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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bragi inn gamli Boddason (Bragi)

9th century; volume 3; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

1. Ragnarsdrápa (Rdr) - 12

Skj info: Bragi enn gamli, Norsk skjald, omkr. 800-850. (AI, 1-5, BI, 1-5).

Skj poems:
[untitled]
1. Ragnarsdrápa
2. Ubestemmelige vers
3. Lausavísur

It is not possible to be precise about either the dates of Bragi Boddason’s (Bragi) floruit or about the details of his life. Some of the latter are almost certainly legendary (e.g. the narratives associated with Bragi Lv 1abIV, VIII and Bragi Troll), while his sobriquet inn gamli ‘the Old’ places him almost in prehistory, seen from an Icelandic viewpoint. Landnámabók (Ldn, ÍF 1, 82) mentions him as being associated by marriage with the family of Arinbjǫrn hersir from Firðir (Fjordane) in Western Norway, and Egils saga (Eg, ÍF 2, 182) places him in the same context. Ldn tells that Bragi’s wife was Lopthœna, daughter of another poet, Erpr lútandi ‘the Stooping’. Bragi seems to have been active as a poet in Norway one or two generations before the settlement of Iceland, hence c. 850-70. In Skáldatal’s list of poets (SnE 1848-87, III, 251, 259, 270), Bragi is the first named skald whose works have survived, at least in part. There he is associated with three patrons: Bjǫrn at Haugi, probably a Norwegian ruler, though some sources consider him Swedish (see Jón Jóhannesson 1940), Eysteinn beli and Ragnarr loðbrók ‘Shaggy-breeches’, there said to be a Danish king who himself composed poetry. Snorri Sturluson (SnE 1998, I, 72-3) associates Bragi’s poem Ragnarsdrápa (Rdr) with Ragnarr loðbrók, and he may be one and the same as the Ragnarr mentioned in Rdr’s refrain and ‘the son of Sigurðr’ referred to in Rdr 2/4. If Bragi’s patron Ragnarr is to be identified with the Viking leader who led an attack on Paris in 845, supposedly died in a snake-pit at the hands of King Ælla of Northumbria, and was the father of the Ingware and Ubba that the F version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle claims led raids on England in the 860s and 70s (de Vries 1928a; McTurk 1991a), then their association is just possible chronologically and geographically, as Ragnarr’s connections within Scandinavia were with Norway as well as with Denmark (Smyth 1977, 17-20).

Alongside information about Bragi the poet, Icelandic traditions also mention a god or supernatural being of this name (Grí 44/7, Lok, Sigrdr 16/2, SnE 2005, 25). In the frame narrative of Skm, Snorri Sturluson represents Bragi as the god who informs a curious sea-giant Ægir about the nature of skaldic diction. The connection between Bragi the poet and Bragi the god is uncertain, but it seems likely that Bragi Boddason’s iconic status as the first skald whose poetry survived into historical times contributed to the formation of the concept of a deity closely associated with the practice of skaldic verse in a courtly context (cf. Anon EirmI, Eyv HákI). Some scholars have linked Bragi and the origin of dróttkvætt with the influence of Irish poetry and culture, but their arguments are inconclusive (cf. Turville-Petre 1971; Kuhn 1983, 272-5; Sayers 1992).

Ragnarsdrápa (‘Drápa about Ragnarr’) — Bragi RdrIII

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 27.

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

Skj: Bragi enn gamli: 1. Ragnarsdrápa (AI, 1-4, BI, 1-4); stanzas (if different): 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

in texts: FoGT, Gramm, LaufE, Skm, SnE

SkP info: III, 27

notes: in SnE and Hkr (verse 13)

