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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar — Hfr ErfÓlI

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar’ 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. 400.

 

Þar hykk víst til mjǫk misstu
— mǫrg kom drótt á flótta —
gram, þanns gunni framði,
gengis þrœnzkra drengja.
Nœfr vá einn við jǫfra
allvaldr tváa snjalla
— frægrs til slíks at segja
siðr — ok jarl inn þriðja.
 
‘There, I certainly believe, the prince who promoted battle missed too much the support of warriors from Trøndelag; many a band took to flight. The adept mighty ruler fought alone against two bold princes and a jarl as the third; it is a famous custom to tell of such a thing.
Flugþverrir nam fyrri
frægr aldrigi vægja;
heldr lét hauka skyldir
hugrekki sér þekkja.
 
‘The famous flight-diminisher [WARRIOR] never yielded first; rather the commander of hawks [RULER] made courage dear to him.
Geta skal máls, þess’s mæla
menn at vápna sennu
dolga fangs við drengi
dáðǫflgan bǫr kvôðu:
baðat hertryggðar hyggja
hnekkir sína rekka
— þess lifa þjóðar sessa
þróttarorð — á flótta.
 
‘One must mention the speech which men reported the deed-mighty tree of the tunic of strife [MAIL-SHIRT > WARRIOR] addressed to the warriors at the flyting of weapons [BATTLE]: the confounder of the army’s security [WARRIOR] did not ask his men to think of flight; the forceful words of this bench-mate of the people [RULER] live on.
Hept vas lítt — á lopti
liðu ǫrvar framm gǫrva —
brodda flaug, áðr bauga
brjótendr skyti spjótum.
Orð vas hitt, at harðast,
hvarkunnt, fyr lǫg sunnan,
mest, í malma gnaustan
minn dróttinn framm sótti.
 
‘The flight of points was little hindered; arrows travelled precisely forward in the sky, before breakers of rings [GENEROUS MEN] shot spears. That was the most widely-known report, that my lord pressed forward the hardest in the clashing of metal weapons [BATTLE] south over the sea.
Sótti herr, þars hætti,
hundmargr drasil sunda,
en hjalmsprotum hilmir
harðfengr Dǫnum varði.
Fellu þar með þolli
þeim Skævaðar geima
— mein hlautk af því — mínir
meir hollvinir fleiri.
 
‘An immense force attacked the horse of sounds [SHIP], where there was danger, but the tenacious ruler warded off the Danes with helmet-rods [SWORDS]. More of my true friends also fell there with that fir of the Skævaðr <legendary horse> of the ocean [SHIP > SEAFARER]; I got grief from that.
Herskerðir klauf harðan
— hann gekk reiðr of skeiðar —
svarðar stofn með sverði
sunnr eldviðum kunnum.
Kunni gramr at gunni
— gunnþinga jarnmunnum
margr lá heggr of hǫggvinn —
holdbarkar rô sarka.
 
‘The army-diminisher [RULER] split the hard stump of the scalp [HEAD] of famous sword-trees [WARRIORS] with a sword in the south; he went angry through the warships. The prince knew how to redden the yard-arm of flesh-bark [MAIL-SHIRT > SWORD] in battle; many a cherry-tree of meetings of Gunnr <valkyrie> [BATTLES > WARRIOR] lay chopped down by iron mouths.
Varð of Vinða myrði
vígský*s, en þat lýsik,
ramr und randar himni
rymr; knôttu spjǫr glymja.
Hirðir stózk við harðan
hnitvegg með fjǫl seggja
víðis veltireiðar
varghollr þrimu marga.
 
‘Roaring of the war-cloud [SHIELD > BATTLE] became mighty around the murderer of Wends [?= Óláfr] under the heaven of the rim [SHIELD], and I proclaim that; spears resounded. The wolf-gracious guardian of the rolling wagon of the ocean [SHIP > SEAFARER] withstood many an onslaught by the hard clash-wall [SHIELD], with a multitude of men.
Upp sǫgðu lǫg — lagðisk
líf skjótt firum — hlífa
gnóg til gumna feigðar
gǫlkn við randar bǫlku.
 
‘Monsters of shields [AXES] proclaimed the laws, enough for the doom of warriors, at the walls of the rim [SHIELDS]; life was quickly laid aside for men.
Leitt hykk Leifa brautar
lognôrungum vôru
geirs við gumna stjóra
geigurþing at eiga,
þás fákhlaðendr frœknir
farligs at vin jarla
húfs með hamri þœfðar
hrings skyrtur framm gingu.
 
‘I think it was hateful to possessors of the flame of the road of Leifi <sea-king> [(lit. ‘flame-possessors of the road of Leifi’) SEA > GOLD > MEN] to hold the dangerous meeting [BATTLE] of the spear with the steerer of men [RULER], when bold loaders of the steed of excellent planking [(lit. ‘steed-loaders of planking’) SHIP > SEAFARERS] advanced against the friend of jarls [KING] with shirts of the ring, beaten [MAIL-SHIRTS] with the hammer.
Sukku niðr af Naðri
naddfárs í bǫð sárir
baugs — gerðut við vægjask —
verkendr meginserkjar.
Vanr mun Ormr, þótt Ormi
alldýrr konungr stýri,
hvars skríðr með lið lýða,
lengi slíkra drengja.
 
‘Wounded workers of the mighty shirt of the ring of point-harm [BATTLE > SHIELD > MAIL-SHIRT > WARRIORS] sank down off Naðr (‘Adder’) in battle; they did not yield. Ormr (‘Serpent’) will long lack such warriors, wherever it glides with a company of men, though a very eminent king may command Ormr.
Eigi látask ýtar
enn, þeirs víðast nenna,
fremra mann of finna
folkreifum Ôleifi.
 
‘Men, those who travel most widely, say they cannot find an even more outstanding man than battle-joyful Óláfr.
Firrðisk vætr, sás varði
víð lǫnd, Breta stríðir
bleyði firrðr við bráðan
bekkdóm Heðins rekka.
Hann lét of sǫk sanna
(sverðjalmr óx þar) verða
— skilit frá ek — (fyr skylja)
skóð mǫrg roðin blóði.
 
‘The harmer of Britons [RULER = Óláfr], shunning cowardice, who defended broad lands, shunned nothing in the headlong judgement of the bench of the champions of Heðinn <legendary hero> [(lit. ‘bench-judgement of the champions of Heðinn’) = Hjaðningar > SHIELD > BATTLE]. He caused many harmers [weapons] to become reddened with blood in a true cause; sword-screech [BATTLE] grew there before the king; I was informed clearly.
Hverr vas hræddr við ǫrvan
hugdyggvan son Tryggva
— óðusk malmþings meiðar —
maðr und sólar jaðri.
 
‘Every man under the borderland of the sun [SKY] was afraid of the swift, steadfast son of Tryggvi [= Óláfr]; poles of the metal meeting [BATTLE > WARRIORS] felt dread.
Mundit lung it langa
(læsíks) und gram ríkum
(blóð kom á þrǫm þíðan)
þjóð varliga hrjóða,
meðan ítr*vini Áta
innanborðs at morði
— sú gerðisk vel — varði
verðung jǫfurs sverðum.
 
‘The troop would hardly have cleared the long vessel under the mighty ruler — blood spurted onto the pliant rail of the poison-whitefish [SNAKE = Ormr inn langi] —, while the retinue of the prince defended the glorious friends of Áti <sea-king> [SEAFARERS] with swords in the battle on board; they performed worthily.
Gótt es gǫrva at frétta
— gunnr óx fyr haf sunnan —
— sverð bitu feigra fyrða
fjǫrrǫnn — at því mǫnnum:
hvern rakkligast rekka
randláðs viðir kvôðu
— Surts ættar vinnk sléttan
sylg — Ôleifi fylgja.
 
‘It is good for people to ask searchingly about this — battle swelled south of the sea; swords bit life-halls [BREASTS] of fated men —: which of the champions did trees of the rim-land [SHIELD > WARRIORS] say supported Óláfr most bravely; I make the smooth drink of the family of Surtr <giant> [GIANTS > POETRY].
Ógrœðir sá auða
armgrjóts Trana fljóta
— hann rauð geir at gunni
glaðr — ok báða Naðra,
áðr hjaldrþorinn heldi
hugframr í bǫð ramri
snotr á snœrivitni
sunds Þórketill undan.
 
‘The non-increaser of arm-gravel [JEWELS > GENEROUS MAN] saw Trani (‘Crane’) and both Naðrar (‘Adders’) floating empty — glad, he reddened the spear in war —, before clash-bold, wise Þorkell, great-hearted in fierce battle, fled on the cable-wolf of the sea [SHIP].
Ítrfermðum réð Ormi
orðsæll jǫfurr norðan
— snǫrp varð at þat sverða
snót — Eireki á móti.
En hýjǫfnum hefnir
hlýrs þeim Gota stýrði
— áðr óx of gram góðan
gunnr — Hôkonar sunnan.
 
‘The acclaimed prince [Óláfr] guided splendidly-laden Ormr (‘Serpent’) from the north against Eiríkr; the lady of swords [= Hildr (hildr ‘battle’)] became keen at that. But Hákon’s avenger [= Eiríkr] steered that very straight Goti <legendary horse> of the bow [SHIP] from the south; battle had swelled earlier around the good ruler.
Veitkat hitt, hvárt Heita
hungrdeyfi skalk leyfa
dynsæðinga dauðan
dýrbliks eða þó kvikvan,
alls sannliga segja
— sárr mun gramr at hvôru —
— hætts til hans at frétta —
hvárrtveggja mér seggir.
 
‘I do not know whether I am to praise the hunger-soother of the gulls of the din of the gleam of the beast of Heiti <sea-king> [(lit. ‘hunger-soother of the din-gulls of the beast-gleam of Heiti’) SHIP > SHIELD > BATTLE > RAVENS/EAGLES > WARRIOR] dead or, after all, alive, since men tell me both as the truth; the lord must be wounded either way; it is risky to enquire about him.
Sagðr vas mér — né meira
muni maðr stríð of bíða —
lýðum firrðr ok láði
landvǫrðr fyr sæ handan.
Væri oss, þótt ærir
elds þeim svikum belldi,
heilalíkn, ef, hauka
hôklifs, jǫfurr lifði.
 
‘The land’s guardian [RULER = Óláfr] was said to me to be deprived of people and realm across the sea; a man will not suffer greater grief. It would be healing mercy for us if the lord lived, although envoys of the fire of the high cliff of hawks [ARM > GOLD > GENEROUS MEN] committed that treachery.
†Samr† vas ôrr of ævi
oddbragðs, hinns þat sagði,
at lofða gramr lifði,
læstyggs burar Tryggva.
Vesa kveðr ǫld ór éli
Ôleif kominn stála;
menn geta máli sǫnnu
— mjǫks verr an svá — ferri.
 
‘The envoy of the point-thrust [BATTLE > WARRIOR], who said that the ruler of warriors [= Óláfr] was alive was … about the life of the deceit-shunning son of Tryggvi [= Óláfr]. People say Óláfr escaped the blizzard of steel weapons [BATTLE]; men guess [things] further from the true story; it is much worse than that.
Mundut þess, es þegnar
þróttharðan gram sóttu,
— ferk með lýða líði
landherðar — skǫp verða,
at mundjǫkuls myndi
margdýrr koma stýrir
— geta þykkjat mér gotnar
glíkligs — ór her slíkum.
 
