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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson (Hfr)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Diana Whaley;

2. Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (ErfÓl) - 29

Skj info: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, Islandsk skjald, død ved 1007. (AI, 155-73, BI, 147-63).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonardrápa
2. Óláfsdrápa
3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa
4. Eiríksdrápa
5. Lausavísur

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ‘Troublesome-poet’ Óttarsson (Hfr) was brought up in Vatnsdalur, northern Iceland, probably in the 960s. He is the subject of Hallfreðar saga (Hallfr), which survives both as a continuous text (ÍF 8, 133-200) and interpolated into ÓT. The main strands of the saga are Hallfreðr’s unhappy relationship with Kolfinna Ávaldadóttir, his travels as trader, fighter and poet, his conversion to Christianity and his devotion to Óláfr Tryggvason, and all these aspects of his life occasioned poetry which partially survives.

Fragments of an early drápa for Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (r. c. 970-c. 995) are extant (Hfr HákdrIII; ÍF 8, 151), but the greater part of Hallfreðr’s court poetry, and the poetry edited in this volume, concerns King Óláfr Tryggvason (c. 995-c. 1000): Óláfsdrápa (Hfr Óldr) and Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (Hfr ErfÓl). Like other Icelanders, Hallfreðr accepted Christian baptism under the influence of Óláfr. The difficulty, for a poet and pagan, of this switch of religious allegiance is the theme of Hfr Lv 6-10V, and is, according to the sagas, alluded to in his nickname vandræðaskáld, lit. ‘Poet of difficulties’. The sagas agree that the name was bestowed by the king, though they differ about the precise reason (ÓTOdd 1932, 125-6; Hkr, ÍF 26, 331-2; Hallfr, ÍF 8, 155; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 387). Hallfreðr is attributed with a lost Uppreistardrápa ‘Restoration drápa’ (?), supposedly composed to atone for his journey into pagan Gautland (Västergötland, ÍF 8, 178). He is also credited in Hallfr (ÍF 8, 194-5) with an encounter with Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (r. c. 1000-c. 1014) and in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 266, 280) with poetry for him; this is vestigially preserved in Eiríksdrápa (Hfr EirdrV). The saga also shows Hallfreðr presenting a flokkr to the Danish jarl Sigvaldi (ÍF 8, 168) and a poem to the Swedish king Óláfr Eiríksson (ÍF 8, 177-8), but no traces of these survive.

The marriage of Kolfinna, the love of Hallfreðr’s youth, to Gríss Sæmingsson provoked Hallfreðr both early and later in life to compose strikingly inventive stanzas which intertwine themes of yearning love and rivalry (Hfr Lv 1-3, 15-24V), and his níð against Gríss led to legal proceedings and indirectly to the killing of Hallfreðr’s brother Galti (Ldn, ÍF 1, 224; ÍF 8, 189-90). In the course of an adventure in Västergötland (Hfr Lv 12-14V), Hallfreðr met and married Ingibjǫrg Þórisdóttir, who died young, but not before bearing two sons, Auðgísl and Hallfreðr. According to Hallfr (ÍF 8, 196-9), Hallfreðr himself died at the age of nearly forty, from a combination of illness and injury as he sailed through the Hebrides; he was buried on Iona (cf. Hfr Lv 26-7V).

Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr Tryggvason’) — Hfr ErfÓlI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 5 July 2022)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26a   26b   27   28 

Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld: 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa, 1001 (AI, 159-66, BI, 150-7); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 27 | 28 | 29

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Hallfr, HallfrÓT, Hkr, ÓT, ÓTC, ÓTOdd, Skm, SnE, SnEA, Þiðr

SkP info: I, 400

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Twenty-three full stanzas and five helmingar are edited here as Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar ‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr Tryggvason’ by Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ‘Troublesome-poet’ Óttarsson (Hfr ErfÓl). The poem concerns King Óláfr’s last battle at Svǫlðr (c. 1000; see entry for Óláfr Tryggvason in ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume), with final stanzas on the skald’s response to his loss.

