Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Glúmr Geirason (Glúmr)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Diana Whaley;

2. Gráfeldardrápa (Gráf) - 15

Skj info: Glúmr Geirason, Islandsk skjald omkr. 950-75. (AI, 75-8, BI, 65-8).

Skj poems:
1. Kvad om Erik blodøkse
2. Gráfeldardrápa
3. Lausavísa

Glúmr Geirason (Glúmr) was the son of Geiri (patronymic unknown), a Norwegian who settled in Iceland. Glúmr was born there in the early tenth century and moved with his father and brother from Mývatn, via Húnavatn, to Króksfjörður, Breiðafjörður, because of some killings (Ldn, ÍF 1, 284; he is also mentioned in ÍF 1, 154, 161, 238 and appears in Reykdœla saga, ÍF 10, 204-12). He married Ingunn Þórólfsdóttir, and their son was Þórðr Ingunnarson, who features in Laxdœla saga (ÍF 5, 86-7). Glúmr is named in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273, 274) as the poet of Eiríkr blóðøx ‘Blood-axe’ (d. c. 954) and Haraldr gráfeldr ‘Grey-cloak’ (d. c. 970), and poems for both survive in part. Considerably more of Gráfeldardrápa (Gráf) survives than of the Poem about Eiríkr blóðøx (EirIII), though there is some difficulty in assigning certain stanzas to one or other poem (see Introduction to Gráf). Glúmr is the subject of HaukrV Ísldr 11IV, which depicts him as a zealous fighter who was with Haraldr gráfeldr at his victory at Fitjar (c. 961). Glúmr’s presence at the battle is somewhat in doubt, however, since although the Fsk text of his lausavísa on the subject (Glúmr Lv) contains sák ‘I saw’, the Hkr and ÓT mss have frák ‘I have heard’. From Glúmr Gráf it is clear that Glúmr outlived Haraldr (see Introduction). Edited below are Gráf and Lv, while the fragment of Eir is edited in SkP III since it is preserved only in SnE and TGT.

Gráfeldardrápa (‘Drápa about (Haraldr) gráfeldr ‘Grey-cloak’’) — Glúmr GráfI

Alison Finlay 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Glúmr Geirason, Gráfeldardrápa’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Brepols, Turnhout, p. 245.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15 

Skj: Glúmr Geirason: 2. Gráfeldardrápa, c 970 (AI, 75-8, BI, 66-8); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Gramm, HákGóð, HGráf, Hkr, LaufE, Ldn, ÓT, ÓTC, Skm, SnE, TGT

SkP info: I, 245

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


The eight full stanzas, six helmingar and one couplet included here in GráfeldardrápaDrápa about (Haraldr) gráfeldr “Grey-cloak”’ (Glúmr Gráf) are preserved in Hkr, ÓT, Fsk, SnE, TGT and Ldn (see below for details). All are attributed in the sources to ‘Glúmr Geirason’ or to ‘Glúmr’. The poem is named in the introduction to sts 4, 10 and 12 in Hkr and st. 7 in Fsk, as well as in the Ldn citation, and both Hkr and Fsk specify that the poem was composed about King Haraldr. That the poem is an erfidrápa ‘memorial drápa’ for Haraldr seems clear from the preoccupation with his death, and in particular from st. 12, where the poet records his loss of the patronage of the king and his new dependence on the generosity of his two brothers. The likely date of composition for the poem, then, is soon after Haraldr’s death, which is traditionally dated c. 970 or possibly as late as 975 (see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume).

The original extent of the poem is unknown, though it has been estimated that a third of it survives (SnE 1848-87, III, 448). The content of the poem as preserved, after the call for a hearing in st. 1, can be roughly divided into a catalogue of the king’s raiding expeditions (sts 2-7); an account of his last battle, in Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden) (sts 8-12); general praise (sts 13-14); and the stef ‘refrain’ (st. 15). The detailed ordering of the stanzas, however, remains highly uncertain, and even the inclusion of some of the stanzas edited here is open to question.

