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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rekstefja — HSt RstI

Hallar-Steinn

Rolf Stavnem 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja’ 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. 893.

 

Hǫrs gnótt hrunda sléttum
hljóðs kveðk mér at óði
randhvéls rennu Þundi;
Rekstefju tekk hefja.
Skýrunn* skjaldar linna
skalk fríðum lof smíða
þing-Baldr Þróttar mildum,
þeims fremstr varð beima.
 
‘I ask silence for myself from the great number of valkyries of linen [WOMEN] for the smooth poem about the Þundr <= Óðinn> of the rush of the rim-wheel [SHIELD > BATTLE > WARRIOR = Óláfr Tryggvason]; I commence Rekstefja (‘Split-refrain’ (?)). I will forge a praise-poem for the handsome tree of the cloud of the snakes of the shield [(lit. ‘cloud-tree of the snakes of the shield’) SWORDS > SHIELD > WARRIOR = Óláfr], for the generous Baldr <god> of the assembly of Þróttr <= Óðinn> [(lit. ‘assembly-Baldr of Þróttr’) BATTLE > WARRIOR = Óláfr], who was the best of men.
Vegmildr víðrar foldar
vǫrðr þá fóstr í Gǫrðum;
vellbjóðr vísar dáðir
vann, sás hæst gekk manna.
Blikrunnr brigða miklum
brátt réð * þeim, es átti,
allprútt éla Þróttar
Óláfr skipa stóli.
 
‘The honour-generous guardian of vast territory [RULER = Óláfr] was fostered in Russia; the gold-offerer [GENEROUS MAN], who was the greatest of men, performed renowned deeds. The tree of the gleam of the storms of Þróttr <= Óðinn> [(lit. ‘gleam-tree of the storms of Þróttr’) BATTLES > SWORD > WARRIOR], Óláfr, soon commanded most excellently the extremely large fleet of ships which he owned.
Senn ǫll síðan runnu
snekkjubǫrð ór Gǫrðum
hermǫrg hôla tǫrguð
hildings und gram mildum.
Vestrlǫnd, virða kindir,
verfôkum lét herjat
aldyggr arfi Tryggva
Óláfr, ok klauf stôlum.
 
‘Then a great many ship-stems of the prince, splendidly equipped with shields, sped from Russia all at the same time, under the generous ruler. The most excellent heir of Tryggvi [= Óláfr], Óláfr, harried the western lands with sea-steeds [SHIPS] and slashed the sons of men with steel weapons.
Fullsnart frœknu hjarta
fríðr þengill lét síðan
— hjǫrr gall; hǫlðar fellu —
hefnd síns fǫður efnda.
Blóðugr bragnings þjóðar
brandr gall á Englandi;
oddrjóð enskra lýða
aldrspelli frák valda.
 
‘The handsome ruler then most swiftly achieved revenge for his father with a bold heart; the sword shrieked; men fell. The blood-stained sword of the prince of men [RULER = Óláfr] shrieked in England; I have heard that the point-reddener [WARRIOR] caused life-destruction of English people.
Óláfr allra jǫfra
óttlaust ok nam brjóta
varghollr Vinða borgir
vestr hernað rak mestan.
Hrælinns hverju sinni
hljómváttandi knátti
sóknbráðr sigri ráða
Svǫlnis dóms í rómu.
 
‘Wolf-gracious Óláfr pursued in the west the greatest raiding campaign of any ruler and began fearlessly to destroy the strongholds of the Wends. The attack-swift witness of the noise of the corpse-serpent [(lit. ‘noise-witness of the corpse-serpent’) SWORD > BATTLE > WARRIOR] won victory every time in the tumult of the verdict of Svǫlnir <= Óðinn> [BATTLE].
Ugglaust Íra byggðir
ókvíðinn lét síðan
él-Freyr Ullar kjóla
endr fíkula brenndar.
Skotland skǫrpum brandi
skjald†fryðr† of nam ryðja;
oddr beit — ulfar sǫddusk —
ódeigr Skota feiga.
 
‘Then the unworried Freyr <god> of the storm of the ships of Ullr <god> [(lit. ‘storm-Freyr of the ships of Ullr’) SHIELDS > BATTLE > WARRIOR] once fearlessly caused the settlements of the Irish to be powerfully burned down. The shield-... [WARRIOR?] proceeded to clear Scotland with a sharp sword; the unblunt point bit fated Scots; the wolves had their fill.
Frónb*ands fœriǫndrum
fríðr til Nóregs síðan
sker-Baldr Skǫglar elda
skjaldbúnum lét haldit.
Heiðinn heiman flýði
hildingr, né þar vildi,
áðr, enn Óláfs bíða
jarl, af sínu hjarli.
 
