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Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson (Ólhv)

13th century; volume 2; ed. Lauren Goetting;

III. 2. Fragments (Frag) - 9

prose works

Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (Ólhv) was an accomplished Icel. scholar and a prolific poet. Details of his life are documented in Sturlunga saga (Stu), Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák), and Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl). He was born c. 1210-12 at Staður on Snæfellsness, Iceland, as the eldest son of Þórðr Sturluson and his concubine Þóra. He was the nephew of Snorri Sturluson (SnSt; d. 1241), with whom he spent long periods of time as a young man, and the older brother of Sturla Þórðarson (Sturl; d. 1284). In 1237 he left Iceland with Snorri to embark upon a career as a professional poet at the courts of Scandinavia. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256-8, 260, 378-84) Óláfr composed poetry in honour of a large number of kings and noblemen, including the following: (in Norway) Jarl Skúli Bárðarson (d. 1240), King Hákon Hákonarson (d. 1263) and his son Hákon ungi ‘the Young’ Hákonarson (d. 1257), Jarl Knútr Hákonarson (d. 1261); (in Sweden) King Eiríkr Eiríkson (d. 1250); (in Denmark) King Valdimarr Valdimarsson (d. 1241). Because of Óláfr’s close association with Valdimarr, from whom he hafði ... margar ágætligar frásagnir ‘got ... many excellent narratives’ (ÍF 35, 315), he is thought by some to have written Knýtl, which recounts the history of Dan. rulers (see LH 1894-1901, II, 275, 784-5). Around 1242 Óláfr returned to Iceland and founded a school at Stafaholt in Borgarfjörður, where he wrote the Third Grammatical Treatise (TGT) and devoted himself to teaching and writing until his death in 1259. In addition to these pursuits, he was ordained subdeacon at some point after his return to Iceland and also served as lawspeaker 1248-50.

Most of Óláfr’s extant poetry consists of encomia to King Hákon Hákonarson and is inserted throughout the prose in Hák. This includes part of Hrynhenda (Ólhv Hryn), one st. from a Poem about Hákon (Ólhv Hák), and two lvv. (Ólhv Lv). One lv. traditionally assigned to him, has been reassigned in the present edn to Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson (Ólsv Love 3III). Aside from the aforementioned, the remainder of Óláfr’s known poetic works includes two sts from ÁrónsdrápaDrápa about Árón’ (Ólhv ÁrdrIV), composed about his friend Árón Hjǫrleifsson, and two sts from ThómasdrápaDrápa about Thomas (ꜳ Becket)’ (Ólhv ThómdrIII), recorded in the Fourth Grammatical Treatise (FoGT). Finally, nine fragments of sts from TGT (Ólhv FragIII), treated as anonymous in previous eds, are attributed to Óláfr in this edn.

Fragments — Ólhv FragIII

Tarrin Wills 2017, ‘ Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson, 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. 302. <> (accessed 29 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 

SkP info: III, 305

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Ólhv Frag 5III

also: Anonymous Poems, Verses about a battle (?Stiklarstaðir) 7

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Tarrin Wills (ed.) 2017, ‘Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson, Fragments 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 305.

Herr búask hvatt til snerru.


The army prepare themselves keenly for battle.

context: Cited as a second example of syllepsis, the first being Anon (TGT) 18 (see Context there for a definition). In this case a plural verb is used with a singular collective noun. Óláfr states (TGT 1927, 67): Þessi fígúra finz ok sjaldan í nórænum skáldskap ‘This figure is also seldom found in Norse poetry’.

notes: The attribution of this fragment to Óláfr was initially based on the similarity with a supplementary example in the Ars Laureshamensis (CCCM 40A, 221), a citation of Virgil’s Aeneid Book 2, line 20, referring to the Trojan horse: uterumque armato milite complent ‘and they fill the belly with an armed soldier’. The explanation in the Ars Laureshamensis (cum non in utero equi erat unus, sed plures milites ‘since there was not one but more soldiers in the horse’s belly’) is also similar to Óláfr’s explanation (TGT 1927, 67): Herr eru margir menn þeir er til orrostu búaz ‘The army are many men who prepare themselves for battle’. This, however, provides a less satisfactory source than the section of the Doctrinale identified by Wellendorf (forthcoming). — The attribution of this fragment to Óláfr is based on the similarity with the corresponding text and example in the Doctrinale of Alexander of Villa Dei. The following has been identified by Wellendorf [forthcoming] as the source for this section of TGTCum collectivo iunctum plurale sylempsim | assignant aliqui: ‘plebs ista parant equitare’. | sed magis est propria constructio: ‘plebs parat ire’ (Reichling 1893, 164, ll. 2458-60) ‘Some assign [i.e. term it] sylempsis when a plural is connected with a collective: “this mass of people prepare itself to ride”. But a more proper construction is “the mass of people prepares to go” (Wellendorf [forthcoming]).

texts: TGT 67, TGT 1 7, Gramm 69

editions: Skj Anonyme digte og vers [XII]: C. Vers om ubestemmelige personer og begivenheder 18 (AI, 599; BI, 599); Skald I, 292, NN §§2125, 2991B; SnE 1818, 323, SnE 1848, 191, SnE 1848-87, II, 144-5, 418, TGT 1884, 23, 93, 205, TGT 1927, 67, 102.


AM 748 I b 4° (A) 6r, 23 - 6r, 24 (TGT)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 242 fol (W) 106, 24 - 106, 25 (TGT)  transcr.  image  image  image  
AM 761 a 4°x (761ax) 92v, 2 - 92v, 2 (Skáldatal)  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated