Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Knútdr 5I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 5’ 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. 772.

Óttarr svartiKnútsdrápa

Gunni lézt í grœnni,
gramr, Lindisey framða;
belldu viðr, þvís vildu,
víkingar þar ríki.
Bíða lézt í breiðri
borg Hemminga sorgir
œst fyr Úsu vestan
engst folk, Svía þrøngvir.

Gramr, lézt gunni framða í grœnni Lindisey; þar belldu víkingar ríki viðr, þvís vildu. {Þrøngvir Svía}, lézt œst engst folk bíða sorgir í breiðri borg Hemminga fyr vestan Úsu.

King, you caused battle to be fought in green Lindsey; there the vikings used in opposition the strength they wished. {Oppressor of the Swedes} [= Knútr], you angrily caused the English people to experience sorrows in broad Hemingbrough, to the west of the Ouse.

Mss: (14), 20dˣ(5v), 873ˣ(6v), 41ˣ(5r-v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [4] þar: því all    [6] Hemminga‑: Heminga JÓ, 20dˣ, 873ˣ, helminga 41ˣ;    sorgir: sorgar all

Editions: Skj AI, 297, Skj BI, 273, Skald I, 140, NN §§735, 2218C; Fms 11, 188-9, Fms 12, 248, SHI 11, 177-8, Knýtl 1919-25, 38, ÍF 35, 106 (ch. 8).

Context: This stanza is quoted after a brief statement that Knútr had his first battles in England in Lindisey (Lindsey) and Hemingaborg (Hemingbrough).

Notes: [All]: The ASC (s.a. 1016) records that early in 1016 Knútr took his army north through Lincolnshire into Northumbria. — [2] Lindisey ‘Lindsey’: OE Lindesey, a district of Lincolnshire. — [3-4]: These are difficult lines, and some form of emendation seems necessary. Knýtl 1919-25 and ÍF 35 (followed here) prefer to emend því to þar in l. 4, while Skj B and Skald emend þvís to þeirs in l. 3, resulting in the sense ‘the vikings who wished used in opposition that strength’. The former interpretation seems preferable from a scribal point of view, as the second því could have arisen through dittography, perhaps encouraged by agreement with the following ríki. — [3] viðr ‘in opposition’: This is in stressed and alliterating position, and hence likely to be the adv. (see LP: 1. við, viðr), with the fuller form viðr. Kock (NN §2218C) takes it as the prep. governing ríki, hence víkingar belldu viðr því ríki ‘the vikings proceeded against that power’ (i.e. the force of Knútr’s attack). However, dat. sg. ríki can equally well be the object of belldu ‘used’, as assumed here. — [4] víkingar ‘the vikings’: It is uncertain whether these are Knútr’s supporters or his enemies. Jesch (2001a, 44-54, especially 52-3), following Kock (NN §2218C), argues that belldu viðr has the sense ‘resisted’, and that the víkingar are Knútr’s enemies. However, although Kock’s interpretation avoids emendation in l. 4 it involves emendation of þvís to þeirs ‘(those) who’ in l. 3. For further ambiguous uses of víkingar, see Note to Sigv Víkv 3/6. — [5, 6] bíða sorgir ‘to experience sorrows’: This verb takes the gen. when meaning ‘to wait for’ but the acc. when meaning ‘to experience’. The ms. readings suggest that scribes took the meaning here to be ‘to wait for’ (hence gen. sg. sorgar), but ‘to experience’ gives much better sense, hence the emendation here and in all previous eds to acc. pl. sorgir. — [5] breiðri ‘broad’: As Jesch (2001a, 61) notes, Óttarr collocates this adj. with the noun borg elsewhere: see Ótt Hfl 10/3-4 breiða borg Kantara ‘broad Canterbury’ and Note. — [6] borg Hemminga ‘Hemingbrough’: OE *Hem(m)ingaburh, probably Hemingbrough in East Yorkshire, though there are problems with the identification, in that Hemingbrough is to the north-east of the Ouse, rather than to the west. A battle there is not mentioned in the ASC, though it is plausible (see Poole 1987, 272-3; Townend 1998, 34-6). The p. n. is positioned with mild tmesis (cf. Ótt Hfl 10/4 and Note), and the form Hemm- rather than Hem- is required by the metre. — [7] œst ‘angrily’: The p. p. of œsa ‘to stir up, set in motion’, taken here as an adverbial use of the n. form (cf. LP: œsa). If adjectival it could grammatically qualify (engst) folk ‘(English) people’, though if, as is most usual, the connotations are of vigour or ferocity, it is more likely to be attributed to Knútr. Skj B, Skald, and Knýtl 1919-25 all emend to the m. form œstr ‘angered’, to agree with þrøngvir ‘oppressor’ (ÍF 35 prints œst in the main text, but œstr in a footnote, and the latter seems intended). — [7] Úsu ‘the Ouse’: The Yorkshire river, which joins the Trent to form the Humber. — [8] engst ‘English’: This form, rather than enskt, is suggested by the aðalhending on þrøngvir (cf. ANG §291.7). — [8] þrøngvir Svía ‘oppressor of the Swedes [= Knútr]’: This term would seem to allude to the battle of Á in helga (Helgeå, Skåne) c. 1026, and together with st. 11 may therefore supply a terminus post quem for the composition of the poem (see Introduction).


  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. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  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. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  10. Poole, Russell. 1987. ‘Skaldic Verse and Anglo-Saxon History: Some Aspects of the Period 1009-1016’. Speculum 62, 265-98.
  11. ASC [Anglo-Saxon Chronicle] = Plummer, Charles and John Earle, eds. 1892-9. Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1952.
  12. 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.
  13. Townend, Matthew. 1998. English Place-Names in Skaldic Verse. English Place-Name Society extra ser. 1. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society.
  14. 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.
  15. Internal references
  16. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 10’ 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. 753.
  17. Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 3’ 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. 537.

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