‘Then the handsome Baldr <god> of the skerry of the fires of Skǫgul <valkyrie> [(lit. ‘skerry-Baldr of the fires of Skǫgul’) SWORDS > SHIELDS > WARRIOR = Óláfr] steered the shield-adorned travelling skis of the land-bond [SEA > SHIPS] to Norway. The heathen ruler had already fled away from his territory, and the jarl did not wish to wait any longer for Óláfr there.
Haukjóðs harða víða
(hôtt) norrœnar dróttir*
(Þundregns þeim of vandak)
þengils á bý gengu.
Óráð illri þjóðu
Óláfr of galt dála;
vígrunnr velja kunni
víkingum hlut slíkan.
 
‘Norwegian troops placed themselves very widely in the homestead of the hawk-offspring [HAWK > HAND] of the ruler; I fashion for him the metre of Þundr’s <= Óðinn’s> rain [POETRY]. Óláfr thoroughly paid evil people for their misdeeds; the battle-tree [WARRIOR] was able to deal vikings such a fate.
Fémildr fylkir vildi
firna mǫrg ok hǫrga
blóthús brenna láta;
bað heiðin goð meiða.
Siðvandr síðan kenndi
sannhróðigr trú góða
herlundr hǫlða kindum.
Hann vas ríkstr konungmanna.
 
‘The generous ruler wanted to have very many temples and sacrificial buildings burned; he ordered the heathen gods to be harmed. The devout, truly famous war-tree [WARRIOR = Óláfr] then taught the good faith to the offspring of men. He was the mightiest of royal men …
Þjóðlǫnd þremja skyndir
þrenn kristnaði ok tvenni;
hildings hǫppum valda
hans ríki frák slíkum.
Mærings mǫnnum skýrisk
merki fremðarverka
eggmóts eigi lítil.
Óláfr und veg sólar.
 
‘The hastener of swords [WARRIOR] Christianized three and two countries; I have heard that it was his power that caused such ruler’s luck. Let the not small signs of the remarkable achievements of the edge-meeting [BATTLE] be declared to the men of the glorious one. Óláfr under the path of the sun [SKY] …
Ísland éla skyndir
ítr lista vann kristnat
gollmildr Grœnaveldi
Gǫndlar þey*s ok Eyjar.
Handvíst Hjalta grundar
hann sem Nóregs manna
hôttu hilmir bœtti.
Hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu.
 
‘The gold-generous hastener of the storms of the thawing wind of Gǫndul <valkyrie> [BATTLE > ARROWS > WARRIOR], splendid in accomplishments, made Iceland, Greenland and the Isles [Orkney] Christian. He, the ruler, improved most certainly the way of life of the people of Norway as well as of the land of the Shetlanders [= Shetland]. Faithful and foremost in all things …
Hafglóð hilmir sáði
hjaldrríkr ok gaf skjǫldu
— stétthrings stofnum veitti
stikka — vôpn ok skikkjur.
Stórráðr steinda knǫrru
stillir fekk, en ekki
hildings hœfði mildi.
Hann vas ríkstr konungmanna.
 
‘The battle-mighty prince sowed sea-ember [GOLD] and gave away shields, weapons and cloaks; he provided cloak-pins (?) for the poles of the path-sword [SHIELD > WARRIORS]. The ambitious ruler gave painted merchant ships, and nothing could match the generosity of the war-leader. He was the mightiest of royal men …
Húns nótt hverja knôttu
hirðmenn konungs spenna
gylld horn grœðis meldrar;
glaðr vísi drakk þaðra.
Víðfrægr velja téði
vín húskǫrlum sínum
allvaldr einkar mildum.
Óláfr und veg sólar.
 
‘Every bear’s night [WINTER] the king’s retainers gripped the gilded horns of the ocean of flour [ALE]; the cheerful ruler drank there. The widely famous sovereign provided wine exceptionally generously for his housecarls. Óláfr under the path of the sun [SKY] …
Morðlinns mǫrgu sinni
móðþrútinn bjó úti
— húfr svall; hrannir fellu —
hvessimeiðr á skeiðum.
Gyllt hlýr — gnǫpðu skoltar —
gunnfíkinn lét blíkja
herrunnr hǫfnum fjarri.
Hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu.
 
