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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bragi inn gamli Boddason (Bragi)

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

1. Ragnarsdrápa (Rdr) - 12

Skj info: Bragi enn gamli, Norsk skjald, omkr. 800-850. (AI, 1-5, BI, 1-5).

Skj poems:
1. Ragnarsdrápa
2. Ubestemmelige vers
3. Lausavísur

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)

 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, 41

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Bragi Rdr 9III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 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. 41.

Bauða sú til bleyði
bœti-Þrúðr at móti
malma mætum hilmi
men dreyrugra benja.
Svá lét ey, þótt etti,
sem orrostu letti,
jǫfrum ulfs at sinna
með algífris lifru.

{Sú bœti-Þrúðr dreyrugra benja} bauða mætum hilmi men til bleyði at {móti malma}. Svá lét ey, sem letti orrostu, þótt etti jǫfrum at sinna með {lifru algífris ulfs}.

{That curing-Þrúðr <goddess> of bloody wounds} [VALKYRIE = Hildr] did not offer the splendid ruler the neck-ring for the sake of cowardice at {the assembly of weapons} [BATTLE]. Thus she continually behaved as if she was hindering the battle, although she was inciting the princes to accompany {the sister of the complete monster of a wolf [Fenrir]} [= Hel].

Mss: R(34v), Tˣ(36r), W(79) (SnE)

Readings: [1] bleyði: ‘brodi’ Tˣ    [3] mætum: mærum Tˣ;    hilmi: so Tˣ, W, ‘hilm’ R    [4] dreyrugra: so Tˣ, W, ‘dreruga’ R    [6] orrostu: so Tˣ, W, orrosta R    [7] at: of Tˣ, of corrected from another word both on and above the line in scribal hand W

Editions: Skj: Bragi enn gamli, 1. Ragnarsdrápa 9: AI, 2, BI, 2, Skald I, 2, NN §§193, 1853I; SnE 1848-87, I, 436-7, III, 84, SnE 1931, 155, SnE 1998, I, 73.

Context: As for st. 8.

Notes: [1, 2, 4] sú bœti-Þrúðr dreyrugra benja ‘that curing-Þrúðr <goddess> of bloody wounds [VALKYRIE = Hildr]’: A kenning with a specific reference to Hildr, formed similarly to ósk-Rôn ofþerris æða ‘the desiring-Rán <goddess> of the excessive drying of veins [VALKYRIE = Hildr]’ (st. 8/1, 2) and hristi-Sif hringa ‘shaking-Sif <goddess> of rings [VALKYRIE = Hildr]’ (st. 8/5), where the base-word is a cpd of an adj. formed from a verb (or, in the case of ósk-Rôn, a noun) plus goddess name (in this case Þórr’s daughter Þrúðr) and the determinant alludes to Hildr’s life-threatening, battle-promoting intentions. This kenning must be ironic; Hildr cured wounds in order to revive the warriors to fight again. — [1] til bleyði ‘for the sake of cowardice’: The sense is that Hildr did not offer Hǫgni the neck-ring in order to prevent her father fighting by presenting him with atonement for Heðinn’s abduction of her. Rather, her intention was the opposite. Exactly how she provoked Hǫgni is not clear. Snorri’s prose account states only that she made it plain that Heðinn would not capitulate. For a view that shameful connotations of the ring itself may have played a part in her provocation, see Clunies Ross (1973b). — [7-8] at sinna með lifru algífris ulfs ‘to accompany the sister of the complete monster of a wolf [Fenrir] [= Hel]’: The general sense of the lines is that Hildr incited the princes (Hǫgni and Heðinn) to join the company of Hel, guardian of the dead and the underworld, that is, she egged them on to their deaths. Hel was one of three monstrous offspring of the god Loki, another of whom was the wolf, Fenrir, referred to here. The status of the word algífris ‘completely monstrous’ (l. 8) is debated. It is here understood as a descriptive gen. of algífri ‘complete monster’ (so SnE 1998, II, 233), taken with ulfs (l. 7), so ‘of the complete monster of a wolf’. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) takes ulfs with lifru ‘sister’ (l. 8) and construes til at rejse til det fuldkomne uhyre, ulvens søster ‘to travel to the complete monster, the wolf’s sister’. Kock (NN §193, though not in Skald) takes algífris with lifru to form a cpd, construing ulfs algífrislifru ‘the wolf’s very monstrous sister’. — [8] lifru ‘the sister’: A hap. leg. in recorded poetry although the m. equivalent lifri is a little more common (see LP: lifra, lifri; AEW: lifr ‘liver’).

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