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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson (Ólhv)

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

III. 2. Fragments (Frag) - 9

Skj info: Óláfr Þórðarson hvítaskáld, Islandsk skjald og lærd, d. 1259. (AII, 92-8, BII, 104-10).

Skj poems:
1. Et digt om kong Hákon
2. Et hrynhent digt
3. Árónsdrápa
4. Af et digt om Thomas Becket
5. Lausavísur

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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 

SkP info: III, 309

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Ólhv Frag 9III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Tarrin Wills (ed.) 2017, ‘Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson, Fragments 9’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 309.

Vǫndrs Máría mynduð
(meins en eplit hreina
endr gat) Jesse kindar
(alls grœðari kallask).


Mary is symbolised by the branch of Jesse’s kin, and {the healer of all evil} [= Christ] was once called the pure apple.

context: Cited as an example of paradigma, which Óláfr explains as follows (TGT 1927, 89): Paradigma samjamnar fyrst nǫkkura hluti ok síðan greinir hon þá í líkingParadigma first juxtaposes certain things and then it distinguishes them in form’.

notes: Example of paradigma. Donatus has two types of paradigma: hortantis, exemplefied by antenor potuit mediis elapsus Achiuis Illiricos penetrare sinus; and deterrentis, with at non sic Phrygius penetrat Lacedaemona pastor | Ledaeamque Helenam Troianas vexit ad urbes. Louis-Jensen does not deal with Óláfr’s possible authorship in her article on this helmingr. — Björn Magnússon Ólsen (TGT 1884, 118-19) finds a model for this half-stanza in an example of versus dissoni ‘discordant verse’ in a C13th Latin grammatical manuscript (Thurot 1868, 456): Aaron virga, quæ tulit duram | cum flore nucem contra naturam, | est porta celi | aperta nunquam sed semper clausa. | Nostræ salutis extitit causa | virgo Maria ‘The rod of Aaron, which brings forth a hard nut with a flower, contrary to nature, is the gate of heaven, never open but always closed. The cause of our salvation was the Virgin Mary’. The Latin example appears to have also inspired Óláfr’s commentary (TGT 1927, 89): Hér er greind sú samjafnan, er áðr er upp tekin milli vandar þess, er Árón bar ok laufgaðiz með ávexti, ok Máríe drótningar, er fæddi guðs son um framm mannligt eðli ‘Here the comparison is made, which has been previously established, between the staff which Aaron carried and which grew leaves with fruit, and Mary the queen who gave birth to the son of God outside human nature’.

texts: TGT 123, Gramm 125

editions: Skj Anonyme digte og vers [XII]: G [5]. Andre religiøse vers og herhen hørende digtbrudstykker 4 (AI, 627; BI, 635); Skald I, 308; SnE 1818, 334, SnE 1848, 200, SnE 1848-87, II, 188-9, 427, III, 153, TGT 1884, 32, 118-19, 237, TGT 1927, 89, 110.


AM 748 I b 4° (A) 8v, 1 - 8v, 2 (TGT)  transcr.  image  image  image  
AM 242 fol (W) 111, 13 - 111, 14 (TGT)  transcr.  image  image  image  
AM 761 a 4°x (761ax) 88r, 12 - 88r, 15 (Skáldatal)  image  
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