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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Kormákr Ǫgmundarson (KormǪ)

10th century; volume 5; ed. Edith Marold;

III. 1. Sigurðardrápa (Sigdr) - 7

Skj info: Kormákr Ǫgmundarson, Islandsk skjald c. 930-70. (AI, 79-91, BI, 69-85).

Skj poems:
1. Sigurðardrápa
2. Lausavísur
2. Lausavísur

my abbr - FJ's conflicts with saga

Sigurðardrápa (‘Drápa about Sigurðr’) — KormǪ SigdrIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘ Kormákr Ǫgmundarson, Sigurðardrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 272. <> (accessed 5 July 2022)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7 

Skj: Kormákr Ǫgmundarson: 1. Sigurðardrápa, o. 960 (AI, 79-80, BI, 69-70)

in texts: HákGóð, Hkr, LaufE, Skm, SnE

SkP info: III, 272

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


The stanzas by Kormákr Ǫgmundarson edited here as belonging to one poem, SigurðardrápaDrápa about Sigurðr’ (KormǪ Sigdr), are for the most part (sts 1-5, 7) from Skm (SnE). One stanza (st. 6) is cited in Hákonar saga góða (HákgóðHkr ch. 14, ÍF 26, 168) and deals with a Sigurðr jarl (on the question of his identity, see below). According to the Hkr prose, that stanza was part of Kormákr’s Sigurðardrápa (loc. cit.): Þess getr Kormákr Ǫgmundarson í SigurðardrápuKormákr Ǫgmundarson describes this in Sigurðardrápa’. Stanzas 1, 2, 4 and 7 are also contained in LaufE. Because the stanzas in LaufE are copied from ms. W of Skm, the LaufE text has no independent value and has not been considered in the present edition. The individual stanzas are preserved in the following mss: st. 1: R, , W, U, A (SnE); st. 2: R, , W, U, A, C (SnE); st. 3: R (twice), (twice), W, U (twice), A, C (SnE); st. 4: R, , W, U, A, C (SnE); st. 5: R, , U A, C (SnE); st. 6: , F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ (Hkr); st. 7: R, , W, U, B (SnE). For the stanzas preserved in SnE the main ms. is R and for st. 6, transmitted in Hkr, the main ms. is .

In Skm the stanzas are merely attributed to ‘Kormákr’ (without patronymic) and the title of the poem is not given. Some earlier scholars (LH I, 529; CPB II, 32-3; Finnur Jónsson 1931; Jón Helgason 1953, 122; Ström 1993, 367) have assumed, mostly without sufficient reason, that all these stanzas belong to a poem honouring Sigurðr jarl Hákonarson of Lade, and in Skj and Skald they are edited together under the title Sigurðardrápa. Other scholars (Clunies Ross 2005a, 84-5; Frank 1978, 117) have challenged this view. Fidjestøl (1982, 92-4) and Wood (1959a) examined the problem at length, but came to very different conclusions. The question of how to group the stanzas involves two kinds of arguments, based either on the naming or apostrophising of rulers in the extant stanzas or on formal features (the verse-form). According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 256, 261, 265, 274, 280), Kormákr composed poetry in honour of two Norwegian rulers, namely, Sigurðr jarl Hákonarson of Lade (d. 962) and Haraldr gráfeldr ‘Grey-cloak’ Eiríksson (d. 970), grandson of King Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’. The stanzas edited here mention various rulers either by name or periphrastically. Stanza 1 presumably addresses Sigurðr jarl (see Note to st. 1/1, 2, 4), but his son, Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (d. 995), is also a possible candidate. Stanza 2 explicitly names Sigurðr jarl. The person honoured in sts 3 and 4 cannot be determined. Stanza 5 is dedicated to the ‘famous son of Sigrøðr/Sigurðr’, whom we may with some certainty identify as Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (see Note to st. 5/1, 2). Stanza 6 contains no names, but according to Hkr it addresses Sigurðr jarl and is part of a poem called Sigurðardrápa (see above). No particular ruler is mentioned in st. 7, but the kenning allvaldr aldar Yngva ‘mighty ruler of the people of Yngvi’ means that the stanza is probably about an Yngling, i.e. a descendant of Haraldr hárfagri, and not about a member of the dynasty of the jarls of Lade, who traced their lineage to Sæmingr, son of Óðinn and the giantess Skaði (ÍF 26, 21-2). It is likely that the person honoured here is Haraldr gráfeldr Eiríksson (cf. the entries in Skáldatal cited above). On the problem that Haraldr gráfeldr was a Christian, see Note to st. 7/1-2, 3.

Assigning the stanzas to one poem honouring Sigurðr jarl, as Finnur Jónsson (1931; Skj B) does, is definitely untenable. The use of the verse-form hjástælt ‘abutted’ (see below) in sts 3-7 does not support the contention that these stanzas belonged to a single poem dedicated to one particular ruler, because Kormákr may have made frequent use of this special metrical and syntactic peculiarity.

A Sigurðardrápa such as it is laid out in Skj and Skald very likely never existed (SnE 1848-87, III, 467-8; Wood 1959a, 305; Frank 1978, 117; Fidjestøl 1982, 92-4). It is not possible to assign the stanzas to one poem honouring Hákon jarl alone, as Clunies Ross (2005a, 84-5) suggests. Nor is it likely that the stanzas stem from a single poem honouring both Sigurðr jarl and Hákon jarl (Wood 1959a, 305; Fidjestøl loc. cit.), because a poem composed during Sigurðr’s lifetime would hardly have mentioned Hákon jarl as mærr mǫgr ‘famous son’ unless it was a general and conventional epithet (Hákon jarl did not gain fame until after Sigurðr’s death, when he avenged his father and reconquered Norway). Thus the stanzas edited here under the title Sigurðardrápa may have originally belonged to poems about several rulers. Nonetheless, given the uncertainties attached to them, the scholarly tradition of editing them together under the same title has been maintained.

A dating of the stanzas is only possible on the basis of the years of death of the rulers mentioned in them: Sigurðr jarl Hákonarson died in 962, Haraldr gráfeldr in 970 and Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in 995. Kormákr himself is thought to have lived c. 935-70 (Finnur Jónsson 1931, 107).

One special feature of sts 3-7 is their use of the verse-form hjástælt ‘abutted’, a variant of dróttkvætt metre in which metrical positions 2-6 in ll. 4 and 8 are occupied by an independent clause (stál ‘insertion’) which contains a ‘saying’ (orðtak) that relates ‘ancient memories’ (forn minni) (SnSt Ht 13; SnE 2007, 10, 78; Kuhn 1983, 179-82). This characteristic syntactic arrangement is found only in these stanzas by Kormákr and then later in Snorri’s Háttatal (SnSt Ht 13), where Snorri probably used Kormákr’s stanzas as a model. Kormákr, who perhaps invented this formal arrangement, may have used it in several poems. It is impossible to prove that this metrical and syntactic peculiarity indicates that the stanzas originally belonged to an ekphrastic poem (Lie 1956b, 544). It is possible, however, that the juxtaposition between the content of the abutted clauses and the rest of the helmingar expresses a connection between a mythical and a historical world (Marold 1990a, 112, 118; cf. Frank 1978, 117). The analogy between myth and reality is conveyed on several stylistic levels. At the level of the kenning in sts 3 and 6/5-8, the content of the stál provides a mythical counterpart to the ruler-kennings. Second, in st. 4 (and perhaps in st. 5) we see a juxtaposition of history and myth and, finally, in sts 6/1-4 and 7, there is an opposition between history and myth.

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