Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Auðunn illskælda (Auðunn)

9th century; volume 1; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

Lausavísa (Lv) - 1

Skj info: Auðun illskælda, Norsk skjald, 9. årh. (AI, 6, BI, 6).

Skj poems:

Auðunn or Auðun illskælda ‘Bad-poet’ (Auðunn) was a Norwegian skald of the late ninth or early tenth century. He is listed among the poets of the Norwegian king Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261) and figures in the late narrative Skálda saga Haralds konungs hárfagra (Skáld) in Hb (Hb 1892-6, 445-55), as one of three poet-suitors of a rich widow, the other two being Þorbjǫrn hornklofi and Ǫlvir hnúfa. The three poets are there also said to be skalds of King Haraldr, and a lausavísa of each has been preserved in Hb. Egils saga (Eg) also preserves information about this trio of skalds, and claims that Auðunn was the oldest of the three, having previously been court poet to Haraldr’s father, Hálfdan svarti ‘the Black’ (ÍF 2, 19). A separate helmingr by Auðunn (Auðunn Lv 1III) is also preserved in TGT and edited in SkP III. Auðunn’s nickname illskælda (‘Bad, evil poet’) may imply ‘plagiarist’ (Lind 1920-1, 178-9). Its origin is explained in Skáld (Hb 1892-6, 445) as deriving from an incident in which he appropriated the refrain (stef) from a poem that his relative, Úlfr Sebbason, had composed about King Haraldr. The drápa took on the name Stolinstefja ‘The poem with the stolen stef’. To judge by Lv 1III, Auðunn may also have had a reputation for níð poetry, so the name illskælda could refer to his slanderous verse.

Lausavísa — Auðunn LvI

Margaret Clunies Ross 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Auðunn illskælda, Lausavísa’ 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. 120.


Skj: Auðun illskælda: Lausavísur (AI, 6, BI, 6); stanzas (if different): 1

SkP info: I, 122

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Auðunn Lv 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2012, ‘Auðunn illskælda, Lausavísa 2’ 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. 122.

Stóðu vér und víðum
vindar tjǫlgu linda,
herkir hyrjar serkja;
hvé of vélti þat belti?
Þat hykk hrammfjǫturs hvǫttu
Hlǫkk; fannkat mey rakka
í barrskelfis bjalfa
bjúgs þá raman smjúga.

Stóðu vér und víðum linda tjǫlgu vindar, {herkir {hyrjar serkja}}; hvé of vélti belti þat? Hykk {Hlǫkk {hrammfjǫturs}} hvǫttu þat; fannkat rakka mey þá smjúga í raman bjalfa bjúgs barrskelfis.

We [I] stood beneath the broad girdle of the branch of the wind, {giant {of the fire of mail-shirts}} [SWORD > WARRIOR]; how did the ‘belt’ trick me? I think {the Hlǫkk <valkyrie> {of the arm-fetter}} [ARM-RING > WOMAN] encouraged that; I did not find the spirited woman creeping then into the strong hide of the bent pine needle shaker.

Mss: Hb(102r) (Hb); 67aˣ(2v) (ll. 1-6), 67bˣ(4) (ll. 1-6), 307ˣ(3r) (ll. 1-6) (Skáld)

