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Runic Dictionary

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Bragi inn gamli Boddason (Bragi)

9th century; volume 3; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

1. Ragnarsdrápa (Rdr) - 12

It is not possible to be precise about either the dates of Bragi Boddason’s (Bragi) floruit or about the details of his life. Some of the latter are almost certainly legendary (e.g. the narratives associated with Bragi Lv 1abIV, VIII and Bragi Troll), while his sobriquet inn gamli ‘the Old’ places him almost in prehistory, seen from an Icelandic viewpoint. Landnámabók (Ldn, ÍF 1, 82) mentions him as being associated by marriage with the family of Arinbjǫrn hersir from Firðir (Fjordane) in Western Norway, and Egils saga (Eg, ÍF 2, 182) places him in the same context. Ldn tells that Bragi’s wife was Lopthœna, daughter of another poet, Erpr lútandi ‘the Stooping’. Bragi seems to have been active as a poet in Norway one or two generations before the settlement of Iceland, hence c. 850-70. In Skáldatal’s list of poets (SnE 1848-87, III, 251, 259, 270), Bragi is the first named skald whose works have survived, at least in part. There he is associated with three patrons: Bjǫrn at Haugi, probably a Norwegian ruler, though some sources consider him Swedish (see Jón Jóhannesson 1940), Eysteinn beli and Ragnarr loðbrók ‘Shaggy-breeches’, there said to be a Danish king who himself composed poetry. Snorri Sturluson (SnE 1998, I, 72-3) associates Bragi’s poem Ragnarsdrápa (Rdr) with Ragnarr loðbrók, and he may be one and the same as the Ragnarr mentioned in Rdr’s refrain and ‘the son of Sigurðr’ referred to in Rdr 2/4. If Bragi’s patron Ragnarr is to be identified with the Viking leader who led an attack on Paris in 845, supposedly died in a snake-pit at the hands of King Ælla of Northumbria, and was the father of the Ingware and Ubba that the F version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle claims led raids on England in the 860s and 70s (de Vries 1928a; McTurk 1991a), then their association is just possible chronologically and geographically, as Ragnarr’s connections within Scandinavia were with Norway as well as with Denmark (Smyth 1977, 17-20).

Alongside information about Bragi the poet, Icelandic traditions also mention a god or supernatural being of this name (Grí 44/7, Lok, Sigrdr 16/2, SnE 2005, 25). In the frame narrative of Skm, Snorri Sturluson represents Bragi as the god who informs a curious sea-giant Ægir about the nature of skaldic diction. The connection between Bragi the poet and Bragi the god is uncertain, but it seems likely that Bragi Boddason’s iconic status as the first skald whose poetry survived into historical times contributed to the formation of the concept of a deity closely associated with the practice of skaldic verse in a courtly context (cf. Anon EirmI, Eyv HákI). Some scholars have linked Bragi and the origin of dróttkvætt with the influence of Irish poetry and culture, but their arguments are inconclusive (cf. Turville-Petre 1971; Kuhn 1983, 272-5; Sayers 1992).

Ragnarsdrápa (‘Drápa about Ragnarr’) — Bragi RdrIII

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘ Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 27. <> (accessed 29 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12 

Skj: Bragi enn gamli: 1. Ragnarsdrápa (AI, 1-4, BI, 1-4); stanzas (if different): 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

SkP info: III, 42

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

10 — Bragi Rdr 10III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 10’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 42.

Letrat lýða stillir
landa vanr á sandi
— þá svall heipt í Hǫgna —
hǫðglamma mun stǫðva,
es þrymregin þremja
þróttig Heðin* sóttu,
heldr an Hildar svíra
hringa þeir of fingi.

{Stillir lýða}, vanr landa, letrat stǫðva mun {hǫðglamma} á sandi – þá svall heipt í Hǫgna –, es {þróttig {þremja þrym}regin} sóttu Heðin*, heldr an þeir of fingi hringa svíra Hildar.

{The controller of men} [RULER], lacking lands, does not hold back from stopping the desire {of battle-wolves} [WARRIORS] on the sand – then hatred swelled in Hǫgni –, when {the enduring gods {of the noise of sword-edges}} [(lit. ‘noise-gods of sword-edges’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] attacked Heðinn, rather than accept the rings of the neck of Hildr.