The uncertainty among editors about which stanzas are to be included in Gráf reflects a confusion in tradition between Haraldr gráfeldr and his father Eiríkr blóðøx. Fsk (ÍF 29, 103) includes a numbered list of Haraldr’s campaigns over four summers, in (1) Denmark (specifically Skáni/Skáney, modern Skåne); (2) Scotland and Ireland; (3) Gautland (Götaland); (4) Bjarmaland, by the Vína (Permia, by the Dvina). The list may well be based on Gráf 2-6, though none of the poem is cited at this point. Earlier in Fsk (ÍF 29, 79) and also without citation is a similar list of Eiríkr’s campaigns: Halland, Skáney and widely around Denmark; Kúrland (Latvia), Eistland (Estonia), and elsewhere in the Baltic; Svíþjóð (the Uppland part of modern Sweden) and Gautland (Götaland); north to Finnmǫrk (the northernmost part of Norway), as far as Bjarmaland; and all around the British Isles. According to Fsk, some or all of these campaigns were recorded by Glúmr Geirasonr í sínu kvæði ‘Glúmr Geirason in his poem’. Egils saga (ÍF 2, 93-4), too, refers to Eiríkr’s successful battle in Bjarmaland, svá sem segir í kvæðum hans ‘as it says in the poems about him’.

The mss of Hkr do not explicitly assign st. 2, which refers to Skåne and Scotland, to Gráf, but they imply that it is about Haraldr gráfeldr, and they cite Gráf 3, referring to the Irish, immediately after it, with no intervening prose. The later, largely derivative ÓT (1958-2000, I, 24) attributes st. 2, and hence by implication st. 3, to Glúmr and Gráf. In both sources st. 2 is cited following an account of Haraldr and his brothers (the Eiríkssynir or Gunnhildarsynir) raiding in Scotland and Ireland after their father’s death. This, coupled with the focus on a single hero in the stanza, suggests that Snorri believed it to belong to Gráf. The inclusion of Skåne, Scotland and Ireland at the beginning of the catalogue of Haraldr’s campaigns in Fsk (ÍF 29, 103) suggests that the Fsk compiler shared Snorri’s view.

Objections to this have been raised by scholars including Finnur Jónsson (LH I, 525), Schreiner (1927-9f, 92-101) and de Vries (1964-7, I, 171), who argued that st. 2 (and also st. 3 according to Schreiner) belonged rather to a poem about Eiríkr (Glúmr Eir); Finnur prints st. 2 as Eir 2 in Skj. Among the arguments brought in the course of the discussion is that of de Vries (loc. cit.), that the conception of sending the sverðbautinn her … Gauti ‘sword-beaten host ... to Gautr [= Óðinn]’ recalls the welcoming of Eiríkr into Óðinn’s hall in Anon Eirm. This and other pagan references (see sts 2/7-8, 8/2 and 13/4 below) are at first sight out of place in a poem for the Christian Haraldr, but a mismatch between the ruler’s ideology and that of a poem in his honour is not unprecedented; Eiríkr himself, commemorated by the pagan Eirm, had also been baptised. Other points raised concern historical or literary aspects of the poem, but none of them is decisive, and in the absence of clearer indicators, this edition follows the medieval sources in including sts 2 and 3 in Gráf (so also Fidjestøl 1982, 91).

The placing of stanzas occurring only in SnE, without narrative context, is also potentially problematic. Stanza 1 is clearly a call for a hearing, typical of the opening of a skaldic poem. Stanza 5, about a battle against the Gautar ‘men of Gautland (Götaland)’, is appropriately placed before st. 6 which mentions the expedition to Bjarmaland, since this matches the sequence outlined in Fsk, but there is no evidence as to whether it should precede or follow the reference to the Baltic in st. 4, since this is not included in the Fsk list.

Although Haraldr’s raid on Bjarmaland, recorded in st. 6, is next in the Fsk catalogue of his expeditions (ÍF 29, 103), the possibility again arises of confusion between Haraldr and his father. Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1904, 217-18) suggested that a reference to a raid on Bjarmaland by Eiríkr blóðøx commemorated in poetry about him (Egils saga, ÍF 2, 93-4, noted above) derives from this stanza, which the author must have believed to belong to Eir. However, since Gráf was evidently better known to medieval compilers than Glúmr’s poetry about Eiríkr it is preferable to assume that this stanza, like sts 2 and 3, belongs in Gráf.

