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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 21 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, 30

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Bragi Rdr 2III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 30.

Nema svát góð ins gjalla
gjǫld baugnafaðs vildi
meyjar hjóls inn mæri
mǫgr Sigvarðar Hǫgna.

Nema svát {inn mæri mǫgr Sigvarðar} vildi góð gjǫld {ins gjalla baugnafaðs hjóls {meyjar Hǫgna}}.

Unless in such a way that {the famous son of Sigurðr} [= Ragnarr loðbrók] should want good recompense for {the resounding boss-hubbed wheel {of the maid of Hǫgni <legendary king>}} [= Hildr > SHIELD].

Mss: R(34r), Tˣ(35v), W(78), U(33r), A(11v), C(5v) (SnE)

Readings: [1] góð ins: ‘goð hins’ with g changed from h in scribal hand W, ‘gædings’ C;    gjalla: gegna U, gjalda A, C    [2] gjǫld: gjald A;    baug‑: ‘b[…]vg‑’ U, ‘gaugn’ C;    ‑nafaðs: so Tˣ, A, C, ‘nafagdrs’ R, nafar W, nafrs corrected from ‑naðrs in scribal hand U    [3] meyjar: ‘mæyia’ W, ‘meygi[…]’ U;    hjóls: holls Tˣ, hljóðs C;    inn mæri: inn meiri Tˣ, en ek merkða U    [4] mǫgr: mǫg W, U;    Sigvarðar: sigurðar R, W, A, C, ‘sigrdar’ Tˣ, sigrúnar U

Editions: Skj: Bragi enn gamli, 1. Ragnarsdrápa 2: AI, 1, BI, 1, Skald I, 1; SnE 1848-87, I, 426-7, II, 329, 440, 589, III, 80-1, SnE 1931, 152, SnE 1998, I, 70.

Context: As for Rdr 1; however, the main kenning of this helmingr is cited because it contains a reference to the shield boss or its surround (baugr) as well as the whole shield. The helmingr is introduced with the words Bragi skáld kvað þetta um bauginn á skildinum ‘The poet Bragi said this about the ring on the shield’. After the quotation, Skm explains the kenning thus: Hann kallaði skjǫldinn Hildar hjól, en bauginn nǫf hjólsins ‘He called the shield Hildr’s wheel, and the boss the hub of the wheel’.

Notes: [All]: This helmingr is clearly incomplete grammatically, consisting only of a subordinate clause, introduced by nema ‘unless’. — [1, 2, 3, 4] ins gjalla baugnafaðs hjóls meyjar Hǫgna ‘the resounding boss-hubbed wheel of the maid of Hǫgni <legendary king> [= Hildr > SHIELD]’: This extended kenning, like that in st. 1, includes an adjectival element formed from a p. p., baugnafaðr ‘boss-hubbed’ (from baugr ‘boss, circle’ and nǫf ‘nave, hub’), that both continues and draws attention to the analogy between a shield and a wheel that forms the basis of the kenning. This adj. is a hap. leg. and caused the scribes difficulty. A second adj., gjallr ‘ringing, resounding’, has a similar effect, as it can apply both to the noise of a cart-wheel turning and the striking of weapons on the metal boss of a wooden shield. Hǫgni was the father of Hildr, a valkyrie-like figure central to the story of the Everlasting Battle (Hjaðningavíg) that forms the subject of Rdr 9-12 (q. v.). In skaldic poetry Hildr may be a proper name (and thus the basis of a woman- or valkyrie-kenning), but carries with it some semantic resonance from its meaning as the common noun hildr ‘battle’. — [3-4] inn mæri mǫgr Sigvarðar ‘the famous son of Sigurðr [= Ragnarr loðbrók]’: Some medieval authorities, apparently including Bragi Boddason, regarded Ragnarr loðbrók ‘Shaggy-breeches’ as the son of the legendary Sigurðr hringr ‘Ring’, king of Sweden, who fought against the Danish king Haraldr hilditǫnn ‘War-tooth’ at the battle of Brávellir (see ÍF 35, 59-71; ÍF 26, 109; Flat 1860-8, I, 27; Saxo 2005, I, 9, 3, 2, p. 584).  On the other hand, Snorri Sturluson probably associated Ragnarr with the Niflungar through his wife Áslaug (cf. SnE 1998, I, 50). The R, W, A, C reading Sigurðar has been normalised to the more archaic form Sigvarðar, because positions 2-3 in D-lines could not be occupied by two short syllables until the C13th (see Kuhn 1937, 59-60; Kuhn 1983, 48; Gade 1995a, 31).

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