Mss: R(34v), Tˣ(36r), W(79) (SnE)

Readings: [4] glamma: so all others, ‘‑glammrr’ apparently corrected from ‘‑glamms’ R;    mun: so W, man R, Tˣ    [5] ‑regin: so Tˣ, ‑reginn R, W    [6] Heðin*: Heðins all    [7] heldr an: so all others, ‘[…]n’ R;    svíra: so W, svika R, om. Tˣ    [8] fingi: fingu R, Tˣ, fengu W

Editions: Skj: Bragi enn gamli, 1. Ragnarsdrápa 10: AI, 3, BI, 2-3, Skald I, 2, NN §§156, 1936C; SnE 1848-87, I, 436-9, III, 84-5, SnE 1931, 155, SnE 1998, I, 73.

Context: As for st. 8.

Notes: [1] letrat ‘does not hold back’: From letja ‘resist, hold back from’ with suffixed negative. Kock (NN §156) reads lættrat ‘does not cause’ (with mun ‘desire’ l. 4). — [1-2] stillir lýða, vanr landa ‘the controller of men [RULER], lacking lands’: The phrase vanr landa ‘lacking lands’ is understood here as functioning adjectivally to identify the kind of ruler in question, one whose domain is the sea. The name Hǫgni appears in a list of sea-kings’ names (Þul Sækonunga 3/2). Most of the analogues to the legend of the Hjaðningar represent both Hildr’s father and her abductor as travelling by ship and fighting on an island (cf. á sandi ‘on the sand’ l. 2, í holmi ‘on the island’ st. 11/1). — [3] Hǫgna (dat.) ‘Hǫgni’: Not uncommon as a pers. n., especially in legendary sagas. Cognates appear in the Old English (Hagena) and Middle High German (Hagene) versions of the Hildr legend, and in Saxo’s Lat. Høginus; for Old Norse, cf. particularly RvHbreiðm Hl 46/7. — [4] hǫðglamma ‘of battle-wolves [WARRIORS]’: The cpd hǫðglammi ‘battle-wolf’ (lit. ‘battle-howler’) is a hap. leg.  ð ‘battle’ does not occur as a simplex, but is found as constituent of the name of the god Hǫðr, while glammi is a wolf-heiti (cf. Þul Vargs 1/7). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) construes hǫðglamma mun as three separate words, with hǫð, dat. or instr. of hǫð ‘battle’ being understood as an adverbial phrase ‘in battle’. Other eds have understood the cpd hǫðglamma differently, Kock taking it with mun (as a kenning) and lætrat stǫðva to mean ‘[Hǫgni] does not cause the desire of the battle-wolf [BATTLE] to stop’. Such a kenning is unprecedented. Reichardt (1928, 94-5 n. 26) interpreted hǫðglammi as a sword-kenning, part of a battle-kenning hǫðglamma mun ‘desire of the battle-wolf [SWORD > BATTLE]’. LP: hǫð, following a suggestion of Krause, proposed that hǫð could be acc. and glamma mun in apposition to it. — [6] þróttig ‘enduring’: This adj. may possibly allude to the nature of the battle as an ongoing one, with the dead warriors being revived every evening to fight again on account of Hildr’s magical powers. — [6] Heðin* (acc.) ‘Heðinn’: The reading of all mss, Heðins (gen.), must be emended to provide a direct object for sóttu ‘attacked’. The name, which probably means etymologically ‘skin-clad one’ (AEW: heðinn 1 and 2), varies across versions of the legend (OE Henden, MHG Hetele, Saxo Hithinus); for Old Norse, cf. particularly RvHbreiðm Hl 45/5. — [7] svíra (gen.) ‘of the neck’: Ms. R has svika which could be gen. pl. of svik ‘treachery’, but the metre requires a long vowel here, so the , W reading has been adopted by all eds. — [8] fingi ‘accept’: Lit. ‘they should accept’. All mss’ indic. verb fingu/fengu has been emended to subj. fingi after heldr an ‘rather than’ (l. 7); so Skj B and Skald, cf. NS §§310-13. Both R and record the earlier form fingu (beside fengu) of the 3rd pers. pl. pret. indic. of ‘receive, accept, get’ (cf. ANG §504 and Anm. 1 and 5), which is necessary to provide aðalhending.

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