‘The courage-swollen whetting pole of the battle-snake [SWORD > WARRIOR] many a time stayed out at sea on his warships; the hull swelled; the waves crashed. The battle-eager army-tree [WARRIOR] let the gilded bow gleam far from harbours; foreheads bent forward. Faithful and foremost in all things …
Ǫrbjóðr átta skeiðum
efsta sinn ok þrinnum
(byrr varð) beita þorði
(brýnn) ór Þrándheims mynni.
Ormr skreið (árar knúði)
ǫlna vang inn langi
(hirð prúð); hilmir stýrði.
Hann vas ríkstr konungmanna.
 
‘The arrow-offerer [WARRIOR] dared a final time to sail eight and three warships to windward out from the mouth of Trondheimsfjorden; the wind became sharp. Ormr inn langi (‘the Long Serpent’) slithered over the field of fish [SEA]; the valiant retinue thrust on the oars; the ruler steered. He was the mightiest of royal men …
Raunskjótt ræsir hitti
— rít vasa friðr at líta —
— sól rauð Svǫlnis éla —
senn dǫglinga þrenna.
Fimtán fjǫrnis mána
fleygjendr at gram renndu
Ekkils ýtiblǫkkum.
Óláfr und veg sólar.
 
‘Rapidly indeed the ruler encountered three princes at the same time; peace was not to be seen for the shield; [he] reddened the sun of the storms of Svǫlnir <= Óðinn> [BATTLES > SWORD]. Throwers of the moon of the helmet [SWORD > WARRIORS] steered fifteen surging steeds of Ekkill <sea-king> [SHIPS] against the king. Óláfr under the path of the sun [SKY] …
Grár reif (gerðu drífu)
— gall brandr við slǫg — (randa)
trǫllmarr trýni sollin
(tveir nafnar) hræ jafnan.
Sœnskr herr sigri þorrinn;
sverð beit, en fló peita;
hríð óx; hǫlðar flýðu.
Hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu.
 
‘The grey troll-woman’s steed [WOLF] tore swollen corpses steadily with its snout; the two namesakes engaged in a snow-storm of shields [BATTLE]; the sword resounded against weapons. The Swedish army [was] deprived of victory; sword bit and spear flew; the onslaught grew; men fled. Faithful and foremost in all things …
Ǫrbragðs ærir lǫgðu
annat sinn at Linna
— grimmt varð Gǫndlar borða
gnaust — sextigum flausta.
Danskr herr dýran harra,
drótt hné mǫrg, þars sótti;
hirð fell; hrafnar gullu.
Hann vas ríkstr konungmanna.
 
‘The messengers of the arrow-flight [WARRIORS] attacked Linni (‘Serpent’) a second time with sixty ships; the noise of the planks of Gǫndul <valkyrie> [SHIELDS > BATTLE] became fierce. Many a troop fell, where the Danish army attacked the precious ruler; the retinue fell; ravens shrieked. He was the mightiest of royal men …
Stǫng reið, stôl en sungu,
sterklig jǫfurs merkis;
gramr skaut; gerðisk rimmu
gangr um Orm inn langa.
Nýtr herr Nóregs gætis
nær vasa trauðr at særa
orðprúðs Jóta ferðir.
Óláfr und veg sólar.
 
‘The powerful pole of the standard of the prince rode high and steel weapons sang; the ruler [Óláfr] shot; the course of the battle proceeded around Ormr inn langi (‘the Long Serpent’). The brave army of the famous guardian of Norway [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr] was far from reluctant to wound the troops of the Jótar. Óláfr under the path of the sun [SKY] …
Myrkt hregg mækis eggja
meinilla gekk Sveini;
drótt hné dreyra þrútin;
Danir skunduðu undan.
Tandr beit — tiggi renndi
tveim dǫglingum — Skǫglar;
hans vǫrn hœfðisk firnum.
Hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu.
 
‘The dark storm of blades of swords [BATTLE] went very badly for Sveinn; the troop fell, swollen with blood; the Danes hurried away. The flame of Skǫgul <valkyrie> [SWORD] bit; the ruler [Óláfr] made two princes flee; his defence was exceptionally fitting. Faithful and foremost in all things …
Ítr jarl einkar snarla
endr fimm skipum renndi
þrekmanns þriðja sinni
þremja storms at Ormi.
Ben lét — bǫrðusk ýtar —
brynskíðs viðum svíða
Hyrningr heiptargjǫrnum.
Hann vas ríkstr konungmanna.
 
