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Runic Dictionary

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Bragi inn gamli Boddason (Bragi)

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

2. Þórr’s fishing (Þórr) - 6

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).

Þórr’s fishing — Bragi ÞórrIII

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Þórr’s fishing’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 46.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6 

SkP info: III, 52

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Bragi Þórr 6III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Þórr’s fishing 6’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 52.

Vildit vrǫngum ofra
vágs byrsendir œgi,
hinns mjótygil máva
mœrar skar fyr Þóri.

{Byrsendir vágs} vildit ofra vrǫngum œgi, hinns skar {mjótygil {mœrar máva}} fyr Þóri.

{The wind-sender of the sea} [GIANT = Hymir] did not want to raise up the twisted terrifier, he who cut {the slender string {of the marshland of seagulls}} [SEA > FISHING LINE] for Þórr.

Mss: R(38v), Tˣ(40r), A(13v), B(6r), 744ˣ(37r), C(8r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] vrǫngum (‘vrꜷngvm’): so A, rǫngum R, ‘raungon’ Tˣ, ‘o ro᷎ngum’ B, vǫngum C    [2] vágs: ‘vógs’ B;    byr‑: so Tˣ, C, byr‑ with b corrected in scribal hand from incipient h R, hyr‑ A, B;    œgi (‘ægi’): ‘egi’ Tˣ, ‘e᷎gi’ B    [3] hinns (‘hinn er’): ‘ænn’ A;    ‑tygil: so all others, tygill R    [4] mœrar: so A, C, ‘mórar’ R, Tˣ, ‘[…]ra[…]’ B, ‘me᷎rar’ 744ˣ;    skar: ‘ska’ Tˣ

Editions: Skj: Bragi enn gamli, 1. Ragnarsdrápa 19: AI, 4, BI, 4, Skald I, 2, NN §§1772 n., 2205F, 2206D; SnE 1848-87, I, 504-5, II, 453, 536, 601, III, 105, SnE 1931, 177, SnE 1998, I, 96.

Context: The helmingr is cited in a section of Skm that gives quotations demonstrating various terms for the sea and waves. Though it appears to be from the same poem as Bragi Þórr 1-5, it is isolated in Skm from other stanzas identified as Bragi’s. The helmingr is introduced by Vágr, sem Bragi kvað ‘Sea [or ‘bay’], as Bragi said’.

Notes: [1] vrǫngum ‘twisted’: The spelling with initial <vr> is an archaism in Old Icelandic, [v] having been dropped in initial position before [r] in the preliterate period. However, it persisted in Old Norwegian and, as Bragi was a Norwegian, its presence here may be due to his ethnicity. See Fidjestøl (1999, 231-45) for a review of this phenomenon (especially 232 and n. 9), which Óláfr Þórðarson in TGT (TGT 1884, 87) termed vinðandin forna, the archaic use of the symbol venð <w>, cf. OE wenn, wynn. — [2] byrsendir vágs ‘the wind-sender of the ocean [GIANT = Hymir]’: The hap. leg. cpd byrsendir ‘wind-sender’ is to be understood in connection with mythological associations between giants, like Hræsvelgr, and the generation of wind (cf. SnE 2005, 20). This reading was proposed by Kock (NN §2205F). On the associations between supernatural beings in Old Norse and the raising of wind, see Perkins (2001). Skj B (cf. LP: hyrsendir, vágr 2) adopts the variant reading hyrsendir ‘fire-sender’, construing it with vágs as a man-kenning ‘sender of the fire of the bay [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’, a rather inappropriate kenning for Hymir! Vágr means either the sea, especially when disturbed by wind (LP: vágr 1), or a bay (LP: vágr 2). It is also possible to construe vágs (l. 2) with vrǫngum œgi ‘twisted terrifier’ (ll. 1, 2) to produce a kenning for Miðgarðsormr vrǫngum œgi vágs ‘twisted terrifier of the ocean [= Miðgarðsormr]’. — [2] œgi ‘terrifier’: Understood here as from œgir m. (cf. 3/3 above), and so a term for the World Serpent (cf. NN §2206D), rather than from ægir m. ‘ocean’, whether as a common noun or personified as Ægir, a giant representing the sea. Skj B construes Vágs hyrsendir vildit ofra vrǫngum ægi as Manden … vilde ikke yppe strid mod den grumme sø ‘The man [Hymir] … did not want to pick a quarrel with the cruel sea’. However, the mss’ ægi are likely to reflect the unrounding of [ø:] to [æ:], which occurred by at least c. 1220 (Hreinn Benediktsson 1965, 67-70). — [4] mœrar ‘of the marshland’: Here understood as from the common noun mœrr ‘marshland’ and the base-word of a sea-kenning; however, it is possible that the regional name Mœrr, now Møre, in Norway, is specifically intended (cf. SnE 1998, I, 96 and II, 493).

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