reads ‘opt þverrir’ in the mss as a cpd, which simplifies the helmingr’s syntax and has met with widespread approval (NN §1835; LP: optþverrir; Ohlmarks 1958, 463). The adverbial opt- ‘often’ seems plausible as a prefix to the agent noun þverrir, although seemingly without precise parallel (Skarp Lv 3/4V (Nj 18) optveitendr ‘frequent givers’ is editorial and unnecessary, cf. Meissner 63-4). Skj B awkwardly takes opt with þótt smátt sé und einum, hence ‘though one person often makes little difference’. — [2] stóðk ferri ‘I stood far from’: As opposed to standa nær ‘stand by, support, back’. Hallfreðr missed the battle of Svǫlðr, having gone to Iceland. According to Hallfr (ÍF 8, 169), his bitter regret was predicted by Óláfr. — [2] ferri ‘far from’: Grammatically the comp. form ‘farther’. Ferri and the more usual fjarri are variant forms resulting from breaking and analogy (ANG §92). Most mss have ‘fiarri’ here, but normalised ferri is indicated by the aðalhending on þverri, as also in st. 20/8 ferri : verr, where some scribes seem to have been confused by the form (see Readings). — [5]: The lexis and metrical pattern of this line echo st. 12/7; cf. Note there. — [6] skalmǫld ‘a sword-age [BATTLE]’: In Vsp 45/7, skalmǫld characterises the violence and chaos before the world plunges into Ragnarǫk, but in skaldic poems it is used in non-eschatological contexts, to mean ‘important, decisive battle’ (Þorm Lv 19/4V (Fbr 34), Anon (Stu) 40/8IV). The cpd is tentatively considered a kenning here (cf. Meissner 201), though the pattern is not typical. — [7-8]: The sense of these lines is somewhat elusive, but seems to be ‘I hope for the ruler (Óláfr), but most people count that hope as a delusion’. As in sts 19-23, Hallfreðr seems to raise the possibility that Óláfr is alive only to reject it. Skj B emends vættik ‘I expect’ to vætta ‘(to) expect’ and construes ll. 7-8 as: flestum es mest vil ok dul vætta virða dróttins ‘for most it is the greatest wilfulness and delusion to expect the lord of men [RULER]’; so also Skald. — [7] dróttins virða ‘the lord of men [RULER]’: Ruler-kennings of this type are also used of God (Meissner 369-70), and this cannot be ruled out here, though see Note to ll. 7-8. The gen. case of dróttins is required by the verb vættik ‘I hope’. — [8] [e]s mest vil ok dul ‘it [that hope] is the greatest wilfulness and delusion’: Vil ok dul is a standing phrase in both verse (LP: 2. vil) and prose (FGT 1972a, 220), and persists in ModIcel.


  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. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  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. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  9. FGT 1972a = Hreinn Benediktsson, ed. 1972. The First Grammatical Treatise. University of Iceland Publications in Linguistics 1. Reykjavík: Institute of Nordic Linguistics.
  10. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  11. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  12. ÓT 1958-2000 = Ólafur Halldórsson, ed. 1958-2000. Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar en mesta. 3 vols. EA A 1-3. Copenhagen: Munksgaard (Reitzel).
  13. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  14. ÍF 8 = Vatnsdœla saga. Ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson. 1939.
  15. Reichardt, Konstantin. 1928. Studien zu den Skalden des 9. und 10. Jahrhunderts. Palaestra 159. Leipzig: Mayer & Müller.
  16. Ohlmarks, Åke. 1958. Tors skalder och Vite-Krists. Trosskiftestidens isländska furstelovskalder, 980-1013. Stockholm: Geber.
  17. Internal references
  18. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  19. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Greatest Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason / Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta (ÓT)’ 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. clxiii-clxvi.
  20. Not published: do not cite (HallfrV)
  21. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  22. Not published: do not cite (Anon (Stu) 40IV)
  23. Not published: do not cite ()
  24. Not published: do not cite ([Þorm Lv 19x - for refence only])
  25. Not published: do not cite (Skarp Lv 3V (Nj 18))
  26. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 19’ 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. 831.

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