Readings: [1] Stóðu vér und víðum: ‘[…]’ Hb, Særðu vér und viðum 67aˣ, 67bˣ, 307ˣ, Stóðu vér und víðum HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ    [2] vindar: ‘[…]dar’ Hb, vindar 67aˣ, 67bˣ, 307ˣ, HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ;    tjǫlgu (‘tjalgv’): ‘tialg[…]’ Hb, tjálgr 67aˣ, 67bˣ, tjǫlgu 307ˣ, HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ;    linda: ‘[…]’ Hb, linda 67aˣ, 67bˣ, 307ˣ, HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ    [3] herkir: ‘[…]’ Hb, herkir 67aˣ, 67bˣ, 307ˣ, HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ;    serkja: ‘[…]rkia’ Hb, serkja 67aˣ, 67bˣ, HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ, serki 307ˣ    [4] hvé of vélti: ‘hve of vi[…]’ Hb, hvorir alt í 67aˣ, 67bˣ, 307ˣ, ‘hvorr veællt í’ HbFms n. p., hverr vélti HbSnE, hvé of vélti HbFJ;    þat belti: ‘[…]bellti’ Hb, þat belti 67aˣ, 67bˣ, 307ˣ, HbFJ, þat belki HbFms n. p., ‘þat? belti’ HbSnE    [5] hrammfjǫturs: hrafnfjǫturs all others, ‘hraf[…] fiot[…]s’ Hb    [6] Hlǫkk (‘hlakk’): ‘[…]akk’ Hb, hlakka 67aˣ, Hlǫkk 67bˣ, 307ˣ, HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ;    fannkat (‘fankað ek’): ‘fanka[…]’ Hb, fannkat 67aˣ, 67bˣ, HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ, om. 307ˣ;    mey: om. 307ˣ;    rakka: om. 67aˣ, 67bˣ, 307ˣ    [7] í barr‑: ‘ibar’ Hb, HbFJ, ‘man ke’ HbFms n. p., ‘[bóg]ar’ HbSnE;    ‑skelfis: heill hjálpa HbFms n. p., ‘ske[lf und]’ HbSnE;    bjalfa: drengi HbFms n. p.    [8] bjúgs þá raman smjúga: ‘[…]an s[…]uga’ Hb, ‘[…]g smjúga’ HbFms n. p., bjúg þar saman smjúga HbSnE, bjúgs þá raman smjúga HbFJ

Editions: Skj: Auðun illskælda, Lausavísur 2: AI, 6, BI, 6, Skald I, 4, NN §2210A; Hb 1892-6, 447, Fms 3, n. p., Fms 3, 68 (Skáld); SnE 1848-87, III, 406-7. 

Context: See Introduction.