Hallfreðar saga (Hallfr, ÍF 8, 192-4) relates that Hallfreðr is in Iceland when he hears the news of the king’s death. He sails to Norway and reaches Sognsjór (Sognefjorden) on the ‘Winter Nights’ (in mid-October), where he enquires about Óláfr’s fall and composes his poem. It is called Óláfs drápaDrápa about Óláfr’ or equivalent in several medieval sources (ÓT 1958-2000, II, 265; ÍF 8, 194; Hallfr 1977, 42, 102), though the M text of Hallfr (Hallfr 1977, 42) refers merely to kvæði því einu, er hann orti um Óláf konung ‘that certain poem which he composed about King Óláfr’, and ÓT (1958-2000, II, 292) speaks more generally of kveðskap(r) Hallfreðar ‘Hallfreðr’s poetry’ in the prose introduction to st. 22. The presence of a stef ‘refrain’ in sts 23 and 28 confirms that the poem is a drápa, but the term erfi (-drápa, ‑kvæði) which would distinguish it as a memorial poem is not applied to it in any medieval source.

All the stanzas in the Text below are attributed to Hallfreðr in at least one medieval source, and none appear to be lausavísur (the contrary view in van Eeden 1945a is unconvincing). Variant readings in ÓT (1958-2000, II, 258 n., 268 n.) give sts 2 and 7 to Hallar-Steinn due to confusion with his Rekstefja (HSt Rst), but the absence of Rst’s distinctive tvískelft metre and the testimony of most mss are against this attribution (see further Notes to sts 2 [All], 7 [All]). There are no reasons for suspicion about the poem’s authenticity as a whole (pace Sveinbjörn Rafnsson 2005, 407), though objections have been raised to individual stanzas. The helmingr edited in Skj B as st. 26 is probably an inferior (oral?) variant of the present edition’s st. 26a/1-4, with which it shares its last two lines, and it is printed in SkP V as Hfr ErfÓl 26bV (Hallfr 7; see Note to st. 26a/1-4 below). In sts 18 and 22, however, the repetitive content and unusual kennings that aroused Krijn’s suspicions (1931, 121-2) are for others the hallmark of Hallfreðr’s deeply felt emotion and the poem’s artfulness (Petersen 1935, 24-6; Fidjestøl 1982, 110), and Krijn’s arguments are not sufficient to deem these stanzas inauthentic against the witness of the mss.

Almost all that survives of ErfÓl is cited in a single sequence, interspersed with prose and the stanzas of other skalds, in ÓT’s account of the battle of Svǫlðr and its aftermath. The exceptions are the stanzas containing the stef (sts 23 and 28), and st. 26bV, a variant of st. 26a/1-4 (noted above). Stanza 28 seems to have entered the tradition via Þiðreks saga (Þiðr; see Context to st. 28), and is also in one ms. of ÓTOdd and in Hallfr. Substantial sections of the poem are also preserved in Fsk, ÓTOdd and Hkr, and these texts’ greater age suggests they have priority over ÓT as sources for the shared stanzas. It is not certain which of Fsk, ÓTOdd, and Hkr is primary, but both ÓTOdd and Hkr could have taken all their stanzas from Fsk (except st. 19; but see Fidjestøl 1982, 24), and Fsk uniquely preserves st. 23. Fsk is therefore taken here as representing the earliest surviving textual tradition of ErfÓl, and given textual priority where appropriate. SnE quotes two helmingar, sts 6/5-8 and 25/5-8; 6/5-8 is in the version of SnE in ms. A only (see SnE 1998, I, lxiv-lxv; Guðrún Nordal 2001, 57-64, 232-4).

The order in which stanzas are quoted in ÓT is our only evidence for their original sequence and should be deviated from only when there are good reasons for doing so. The ÓT order is editorially modified in the Text as follows (largely following Fidjestøl 1982, 109-10, 171; for alternative reconstructions, see Guðbrandur Vígfússon and Möbius 1860, 207-10; van Eeden 1945a; Ohlmarks 1958, 462). The order of the first three stanzas reflects that of the earliest sources, Fsk and ÓTOdd, whereas Skj follows ÓT. The present edition has also moved st. 17, which ÓT places in final position, to the end of the battle-description proper, immediately before the stanzas describing the conflicting accounts of Óláfr’s last moments. Internal evidence suggests that st. 27, the penultimate stanza in ÓT, is in fact the poem’s conclusion (cf. Árni Magnússon’s comment in 761bˣ, 175v), and the placement of st. 17 at the end of the ÓT sequence is probably a consequence of its citation as a parallel for Hókr Eirfl 8. The two stanzas which contain the poem’s stef, sts 23 and 28, are not cited in ÓT, but Fsk’s placement of st. 23 makes sense and is followed here. There is no compelling external or internal evidence for the position of st. 28 and it is accordingly placed last.

The deictic þar ‘there’ in st. 1/1 and the absence of conventional poem-opening formulas suggest that some stanzas are missing from the beginning of the poem. Fidjestøl (1982, 106) suggests that a set of stanzas on Óláfr’s early viking career attributed to Hallfreðr in Fsk and ÓTOdd could have been part of this lost opening section, since such resumés are common in the beginnings of erfidrápur (Fidjestøl 1989a, 484). Evidence either way is, however, lacking, so the ‘viking’ set is edited as a separate poem, Hfr Óldr, in the present volume, as in Skj. See further Introduction to Hfr Óldr.

The following mss are used in this edition: the ÓT mss 61, 53, 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb, 325VIII 2 b and Flat (for sts 1-22, 24-7 or subsets of these); the Hkr mss , F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ and 325VIII 1 (for sts 1, 3, 10, 16, 18, 20-2 or subsets of these); the Fsk mss FskAˣ (for sts 1, 3, 10, 16, 18, 20-3) and FskBˣ (for sts 1, 3); the ÓTOdd mss Holm18, 310 and 4-7 (for sts 1, 3, 10, 16, 18/1-4, 19, 28 or subsets of these); the SnE mss R, , U, A, B (supplemented by 744ˣ where B is illegible) and C (for sts 6/5-8 (A only) and 25/5-8); the Hallfr mss M and Flat, and the Þiðr mss 178ˣ, 177ˣ and 100ˣ (for st. 28). The marginal variants 22ˣmarg, representing the Hkr tradition, are also cited where available (for sts 16, 18, 20-2; see Note to st. 16 [All]). The copy of the poem in Árni Magnússon’s anthology in 761bˣ is almost entirely from extant sources, and is not used, though Árni’s marginalia are occasionally of value and are mentioned above or in Notes. The readings of papp18ˣ and 521ˣ, transcripts of the K ms. of Hkr, have been examined for this edition, but are not included in the Readings below since they either duplicate and confirm the readings of , or are clearly secondary. Similarly, the Fsk transcripts 51ˣ, 302ˣ, 52ˣ and 301ˣ are not used except that 52ˣ and 301ˣ are used in addition to FskAˣ in st. 23, since it is preserved only there.

The main mss for the Text in the present edition are as follows. Where a stanza appears in Fsk, the main ms. is almost always from this textual tradition, for the reasons given above. FskBˣ is therefore the main ms. for st. 3, and the inferior FskAˣ for the remaining stanzas (sts 10, 16, 18, 20-3), missing from FskBˣ due to a lacuna in its exemplar. In st. 1, where Fsk’s text is clearly corrupt, the ÓTOdd tradition is given priority, and in this edition ms. Holm18 is the main ms. rather than 310 as in Skj A, both because Holm18’s text of the stanza is superior, and because it is favoured in the most recent edition of ÓTOdd, that of Ólafur Halldórsson in ÍF 25 (see ‘Sources’ in Introduction to this volume). The earliest source for st. 19 is ÓTOdd, and here again Holm18 is the main ms. The Þiðr ms. 178ˣ supplies the base text for st. 28, as Holm18 is usually thought to have taken this stanza from Þiðr (so Þiðr 1905-11, lv; ÓTOdd 1932, xv), and Flat is assumed to have it from (an inaccurate recollection of) Holm18 (Hallfr 1977, lxxxii-iv). Finally, where a stanza is only in ÓT, 61 is the main ms. where possible (for sts 2, 4, 11-15, 17, 25, 26a, 27); however it has a lacuna where sts 5-9 are normally cited and omits st. 24. The main ms. for st. 24 is 53, a sister ms. to 61 for this part of the ÓT text, while for sts 5-9 it is 54, as 53 has an interpolated text here, most closely related to the Flat redaction (ÓT 1958-2000, III, ccxc-ccxci, cccxlix), and lacks sts 6, 8 and 9.

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