Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Sex 27II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Sexstefja 27’ 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. 140-3.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonSexstefja

Ǫrð sær Yrsu burðar
inndrótt jǫfurr sinni
bjartplógaðan bauga
brattakr vǫluspakra.
Eyss landreki ljósu
lastvarr Kraka barri
á hlæmyldar holdi
hauks kǫlfur mér sjǫlfum.

Jǫfurr sær {ǫrð {burðar Yrsu}} {bjartplógaðan brattakr vǫluspakra bauga} inndrótt sinni. Lastvarr landreki eyss {ljósu barri Kraka} mér sjǫlfum á {kǫlfur hauks}, hlæmyldar holdi.

The prince sows {with the grain {of the offspring of Yrsa}} [= Hrólfr kraki > GOLD] {the bright-ploughed steep field of joint-calm rings} [ARM] of his retinue. The fault-shunning land-ruler sprinkles {bright barley of Kraki (‘Pole-ladder’) <legendary king>} [GOLD] on my own {territories of the hawk} [ARMS], warmly soil-covered with flesh.

Mss: R(32v), R(39r) (ll. 5-6), Tˣ(34r) (ll. 1-4), Tˣ(41r) (ll. 5-6), W(75), U(44r), U(31r) (ll. 5-8), B(7r) (ll. 5-6), 744ˣ(47r) (ll. 5-6), C(3v), C(8v) (ll. 5-6) (SnE); 2368ˣ(92), 743ˣ(73r) (LaufE)

Readings: [1] Ǫrð: Auð U(44r), Jǫrð 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    Yrsu (‘yrsv’): ‘vrdo’ Tˣ(34r), ‘yso’ U(44r), yrsa C(3v);    burðar: byrðar U(44r)    [3] ‑plógaðan: ‘flugv aðan’ W, ‑plogaðar U(44r);    bauga: om. W    [4] bratt‑: ‘brauk’ 2368ˣ, braut 743ˣ;    vǫlu‑: vala Tˣ(34r), W, U(44r), 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    ‑spakra: spaka U(44r)    [5] Eyss: ‘Lys’ Tˣ(41r), ‘Aus’ 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    ljósu: ‘[...]iosv’ U(31r)    [6] last‑: latr U(44r)    [7] hlæmyldar: ‘h[...]milldar’ W, ‘hlemylldar’ U(44r), ‘hlæmilldra’ U(31r), helmildrar C(3v)    [8] hauks kǫlfur mér sjǫlfum: ‘hosk[...]lfr m[...]’ U(31r);    hauks kǫlfur: hauk kalfar U(44r);    kǫlfur: kalfur 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    sjǫlfum: sjalfra 2368ˣ, 743ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 375, Skj BI, 345, Skald I, 174, NN §§863, 2267, 3230; SnE 1848-87, I, 398-401, 516-17, II, 321, 362, 546, 581, 605, SnE 1931, 142, 181, SnE 1998, I, 60, 101, 188, 220; LaufE 1979, 348.

Context: The kenning-type ‘Kraki’s seed’ for ‘gold’ is explained in SnE by a narrative of how the Dan. king Hrólfr kraki, generous, humble and valiant, eluded his stepfather-turned-enemy King Aðils of Sweden by strewing the plains of Fýrisvellir with gold provided by his mother Yrsa, which Aðils stooped to pick up. The st. is cited once in full to illustrate kennings referring to gold as the seed of Kraki or of Fýrisvellir (SnE 1998, I, 60). In U(44r) Ok enn ‘And further’ separates the two helmingar. Lines 5-6 are quoted a second time in SnE, with the cross-reference sem fyrr var ritat ‘as was written before’, in a section devoted to heiti for rulers (and used alike for emperors, kings and jarls). The quotation is followed by a comment that a ruler is called landreki because he drives (rekr) his army over the territory of other kings, or drives an army out of his own land. U lacks the section in question, but the second helmingr also appears in an earlier section devoted to kennings for gold. In LaufE, the two helmingar also illustrate gold-kennings and are cited separately, with the following terse words in between þad er hond. Same ‘that is, “hand”. The same [skald]’.

