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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Svartr á Hofstöðum (Svart)

volume 8; ed. Kari Ellen Gade;

VIII. Skaufhala bálkr (Skauf) - 42

not in Skj

Svartr (desyllabified Svartur) á Hofstöðum (Svart) is named in a first-person epilogue to Skaufhala bálkrBálkr about Tassel-tail’ (Svart Skauf 42/4) but his identity is uncertain. The internal evidence of the language and metre of Skauf, together with circumstantial evidence and an evaluation of the sources, point to Svartr Þorleifsson (d. 1392) from Hofstaðir, Reykhólar, Þorskafjörður, north-western Iceland, as the most likely candidate, though two other members of his family were also named Svartr and associated with Hofstaðir and there are two further traditions about authorship (see Introduction to Skauf). Very little is known about Svartr’s life. He appears to have been severely wounded during a fight at the alþingi in 1361, and the year before he died (1391) he went to Norway (see Storm 1888, 367, 407, 420). He apparently had two sons, Páll and Gísli (Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 222).

Skaufhala bálkr — Svart SkaufVIII

Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘ Svartr á Hofstöðum, Skaufhala bálkr’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 948. <> (accessed 2 July 2022)

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SkP info: VIII, 956

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Svart Skauf 2VIII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Svartr á Hofstöðum, Skaufhala bálkr 2’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 956.

Því voru nítján         niðjar skaufhala
hunds jafningja         heldr en tuttugu,
— þar sannaðiz forn         fyrða mæli —
að oft verðr örgum         eins vant á tög.

Því voru nítján niðjar skaufhala, jafningja hunds, heldr en tuttugu, að oft verðr örgum vant eins á tög; þar sannaðiz forn mæli fyrða.

It was for that reason that there were nineteen offspring of Tassel-tail, a dog’s equal, rather than twenty because the wicked one often lacks one from ten; there the old saying of men came true.

Mss: 603(81), Rask87ˣ(112r)

Readings: [2] skaufhala: so Rask87ˣ, ‘skaufala’ 603    [3] hunds: hans Rask87ˣ;    jafningja: jafningjar Rask87ˣ    [5] forn: so Rask87ˣ, fyrða 603    [6] fyrða: so Rask87ˣ, forn‑ 603

Editions: Kölbing 1876, 242, Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 229, CPB II, 383, Jón Þorkelsson 1922-7, 154, Páll Eggert Ólason 1947, 57.

Notes: [1] því ‘it was for that reason’: Kölbing (1876) takes this as an interrogative (= hví ‘why’), which is possible in later Icelandic (after 1400, see Björn K. Þórólfsson 1925, 46), but less likely in view of the adv.-conj. combination því … að lit. ‘therefore … because’. — [3] jafningja hunds ‘a dog’s equal’: Jafningjar hans (m. nom. pl.) ‘his equals’ (so Rask87ˣ) must be a lectio facilior. See the similar expression (hunds jafningi) in st. 19/4. — [5-6]: Earlier eds (except Páll Eggert Ólason 1947) retain the 603 reading þar [CPB þat] sannadiz fyrða | fornmæli ‘there the old saying of men came true’, which results in two unmetrical lines (l. 5 is hypermetrical and l. 6 is hypometrical). It is not clear why CPB replaces þar ‘there’ with þat ‘that’. — [7-8] oft verðr örgum vant eins á tög ‘the wicked one often lacks one from ten’: Guðbrandur Vigfússon (CPB II, 610) explains this as a proverb: ‘… nineteen is a favourite number in popular tales; a dangerous river has just taken ‘nineteen’ victims, and is waiting for the last; Mount Hecla has had ‘nineteen’ eruptions, and the like’. The ‘wicked one’ most likely refers to Satan here although örgum (nom. argr ‘wicked, cowardly’) could also be dat. pl. Amory (1973, 4) paraphrases this as ‘with cowards there is always one missing out of every ten men’.

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