Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Knútdr 1I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 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. 769.

Óttarr svartiKnútsdrápa

Hratt lítt gamall, lýtir
lǫgreiðar, framm skeiðum;
fórat fylkir œri,
folksveimuðr, þér heiman.
Hilmir, bjótt ok hættir
harðbrynjuð skip kynjum;
reiðr hafðir þú rauðar
randir, Knútr, fyr landi.

{Lýtir {lǫgreiðar}}, hratt skeiðum framm, lítt gamall; {folksveimuðr}, fylkir œri þér fórat heiman. Hilmir, bjótt harðbrynjuð skip ok hættir kynjum; reiðr hafðir þú, Knútr, rauðar randir fyr landi.

{Destroyer {of the sea-chariot}} [SHIP > SEAFARER], you launched ships forward at no great age; {army-traveller} [WARRIOR], no ruler younger than you went from home. Prince, you made ready hard-armoured ships and were wondrously daring; in your anger, Knútr, you raised [lit. had] red shields before the land.

Mss: (10), 20dˣ(4v), 873ˣ(5v), 41ˣ(4v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [1] Hratt: ‘Hræztu’ JÓ, 41ˣ, ‘Hrestu’ 20dˣ, ‘Hręztu’ 873ˣ    [3] fylkir: so all others, fylki JÓ    [4] folk‑: fjǫl 41ˣ    [7] hafðir: kafdýr 41ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 296, Skj BI, 272-3, Skald I, 140, NN §2011; Fms 11, 186, Fms 12, 247, SHI 11, 174-5, Knýtl 1919-25, 35, ÍF 35, 101-2 (ch. 8).

Context: The stanza follows the Knýtl account of Knútr’s gathering of his army to attack England.

Notes: [All]: The introduction in Knýtl specifies the title of the poem as Knútsdrápa. — [1] lítt gamall ‘at no great age’: Lit. ‘little old’ (adv. + adj.). Knútr’s date of birth is unknown, but he was probably born c. 995-1000. For further emphasis on his youth, see sts 1/3-4, 4/2, and 6/1, and for discussion see Jesch (2004b); on the topos of Scandinavian rulers embarking on their careers in early youth, see Marold (1993c, 103-5). — [4] folksveimuðr ‘army-traveller [WARRIOR]’: The mss have ‘-sveimadr’, which could be normalised to sveimaðr (as in ÍF 35), but sveimuðr is the earlier type of form (cf. Note to Ótt Lv 1/2), and is also adopted in Skj B, Skald and Knýtl 1919-25. — [6] harðbrynjuð skip ‘hard-armoured ships’: The cpd harðbrynjaðr occurs only here and in Hallv Knútdr 3/4III, where it also describes Knútr’s ships. See further Jesch (2001a, 157-9), who suggests the armour concerned may be shields along the sides of the ship. Óttarr and Hallvarðr may well have been contemporaries at Knútr’s court, and on account of the probable dates of composition for their respective Knútsdrápur, it is more likely that Hallvarðr is borrowing from Óttarr than vice versa. — [6] kynjum ‘wondrously’: From kyn n. ‘wonder’, here in the dat. pl. functioning as an adv. — [7-8] rauðar randir ‘red shields’: In skaldic verse shields are often red with the blood of enemies. Here, however, battle has not yet been joined, so the redness may be decorative, or possibly proleptic. A red shield is raised as a sign of hostile intention in HHund I 33/3, and see further Falk (1914b, 129-32).


  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. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  7. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  8. Falk, Hjalmar. 1914b. Altnordische Waffenkunde. Videnskapsselskapets skrifter, II. Hist.-filos. kl. 1914, 6. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Jesch, Judith. 2004b. ‘Youth on the Prow: Three Young Kings in the Late Viking Age’. In Goldberg et al. 2004, 123-39.
  12. Marold, Edith. 1993c. ‘Die Topik der Fürstendarstellung in den Preisliedern des 10. Jahrhunderts’. In Glienke et al. 1993, 96-111.
  13. Internal references
  14. Not published: do not cite ()
  15. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallvarðr háreksblesi, Knútsdrápa 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. 233.
  16. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Lausavísur 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. 784.

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