Stanza 7, about the defeat of an unidentified prince, is preserved only in Fsk, where it precedes the list of raiding expeditions that seems to be based on sts 2-6 (ÍF 29, 103). However, st. 7 probably relates to the period when the Eiríkssynir were engaged in struggles for control in Norway against Hákon jarl Sigurðarson and his allies, and in the fuller account of Hkr this followed most of their expeditions abroad. With its general statement about King Haraldr overwhelming his enemies, st. 7 also provides a suitable preamble to the account of Haraldr’s death, and is therefore placed here in this edition, as in others.

The stanzas dealing with the death of the king are preserved in Hkr (sts 8, 11) and in Fsk (sts 8-10, 11/5-8) in different combinations of helmingar and in a different order. In both texts st. 8, in which the king makes a speech exhorting his troops, opens the sequence. In Fsk this is followed immediately by st. 9, then by a stanza made up of st. 10 (a single helmingr) combined with the second helmingr of st. 11 (the first is lacking in Fsk). In Hkr, st. 8 is followed by the prose report of the king’s death, then by st. 11. In this edition, st. 11 is given in the form found in Hkr, since both helmingar relate the king’s death, and it is placed after sts 9 and 10, which both describe the fighting preceding his death. Fidjestøl (1982, 92), while preferring the ordering sts 9, 11, 10 (that of Skj), speculated that sts 9 and 10 could belong together as a full stanza.

Also preserved in SnE without any narrative context are st. 13, with its remarkable statement that Óðinn himself inhabited the warrior, and st. 14, which refers to the hero’s twelve íþróttir ‘skills’. In this edition these are placed towards the end of the poem on the assumption that the poet, after recounting the king’s warlike campaigns and then his death, could appropriately have ended with such generalizing stanzas (Fidjestøl 1982, 92; see also Marold 2005a, 125-7 on the reconstruction of Gráf).

The stef ‘refrain’, included here as st. 15, is preserved only in the seventeenth-century Þórðarbók version of Ldn (Þb106ˣ) among materials thought to derive from Melabók (ÍF 1, 284 n. 1). It is clearly identified there as the stef from Glúmr’s Gráf. Fidjestøl (1982, 185) notes a similarity in its structure to that of the stef to the poem for Eiríkr blóðøx (Glúmr Eir), in that the king’s name in both occurs in the second line between two aðalhendingar.

Gráf is composed in dróttkvætt, though with some metrical features that may reflect the relatively early date of the poem, before the system of internal rhymes or hendingar was fully consolidated. Stanzas 10/3 and 11/6 have inexact rhymes and 1/3 lacks rhyme, while in several stanzas extra assonance is provided by the extension of the rhyming pattern from an odd line to an even line. Thus in sts 1/3-4, 4/3-4, 7/3-4, 9/1-2, 9/3-4, 10/1-2 and 12/3-4 the rhyming consonant(s) of the even line echo the previous line, in an informal version of dunhent (on which, see Introductions to Þhorn Gldr and Ótt Hfl).

The mss used in this edition are the following (some stanzas are partial): the Hkr mss Kˣ, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ (sts 2-4, 6, 8, 11-12, 14), 39 (sts 8, 11-12, 14), 325VIII I (sts 6, 12); the ÓT mss 61, Bb (sts 2-4, 6, 8, 11-12, 14), 53, 54 (sts 6, 8, 11-12), 62 (sts 8, 11-12) and Flat (sts 2-4, 8, 11-12); the Fsk mss FskBˣ, FskAˣ (sts 7-11); the SnE mss R, Tˣ, W, U (sts 1, 5, 9, 13), A (st. 9), B (sts 1, 5, 13), C (st. 5); the TGT mss A, W, B (st. 12); and the Ldn ms. Þb106ˣ (st. 15). Stanza 9 in LaufE (1979, 391) is copied from W and therefore not used in this edition. The main mss are: Kˣ for sts 2-4, 6, 8, 11-12, 14, FskBˣ for sts 7, 10, R for sts 1, 5, 9, 13 and Þb106ˣ for st. 15.

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