Notes: [All]: On the use of printed eds in the Readings above, see Introduction. — [All]: The sense of the stanza is obscure. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) did not attempt an exact translation but paraphrased thus: Vi stod under det vide gærde; dér havde kvinden opfordret mig i smug; men jeg traf hende ikke ‘We stood beneath the broad fence; the woman had invited me there secretly; but I did not meet her’. — [1-2]: These lines are now largely invisible, but earlier eds were in broad agreement on their wording. It seems reasonable to assume that und víðum linda tjǫlgu vindar ‘beneath the broad girdle of the branch of the wind’ refers to the fence (a skíðgarðr ‘wooden paling fence’ in Ǫlv Lv 1/4 and the prose text of Skáld), presumably made of palings or withies, that prevented the skalds’ escape from the outdoor trap they had been led into. The precise syntactical combination of the words in l. 2 is unclear (vindartjǫlgu or tjǫlgu-linda, cf. NN §2210A), nor is it clear whether the phrase has the status of a kenning. If it has, it may be construed thus: und víðum linda tjǫlgu vindar ‘beneath the broad girdle of the branch of the wind [PALING > FENCE]’. — [3] herkir hyrjar serkja ‘giant of the fire of mail-shirts [SWORD > WARRIOR]’: Guðmundur Finnbogason (1928, 223-4) assumes that the kenning refers to an unnamed servant who has locked the gate of the yard in which the poets were imprisoned overnight. Alternatively, it might be addressed to a fictitious bystander, or even refer to the poet himself if in apposition to vér ‘we [I]’. Herkir is recorded as a giant-name in Þul Jǫtna I 2/3III. Etymologically the noun means ‘devastator’ or ‘noise-maker’, and can also refer to fire (cf. LP: herkir; AEW: herkir; Note to Þul Jǫtna I 2/3III). A man-kenning (in this case specifically a warrior-kenning) with ‘giant’ as base-word is usually pejorative (cf. SnE 1998, I, 40), and this would be appropriate if the referent were a servant. — [4] hvé of vélti belti þat ‘how did the “belt” trick me’: By placing ‘belt’ in inverted commas, the intention is to suggest that it is used metaphorically (as with lindi ‘belt, girdle’ in l. 2) to refer to the paling fence. Belti ‘belt’ forms a striking clause with vélti ‘tricked’, since véla normally takes an animate subject, but cf. Ǫlv Lv 1/3-4, where the same fence has control over poets’ conversation. The object is n. acc. sg. þat, apparently implying skald n., hence ‘me, the poet’. It is to be noted that there is an inexact aðalhending between vélti : belti, but this may be indicative of the stanza’s early date. — [5-6] hykk Hlǫkk hrammfjǫturs þat hvǫttu ‘I think the Hlǫkk <valkyrie> of the arm-fetter [ARM-RING > WOMAN] encouraged that’: Hvǫttu is past inf. of the verb hvetja ‘to whet, encourage’, hence lit. ‘to have encouraged’. The construction hykk ‘I think’ followed by an acc. with past inf. construction is uncommon, but not unprecedented; cf. NS §217b on the construction with verbs of thinking and NS §§220 and 221b on the use of the past. inf. generally. — [5] hrammfjǫturs ‘of the arm-fetter [ARM-RING]’: The first element of this cpd is almost certainly hrafn- in Hb. Assuming, however, that this forms part of a woman-kenning with Hlǫkk (l. 6), the cpd ‘raven-fetter’ would not be appropriate, so some eds (SnE 1848-87, III; Skald) have adopted the rare spelling variant hramm for hrafn (cf. Anon Leið 16/2VII and GSvert Hrafndr 7/3IV), understanding that the scribe has confused it here with the noun hramm- ‘arm’, and that has been followed here; cf. leggfjǫtrs ‘of the limb-fetter [ARM-RING]’ Hár Lv 1/5. — [7-8]: There are many uncertainties about the text of these lines and most of l. 8 is now illegible in the ms. There are also some significant differences in the readings of the various C19th eds. The reading of Hb 1892-6 seems reliable though its various notes should also be consulted. The syntax of the lines is also uncertain. Guðmundur Finnbogason (1928, 224) suggested emending ‘ibar’ to í barm, which could then agree with raman (m. acc. sg. of ramr ‘strong’) to mean ‘into my strong breast’, giving the sense ‘I did not find the spirited woman creeping into my strong embrace’. However, as Kock pointed out (NN §2210A) this requires alliteration to fall on the second element of the noun phrase skelfis bjalfa. He himself (Skald and NN §2210A) emended ‘ibar skelfis’ to í barrskelfis, interpreting this cpd as a noun barrskelfir ‘food (lit. barley)-shaker’, i.e. ‘person generous with food’, applying the cpd to the woman, even though the agent noun skelfir must be m. This conjecture is also unsatisfactory. The interpretation offered here, for which the present ed. is indebted to Kari Ellen Gade, is that barr- means ‘pine needle’ and that the cpd barrskelfis means ‘pine needle shaker’, a kenning-like phrase (or a kenning) for the wind, which is also mentioned in the first helmingr. The adj. bjúgr ‘bent’ then qualifies this cpd noun. This leaves í raman bjalfa ‘into the strong hide (animal-skin)’ as the place to which the rakka mey ‘spirited woman’ (l. 6) does not creep. Although the sense of this phrase is obscure, it could refer to the skíðgarðr ‘paling fence’ that separates the three skalds from the woman they all desire. Perhaps the skíðgarðr was composed of both wooden pales and leather thongs to bind them? Bjalfi is not a common noun, but it occurs in Þjóð Haustl 12/4III, where it forms part of a kenning for an eagle’s wings, flugbjalfi hauks ‘a hawk’s flight-skin’ (the eagle being the giant Þjazi) and in Arngr Gd 34/8IV, where it refers to a man’s leather garment, possibly a cap.

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