Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson (Ólhv)

13th century; volume 2; ed. Lauren Goetting;

2. Hrynhenda (Hryn) - 12

Skj info: Óláfr Þórðarson hvítaskáld, Islandsk skjald og lærd, d. 1259. (AII, 92-8, BII, 104-10).

Skj poems:
1. Et digt om kong Hákon
2. Et hrynhent digt
3. Árónsdrápa
4. Af et digt om Thomas Becket
5. Lausavísur

Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (Ólhv) was an accomplished Icel. scholar and a prolific poet. Details of his life are documented in Sturlunga saga (Stu), Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák), and Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl). He was born c. 1210-12 at Staður on Snæfellsness, Iceland, as the eldest son of Þórðr Sturluson and his concubine Þóra. He was the nephew of Snorri Sturluson (SnSt; d. 1241), with whom he spent long periods of time as a young man, and the older brother of Sturla Þórðarson (Sturl; d. 1284). In 1237 he left Iceland with Snorri to embark upon a career as a professional poet at the courts of Scandinavia. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256-8, 260, 378-84) Óláfr composed poetry in honour of a large number of kings and noblemen, including the following: (in Norway) Jarl Skúli Bárðarson (d. 1240), King Hákon Hákonarson (d. 1263) and his son Hákon ungi ‘the Young’ Hákonarson (d. 1257), Jarl Knútr Hákonarson (d. 1261); (in Sweden) King Eiríkr Eiríkson (d. 1250); (in Denmark) King Valdimarr Valdimarsson (d. 1241). Because of Óláfr’s close association with Valdimarr, from whom he hafði ... margar ágætligar frásagnir ‘got ... many excellent narratives’ (ÍF 35, 315), he is thought by some to have written Knýtl, which recounts the history of Dan. rulers (see LH 1894-1901, II, 275, 784-5). Around 1242 Óláfr returned to Iceland and founded a school at Stafaholt in Borgarfjörður, where he wrote the Third Grammatical Treatise (TGT) and devoted himself to teaching and writing until his death in 1259. In addition to these pursuits, he was ordained subdeacon at some point after his return to Iceland and also served as lawspeaker 1248-50.

Most of Óláfr’s extant poetry consists of encomia to King Hákon Hákonarson and is inserted throughout the prose in Hák. This includes part of Hrynhenda (Ólhv Hryn), one st. from a Poem about Hákon (Ólhv Hák), and two lvv. (Ólhv Lv). One lv. traditionally assigned to him, has been reassigned in the present edn to Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson (Ólsv Love 3III). Aside from the aforementioned, the remainder of Óláfr’s known poetic works includes two sts from ÁrónsdrápaDrápa about Árón’ (Ólhv ÁrdrIV), composed about his friend Árón Hjǫrleifsson, and two sts from ThómasdrápaDrápa about Thomas (ꜳ Becket)’ (Ólhv ThómdrIII), recorded in the Fourth Grammatical Treatise (FoGT). Finally, nine fragments of sts from TGT (Ólhv FragIII), treated as anonymous in previous eds, are attributed to Óláfr in this edn.

Hrynhenda (‘Falling, flowing metre’) — Ólhv HrynII

Lauren Goetting 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda’ 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. Brepols, Turnhout, pp. 658-70.

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Skj: Óláfr Þórðarson hvítaskáld: 2. Et hrynhent digt, 1240 (AII, 93-7, BII, 105-8)

in texts: Flat, Hák

SkP info: II, 658-70

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

The title of the poem Hrynhenda ‘falling, flowing metre’ (Ólhv Hryn) is derived from the metre in which it was composed (hrynhenda or hrynhent), named for the flowing effect produced by its tendency to alternate stressed and unstressed syllables (see RGA 15: Hrynhent; SnE 1999, 27-8), and is not attested in medieval mss. Óláfr Þórðarson composed Hryn sometime after the death of Skúli Bárðarson in 1240. The length of the original poem is uncertain. Ten sts and two half-sts are preserved in Hák, all of which are transmitted in E, F (except ll. 7-8 of st. 4), 42ˣ, 81a, and Flat. Stanzas 1, 3-4 are contained in 325VIII 5 a, sts 2-5 in 304ˣ, sts 6-12 in 8, and sts 9 and 12 in 55 A. E has been chosen as the main ms.

Hryn documents the life of King Hákon Hákonarson of Norway and includes the following events: Hákon’s election as king in 1217 (st. 1), his disputes and reconciliation with Skúli Bárðarson (1233-7; sts 2-5), Skúli’s claim to the throne of Norway in 1239 (sts 6-7), the battle of Låke in 1240 (st. 8), and the battle of Oslo in 1240 (sts 9-12).

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