Notes: [All]: The B text (ll. 5-6 only) is badly damaged here, so the 744ˣ transcription has been used to establish that it has no significant variant readings. — [All]: The two helmingar of this colourful and witty st. are parallel in many ways, as explained by Kock (NN §2267) and Fidjestøl (1982, 137-8); and they appear in reverse order in ms. W. Whether the parallels can be assumed to be so exact as to determine the solution to the textual crux in l. 4 (vǫluspakra), as argued by Fidjestøl, is an interesting problem. — [1] ǫrð burðar Yrsu ‘with the grain of the offspring of Yrsa [= Hrólfr kraki > GOLD]’: On the legend behind this, see Context. Ǫrð f. must be dat. sg., which is the normal case for terms for ‘seed’ as the object of the verb ‘sow’, while bjartplógaðan brattakr bauga ‘bright-ploughed steep field of rings [ARM]’ (ll. 3-4) supplies an acc. object specifying the area that is sown, as is also normal for the verb (Fritzner: 3). The translation ‘with grain’ is used above to distinguish the dat. object (cf. med ... sæd in Skj B) and does not seem problematic, so that Kock’s objection and his suggestion that bjartplógaðan brattakr bauga is an adverbial acc., hence ‘over the ...’ are not persuasive (NN §2267, cf. §1373). — [3-4] bjartplógaðan brattakr bauga ‘the bright-ploughed steep field of rings [ARM]’: On the syntax of the phrase, see the previous Note. Kennings referring to the arm as the ground of rings are quite common, and gen. pl. bauga or gen. sg. baugs are especially frequent as determinant (Meissner 140). The epithet bjartplógaðan enhances the image of the arms of Haraldr’s followers shining with precious gifts. Kock ridicules the LP explanation ‘field worked with a bright plough’ (NN §863), but misrepresents it since LP goes on to give the contextual, transferred interpretation. What the debate calls attention to is the creative ambivalence of the cpd epithet, in which bjart ‘bright’ describes the kenning referent ‘arm’, while plógaðan ‘ploughed’ describes the base-word akr ‘field’, as noted by Fidjestøl (1982, 139). On a possible, but unwarranted, emendation to bauga, see Note on vǫluspakra. — [4] vǫluspakra ‘of joint-calm’: The syntax and meaning of the helmingr are complete without these syllables, which constitute a localised, but difficult crux. The mss are divided between vǫlu and vala, each of which is grammatically and lexically ambiguous, and it is not obvious whether vǫlu/vala and spakra form a cpd or not. The gen. pl. spakra, assuming it is not used substantivally, ‘of the wise ones’, must qualify bauga ‘rings’, which is striking in itself since spakr is usually applied in skaldic poetry to human beings, especially in contexts where the theme is wisdom or native wit; ‘peaceable’ is another possible sense. (a) Finnur Jónsson takes vǫlu as gen. sg. of vala f. ‘joint-bone’ in a cpd vǫluspakr, describing the rings as resting peaceably on the arm-bone (SnE 1848-87, I, 399, Skj B and LP: vǫluspakr, though see also LP: vala where Finnur takes the word as referring to leg-bones; so also Faulkes in SnE 1998, II, 431). This seems the best solution available without recourse to emendation, but it cannot be regarded as at all certain. (b) A solution involving instead valr ‘falcon, hawk’ as the determinant of the arm-kenning is attractive, given that ‘falcon’s ground’ is the most common pattern of arm-kenning (Meissner 141) and that one such kenning is found in the second helmingr; but bauga would be left without function, unless it joined ǫrð burðar Yrsu to mean ‘gold of/in rings’. Fidjestøl (1982, 137-9) argued for brattakr vala ‘steep field of falcons [ARM]’ and suggested emendation of bauga to bjúgri ‘curved’ qualifying dat. sg. ǫrð ‘grain, corn, produce’ and describing simultaneously the metaphorical grain or corn (bending in the wind) and the actual gold (rings), the referent of the kenning of which ǫrð is the base-word. However, this seems a little forced, and a solution which avoids emendation is in principle preferable. (c) Collocations, especially in eddic poetry, of Valir ‘Franks, the French’ or valr ‘Frankish, French’ with terms for treasure, e.g. valamalmr StarkSt Vík 25/2VIII, Hyndl 9/2, or valbaugr Akv 27/10 offer tantalising possibilities, such as brattakr bauga spakra Vala ‘steep field of rings of clever Franks’. As a further element of complexity, Fidjestøl (1982, 140) notes the possibility of word-play on valr: ‘falcon’ and ‘the slain’. — [5] landreki ‘land-ruler’: Faulkes (SnE 1998, I, 220) points out that Snorri’s etymological linkage with reka ‘drive’ (see Context above) is probably in error. — [6] barri Kraka ‘barley of Kraki (‘Pole-ladder’) <legendary king> [GOLD]’: See Context. The kenning is dat. following eyss ‘sprinkles’ (inf. ausa) (l. 5). — [7] hlæmyldar holdi ‘warmly soil-covered with flesh’: This adjectival phrase evidently qualifies the arm-kenning kǫlfur hauks ‘territories of the hawk’. Although only U(31r) has hlæ- and only U(44r) has -myld-, both readings constitute the lectio difficilior, and provide an unusual but acceptable image. Myldr could be a derivative of mold ‘soil’, hence myldar holdi ‘soil-covered with flesh’ (myldar f. acc. pl. agreeing with kǫlfur ‘territories’). Hlær ‘warm’ describes the flesh, reinforcing the referent ‘arm’ rather than the metaphorical ‘territories’, but it is here translated adverbially, as ‘warmly’, as an analogue to the fact that it is compounded with myldr. (b) The majority, and more obvious, reading hlémildr ‘shelter-generous’ is difficult to account for, unless by Faulkes’ suggestion hlémildrar holdi ‘shelter-generous ... (of arms), providing a place for flesh to sit’ (SnE 1998, II, 312); but surely flesh shelters the arms rather than the reverse. — [8] kǫlfur hauks ‘territories of the hawk [ARMS]’: Kalfa f. is a rare word occurring, it seems, only here and possibly in Árngr Gd 15/6IV kálfur munar ‘mind’s territories [BREAST]’.


  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. LaufE 1979 = Faulkes, Anthony, ed. 1979. Edda Magnúsar Ólafssonar (Laufás Edda). RSÁM 13. Vol. I of Two Versions of Snorra Edda from the 17th Century. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 1977-9.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Fidjestøl, Bjarne. 1982. Det norrøne fyrstediktet. Universitet i Bergen Nordisk institutts skriftserie 11. Øvre Ervik: Alvheim & Eide.
  10. 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.
  11. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  12. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  13. Internal references
  14. 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].
  15. Not published: do not cite ()
  16. Not published: do not cite ()
  17. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 33 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 25)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 276.
  18. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Laufás Edda (LaufE)’ 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].

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