‘Fate would not have come to this, when retainers attacked the mightily tough lord — I deal with ale of the folk of the land-shoulder [ROCK > GIANTS > POETRY] —, that the magnificent controller of hand-icicle [SILVER > MAN] would escape [lit. come out of] such a force; men do not seem to me to talk of a likely thing.
Enn segir auðar kenni
austr ór malma gnaustan
seggr frá sôrum tyggja
sumr eða braut of kumnum.
Nús sannfregit sunnan
siklings ór styr miklum
(kannka mart við manna)
morð (veifanarorði).
 
‘Still some warrior tells the master of riches [MAN] that the ruler was wounded or escaped eastwards from the clashing of metal weapons [BATTLE]. Now the slaying of the king is truly heard of out of the south from the great battle; I do not care much for vacillating words of men.
Norðmanna hykk nenninn
— nús þengill framgenginn —
— dýrr hné dróttar stjóri —
dróttin* und lok sóttan.
Grams dauði brá gœði
góðs ófárar þjóðar;
allr glepsk friðr af falli
flugstyggs sonar Tryggva.
 
‘I think the energetic lord of Norwegians [= Óláfr] has gone to his end; now the prince has passed on; the worthy steerer of the retinue [RULER] fell. The death of the good ruler snatched away the well-being of not a few peoples; all peace is confounded by the fall of the flight-shunning son of Tryggvi [= Óláfr].
Harðgǫrvan lét hjǫrvi
holms verða Týr sverða
vind á víðu sundi
vígþey Heðins meyjar,
áðr an Ormi næði
Eirekr eða hlut meira;
mǫrg óð bitr í blóði
benkneif fyr Ôleifi.
 
‘The Týr <god> of swords [WARRIOR] made the wind of the maiden of Heðinn <legendary hero> [= Hildr > BATTLE], war-breeze [BATTLE], become hard-fought with the sword on the wide sound of the islet, before Eiríkr got Ormr (‘Serpent’) and the better lot; many a biting wound-hook [SWORD] waded in blood before Óláfr.
Illt vas, þats ulfa sultar
optþverri stóðk ferri,
mest þars malmar brustu,
mein, þótt smátt sé und einum.
Skiliðr em ek við skylja;
skalmǫld hefr því valdit;
vættik virða dróttins;
vils mest ok dul flestum.
 
‘It was an evil, harmful thing that I stood far from the frequent diminisher of the famine of wolves [WARRIOR], where metal weapons clashed most, though little may depend on one man. I am separated from the ruler; a sword-age [BATTLE] has caused that; I hope for the lord of men [RULER]; to most it [that hope] is the greatest wilfulness and delusion.
Hefk, þanns hverjum jǫfri
heiptfíknum varð ríkri
und niðbyrði Norðra
norðr, goðfǫður orðinn.
Bíða munk, þess’s breiðan
barðmána vann skarðan,
margaukanda mækis
móts aldrigi bótir.
 
‘I have lost a godfather who was mightier than every strife-greedy prince in the north under the burden of the kin of Norðri <dwarf> [(lit. ‘kin-burden of Norðri’) DWARFS > SKY]. I will never experience compensation for the much-increaser of the meeting of the sword [BATTLE > WARRIOR] who hacked the broad prow-moon [SHIELD].
Hlautk þanns œztr vas einna
(ek sanna þat) manna
und niðbyrði Norðra
norðr goðfǫður orðinn.
 
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This text is from an old edition
Fyrr mun heimr ok himnar,
hugreifum Ôleifi,
— hann vas mennskra manna
mest gótt — í tvau bresta,
áðr an glíkr at góðu
gœðingr muni fœðask;
kœns hafi Kristr inn hreini
konungs ǫnd ofar lǫndum.
 
‘Earth and heavens will sooner split in two before a chieftain equal to glad-hearted Óláfr in goodness might be born; he was the greatest good among human beings; may the pure Christ keep the soul of the wise king high above the lands.
Norðr eru ǫll of orðin
auð lǫnd at gram dauðan;
allr glepsk friðr af falli
flugstyggs sonar Tryggva.
 
‘All lands in the north have been desolated by the king’s death; all peace is confounded by the fall of the flight-shunning son of Tryggvi [= Óláfr].
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