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

1 Vilið, Hrafnketill, heyra,
hvé hreingróit steini
Þrúðar skalk ok þengil
þjófs ilja blað leyfa?
Do you wish, Hrafnketill, to hear how I shall praise the leaf of the footsoles of the thief of Þrúðr <goddess> [= Hrungnir > SHIELD], bright-planted with colour, and the prince?
2 Nema svát góð ins gjalla
gjǫld baugnafaðs vildi
meyjar hjóls inn mæri
mǫgr Sigvarðar Hǫgna.
Unless in such a way that the famous son of Sigurðr [= Ragnarr loðbrók] should want good recompense for the resounding boss-hubbed wheel of the maid of Hǫgni <legendary king> [= Hildr > SHIELD].
3 Knátti eðr við illan
Jǫrmunrekkr at vakna
með dreyrfáar dróttir
draum í sverða flaumi.
Rósta varð í ranni
Randvés hǫfuðniðja,
þás hrafnbláir hefndu
harma Erps of barmar.
Jǫrmunrekkr then awakened with an evil dream among the blood-stained troops in the eddy of swords [BATTLE]. There was tumult in the hall of the chief kinsmen of Randvér [= the dynasty of the Goths], when the raven-black brothers of Erpr [= Hamðir and Sǫrli] avenged their injuries.
4 Flaut of set við sveita
sóknar alfs á golfi
hræva dǫgg, þars hǫggnar
hendr sem fœtr of kenndu.
Fell í blóði blandinn
brunn ǫlskakki — runna
þats á Leifa landa
laufi fátt — at haufði.
Dew of corpses [BLOOD] flowed over the bench together with the blood of the elf of attack [WARRIOR = Jǫrmunrekkr] on the floor, where people recognised hewn arms and legs. The ale-dispenser [RULER = Jǫrmunrekkr] fell head-first into a well mixed with blood; that is painted on the leaf of the trees of the lands of Leifi <sea-king> [SEA > SHIPS > SHIELD].
5 Þar, svát gerðu gyrðan
golfhǫlkvis sá fylkis,
segls naglfara siglur
saums andvanar standa.
Urðu snemst ok Sǫrli
samráða þeir Hamðir
hǫrðum herðimýlum
Hergauts vinu barðir.
There, so that they encircled the vat of the floor-steed [HOUSE > BED] of the ruler, the masts of the sail of the nail-studded one <ship’s planking> [SHIELD > WARRIORS], lacking nails, stand. Sǫrli and Hamðir were very soon pelted by common resolve with hard shoulder-lumps of the mistress of Hergautr <= Óðinn> [= Jǫrð (jǫrð ‘earth’) > STONES].
6 Mjǫk lét stála støkkvir
styðja Gjúka niðja
flaums, þás fjǫrvi næma
Foglhildar mun vildu.
Ok bláserkjar birkis
ballfǫgr gǫtu allir
ennihǫgg ok eggjar
Jónakrs sonum launa.
The impeller of the eddy of steel [BATTLE > WARRIOR = Jǫrmunrekkr] caused the descendants of Gjúki <legendary king> [= Hamðir and Sǫrli] to be greatly pressed, when they intended to deprive the delight of Bird-hildr <= Svanhildr> [= Jǫrmunrekkr] of life. And all repay the sons of Jónakr <legendary king> [= Hamðir and Sǫrli] for the powerfully splendid forehead blows of the birch-branch of the dark shirt [SWORD] and the path of the sword-blade [WOUND].
7 Þat segik fall á fǫgrum
flotna randar botni.
Ræs gǫfumk reiðar mána
Ragnarr ok fjǫl sagna.
I relate that fall of men on the splendid base of the shield. Ragnarr gave me a moon of the chariot of Rær <sea-king> [SHIP > SHIELD] and a multitude of stories.
8 Ok ofþerris æða
ósk-Rôn at þat sínum
til fárhuga fœra
feðr veðr boga hugði,
þás hristi-Sif hringa
hals- in bǫls of fyllda
bar til byrjar drǫsla
-baug ørlygis draugi.
And the desiring-Rán <goddess> of the excessive drying of veins [VALKYRIE = Hildr] planned to bring the storm of bows [BATTLE] with hostile intentions against her father after that, when the shaking-Sif <goddess> of rings [VALKYRIE = Hildr], the one filled with malice, carried a neck-ring for the tree-trunk of battle [WARRIOR = Hǫgni] to the steeds of the fair wind [SHIPS].
9 Bauða sú til bleyði
bœti-Þrúðr at móti
malma mætum hilmi
men dreyrugra benja.
Svá lét ey, þótt etti,
sem orrostu letti,
jǫfrum ulfs at sinna
með algífris lifru.
That curing-Þrúðr <goddess> of bloody wounds [VALKYRIE = Hildr] did not offer the splendid ruler the neck-ring for the sake of cowardice at the assembly of weapons [BATTLE]. Thus she continually behaved as if she was hindering the battle, although she was inciting the princes to accompany the sister of the complete monster of a wolf [Fenrir] [= Hel].
10 Letrat lýða stillir
landa vanr á sandi
— þá svall heipt í Hǫgna —
hǫðglamma mun stǫðva,
es þrymregin þremja
þróttig Heðin* sóttu,
heldr an Hildar svíra
hringa þeir of fingi.
The controller of men [RULER], lacking lands, does not hold back from stopping the desire of battle-wolves [WARRIORS] on the sand – then hatred swelled in Hǫgni –, when the enduring gods of the noise of sword-edges [(lit. ‘noise-gods of sword-edges’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] attacked Heðinn, rather than accept the rings of the neck of Hildr.
11 Ok fyr hǫnd í holmi
Hveðru brynju Viðris
fengeyðandi fljóða
fordæða nam ráða.
Allr gekk herr und hurðir
Hjarranda framm kyrrar
reiðr af Reifnis skeiði
ráðalfs af mar brôðum.
And the booty-destroying evil-doer among women [= Hildr] took control on the island on behalf of the Viðrir <= Óðinn> of the Hveðra <troll-woman> of the mail-coat [AXE > WARRIOR = Hǫgni]. All the army of the control-elf [RULER = Hǫgni (?)] went forward quickly, enraged, from the ground of Reifnir <sea-king> [SEA], from the sea, beneath unwavering hurdles of Hjarrandi <= Óðinn> [SHIELDS].
12 Þá má sókn á Svǫlnis
salpenningi kenna.
Ræs gǫfumk reiðar mána
Ragnarr ok fjǫl sagna.
That attack can be recognised on the penny of the hall of Svǫlnir <= Óðinn> [(lit. ‘hall-penny of Svǫlnir’) = Valhǫll > SHIELD]. Ragnarr gave me a moon of the chariot of Rær <sea-king> [SHIP > SHIELD] and a multitude of stories.
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