‘The splendid jarl [Eiríkr] long ago extremely swiftly made five ships glide for the third time against the Ormr (‘Serpent’) belonging to the strong man of the storm of swords [BATTLE]. Hyrningr made wounds burn on the vengeful trees of the mail-shirt-ski [SWORD > WARRIORS]; men fought. He was the mightiest of royal men …
Randsíks remmilauka
rógsvellir bað fella
— styrr þreifsk — stœrri aska
strangr á Orm inn langa.
Ættstórr ella mætti
Eirekr í dyn geira
oflinn aldri vinna.
Óláfr und veg sólar.
 
‘The tough strife-sweller [WARRIOR = Eiríkr] ordered the forceful masts of the shield-whitefish [SWORD > WARRIORS] to make larger ash-timbers fall onto Ormr inn langi (‘the Long Serpent’); battle flourished. Otherwise, the high-born Eiríkr would never have been able to defeat the mighty snake in the din of spears [BATTLE]. Óláfr under the path of the sun [SKY] …
Hvasst skaut — hlífar brustu —
hildingr ór lyptingu
síðan (seint mun eyðask)
sóknstrangr (Drekinn langi).
Unnelds yppirunnum
engi kann enn * lengi
heg*ju hilmis seg*ja.
Hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu.
 
‘Then the attack-strong ruler [Óláfr] shot fiercely from the raised deck; shields shattered; late will Drekinn langi (‘the Long Serpent’) be cleared [of men]. No one can still for a long time tell the lifting trees of wave-fire [GOLD > MEN] about the condition of the ruler. Faithful and foremost in all things …
Hjǫr*fl*óðs hnykkimeiðum
hérs of slœm at dœma
hnigreyrs harða starran;
hefk þar lokit stefjum.
Íðvands aðrar dáðir
ek fýsumk nú lýsa
gnýbjóðs geysitíðar
geira hóti fleiri.
 
‘Now it is for the snatching trees of the descending reed of the sword-flood [BLOOD > SWORD > WARRIORS] to judge the very stiff slœmr; I have concluded the refrains there. I am now eager to describe a great deal more the other much talked-about deeds of the carefully-acting inviter of the din of spears [(lit. ‘din-inviter of spears’) BATTLE > WARRIOR].
Tvær senn — tiggja vinnur
telk þær —, es veitk færi
gnýlinns Gǫndlar runna,
gramr íþróttir framði.
Hyr-Baldr hvítra skjalda
handsǫxum lék vandla
fleinrjóðr flestra dáða
frár ok gekk at ôrum.
 
‘The prince performed two feats at the same time, which I know few trees of the snake of the din of Gǫndul <valkyrie> [(lit. ‘trees of the din-snake of Gǫndul’) BATTLE > SWORD > WARRIORS] [have performed]; I tell of those achievements of the ruler. The Baldr <god> of the fire of white shields [(lit. ‘fire-Baldr of white shields’) SWORD > WARRIOR = Óláfr], the spear-reddener [WARRIOR], swift in most deeds, juggled skilfully with short-swords and walked across the oars.
Valstafns vætki rofna,
viti menn, at frák tvenna
haus manns hringi ljósum
hirðmeðr konungs veðja.
Hermart (hjǫrva snyrtir
hvárr lézk grams í hamri)
styrremðr stillir framði
stœrra (ǫðrum fœrri).
 
‘May people know that I have heard that two retainers of the king, not giving way in the falcon-stem [ARM], bet a man’s head [and] a shining ring. Each polisher of swords [WARRIOR] of the prince claimed he was more agile than the other on the crag; the battle-mighty ruler [Óláfr] performed very much [that was] greater.
Annarr ǫðlings manna
ókvíðinn réð síðan
— stígr varð stála sveigi
strangr — í bjarg at ganga.
Hôtt fjall hvárki mátti
— hans vas líf þrotit — klífa
eldrunnr ǫlna foldar
upp eðr niðr frá miðju.
 
‘Then one of the ruler’s men started to go, fearless, up the crag; the route was hard for the swinger of steel weapons [WARRIOR]. The tree of the fire of the land of fish [(lit. ‘fire-tree of the land of fish’) SEA > GOLD > MAN] could climb neither up nor down the high mountain from the middle; his life had come to an end.
Hilding hvasst frák ganga
— hann réð prútt ept manni —
— ráðvandr ræsir hendi
ríp — í bratta gnípu.
Þrekleyfðr þengill hafði
— þat vas endr — und hendi
— sigrþoll svá barg stillir —
sinn dreng ok gekk lengra.
 
