Bragi inn gamli Boddason (Bragi)
9th century; volume 3; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;
1. Ragnarsdrápa (Rdr) - 12
2. Þórr’s fishing (Þórr) - 6
3. Fragments (Frag) - 6
4. An exchange of verses between Bragi and a troll-woman (Troll) - 1
IV. Lausavísur (Lv) - 2
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).
Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Fragments’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 53.
Skj: Bragi enn gamli: 2. Ubestemmelige vers (AI, 4, BI, 4-5); stanzas (if different): 1 |
in texts: Gramm, Gylf, Hkr, LaufE, Skm, SnE, TGT, Yng
SkP info: III, 53
||Gefjun dró frá Gylfa |
glǫð djúprǫðul ǫðla,
svát af rennirauknum
rauk, Danmarkar auka.
Bôru øxn ok átta
ennitungl, þars gingu
fyr vinjeyjar víðri
valrauf, fjǫgur haufuð.
|Gefjun drew from Gylfi, glad, a deep disk of inherited land [ISLAND = Sjælland], Denmark’s addition [= Sjælland], so that steam rose from the swift-moving draught animals. The oxen bore eight forehead-moons [EYES] and four heads, where they went before the wide plunder-rift of the meadow-island [= Sjælland]. |
||Hinn, es varp á víða |
of manna sjǫt margra
munnlaug fǫður augum.
|The one who threw the eyes of the father of the ski-dís <minor female deity> [= Skaði > = Þjazi] into the wide hand-basin of winds [SKY/HEAVEN] above the dwellings of many men.|
||Vel hafið yðrum eykjum |
aptr, Þrívalda, haldit
simbli sumbls of mærum,
sundrkljúfr níu hǫfða.
|You have well driven back your draught animals, cleaver asunder of the nine heads of Þrívaldi <giant> [= Þórr], above the famous drink-provider of the drinking party [= Ægir (ægir ‘ocean’)].|
||Þars, sem lofðar líta |
lung váfaðar Gungnis.
|It is there as men see the longship of the swinger of Gungnir <Óðinn’s spear> [= Óðinn > HORSE = Sleipnir].|
||Eld of þák af jǫfri |
ǫlna bekks við drykkju
(þat gaf) Fjǫlnis fjalla
(með fulli mér stillir).
|I received from the prince fire of the bench of mackerels [SEA > GOLD] for the drink of the Fjǫlnir <= Óðinn> of the mountains [GIANT = Suttungr > POETRY]; the ruler gave me that with a toast.|
||Þann áttak vin verstan |
vazt- rǫdd en mér baztan
|I had that friend, the third one, blameless, worst to the voice of the Áli <sea-king> of the fishing ground-under-knob [ROCK > GIANT > GOLD], but best to me.|