‘I have heard that the war-leader went vigorously up the steep peak; he went bravely after the man; the upright ruler grasped the crag. The prince praised for his strength held his follower under his arm and went on further; that was long ago; thus the leader saved the victory-fir [WARRIOR].
Dáðstyrk dýrðar merki
dolgminnigs skalk inna
skýbjóðs skelfihríðar
Skǫglar borðs in fjorðu.
Harðleygs hrinda frôgum
hvatlyndum Þorkatli
styrlund* stirðra branda
storms fyr borð af Ormi.
 
‘I will present the fourth deed-strong sign of glory of the strife-mindful offerer of the cloud of the terrifying storm of the board of Skǫgul <valkyrie> [(lit. ‘cloud-offerer of the terrifying storm of the board of Skǫgul’) SHIELD > BATTLE > SHIELD > WARRIOR]. We [I] have heard that the tree of the tumult of the hard flame of the storm of rigid blades [(lit. ‘tumult-tree of the hard flame of the storm of rigid blades’) BATTLE > SWORD > BATTLE > WARRIOR] threw the bold-minded Þorkell overboard from Ormr (‘the Serpent’).
Spell vann (sparðit stillir)
spjótrunns (skaða bótir)
meingarðr margra jarða
mikit dýrligri skikkju.
Goðvefr gerðisk jǫfri
grôn ok skinn á hônum
sjónfagr svipstund eina
síðan jafn eða fríðri.
 
‘The harmful enclosure of many lands [SEA] did great harm to the splendid cloak of the spear-tree [WARRIOR = Þorkell]; the ruler did not hold back from remedying the damage. After that the beautiful precious cloth and the grey fur on it became for the ruler the same or even finer in a single moment.
Ǫrrjóðr allra dáða
jartegnir vann bjartar
— dvergregn* dýrðar megnum
dimmt — í sinn it fimta.
Sigrgjarn sólu fegri
sénn vas skrýddr með prýddum
dǫglingr dróttins englum
dyggðar fúss í húsi.
 
‘The arrow-reddener [WARRIOR = Óláfr] performed bright proofs of all [his] deeds for the fifth time; we [I] strengthen the dark dwarf-rain [POETRY] of glory. The victory-willing prince, eager for virtue, was seen arrayed more beautifully than the sun with the adorned angels of the Lord in a house.
Hringskóðs herðimeiðar
hvar viti, þann es anni,
eldvellds annan stilli,
óð*ríkr frama slíkum,
gunnelds geymirunnum
(gǫndlar fýst*) sem lýstak
(hirð vas hans at morði
hrygg) arfþega Tryggva.
 
‘Where would hardening trees of the fire-forged mail-shirt-harmer [SWORD > WARRIORS] know of any other ruler, who, very mighty, is able to perform such splendid deeds as I have described to the keeping trees of the battle-fire [SWORD > WARRIORS] concerning the heir of Tryggvi [= Óláfr]; the retinue eager for battle was desolate at his killing.
Þengill þróttarstrǫngum
þeim bauð Kristr af heimi
byrtjalds (beztu heilli)
bragningi (goð fagni).
Ygglaust alla þiggi
eljunfimr á himnum
Óláfr œzta sælu
ítrbóls með gram sólar.
 
‘Christ, the prince of the wind-tent [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)], invited the ruler strong in valour out of the world; may God receive [him] with the highest grace. May the vigorous Óláfr receive without fear all the highest bliss in the heavens with the lord of the splendid abode of the sun [SKY/HEAVEN > = God].
Hermart hví kveðum ortu
hugdyggs of son Tryggva
handbáls hnykkilunda
hreins ok flokka eina?
Hallfreðr Hǫrða stilli
hríðǫflgum vann smíðat
hjǫrgráps hugða drôpu
hróðrargjarn ok Bjarni.
 
‘Why do we say that moving trees of the pure hand-fire [GOLD > MEN] composed a great deal about the son of the mind-brave Tryggvi [= Óláfr] and only flokkar? Praise-eager Hallfreðr forged an agreeable drápa for the ruler of the Hǫrðar [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr], powerful in the onslaught of the sword-hail [BATTLE], and [so did] Bjarni.
Eigi einkar lága
ek fæ ina þriðju,
hyr-Njǫrðr, hróðri stœrða
ps tvískelfða drôpu.
Slíkr hôttr — svá munk vátta —
sjaldstundum verðr fundinn;
herr prúðr hǫrvi kvæða
hafi gagn, en ek þagna.
 
‘Njǫrðr <god> of the fire of the bay [(lit. ‘fire-Njǫrðr of the bay’) GOLD > MAN], I increase with praise the third not extremely poor drápa in tvískelft. Such a metre is rarely found; I can attest to that; may the troop splendid in linen [women] have benefit from the poem [lit. poems], and I fall silent.
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