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Bragi inn gamli Boddason (Bragi)

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

3. Fragments (Frag) - 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).

Fragments — Bragi FragIII

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Fragments’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 53.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6 

Skj: Bragi enn gamli: 2. Ubestemmelige vers (AI, 4, BI, 4-5); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

SkP info: III, 62

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Bragi Frag 6III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Fragments 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. 62.

Þann áttak vin verstan
vazt- rǫdd en mér baztan
Ála -undirkúlu
óniðraðan þriðja.

Áttak þann vin þriðja óniðraðan, verstan {rǫdd {Ála {vazt-undirkúlu}}} en baztan mér.

I had that friend, the third one, blameless, worst {to the voice {of the Áli <sea-king> {of the fishing ground-under-knob}}} [ROCK > GIANT > GOLD], but best to me.

Mss: R(28v), Tˣ(29v), W(73), U(31r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] verstan: so all others, ‘vierstan’ changed in scribal hand from ‘vistrstan’ R    [2] vazt rǫdd: ‘vatzravðla’ R, ‘vazraud’ Tˣ, ‘uaz rodd’ W, ‘[…]atzt rodd’ U;    en: ok U    [4] óniðraðan: so Tˣ, W, ‘oniþioþan’ R, ‘o[…]þiaþan’ U

Editions: Skj: Bragi enn gamli, 2. Ubestemmelige vers 4: AI, 5, BI, 5, Skald I, 3, NN §222; SnE 1848-87, I, 350-1, II, 320-1, III, 58, SnE 1931, 126, SnE 1998, I, 44.

Context: See Introduction to Frag 5-6 above. In the prose both before and after this stanza Snorri directs the reader’s or listener’s interpretation. He states at the beginning: Hér má þat heyra at kallat er orð eða rǫdd jǫtna gullit, svá sem fyrr er sagt. Svá kvað Bragi skáld ‘Here one may hear that gold is called the words or voice of giants, as has been said above. Thus spoke the poet Bragi’. Snorri’s previous reference to this kenning-type comes near the beginning of Skm (SnE 1998, I, 3), right at the end of his narrative about the giant Þjazi. Here he has the deity Bragi explain that the family of this giant was very wealthy and was in the habit of dividing their inheritance by measuring it out in mouthfuls of gold; hence gold can be called the ‘mouth-count’ (munntal) or, by extension, the speech or voice of giants. After the stanza Snorri directs interpretation thus: Hann kallaði stein vazta undirkúlu – steinninn – en jǫtun Ála steinsins (reading of Tx, W), en gull rǫdd jǫtuns, ‘He called the rock the fishing grounds’ under-knob the rock and the giant the Áli of the rock, and gold the voice of the giant’.

Notes: [2] vazt- ‘the fishing ground-’: The scribes experienced considerable difficulty with this word and the following rǫdd ‘voice’, in spite of Snorri’s prose explanation. Although vazt is connected with undirkúlu (l. 3) by tmesis (see below), as the prose text makes clear, the scribes of R and , at least, understood it to form a cpd with the immediately following word. The various ms. forms of the first element can probably be explained (so SnE 1998, I, 141 textual n.) as implying a first element vatns- < vatn ‘water’. However, both the prose gloss and the probability of aðalhending (vazt /bazt-) favour the lectio difficilior vazt < vǫzt (or vǫst) f. (pl. vaztir) ‘fishing ground’, by extension ‘sea’ (so LP: vǫst; SnE 1998, II, 432). — [2, 3] rǫdd Ála ‘the voice of Áli <sea-king> [GOLD]’: A kenning for ‘gold’ formed against the mythological background indicated by Snorri’s prose text. Áli is elsewhere given as the name for a variety of supernatural beings and humans of the prehistoric period (cf. LP: Áli; SnE 1998, II, 443). Connection with a sea-king of this name (cf. SnE 1998, I, 109 and Note to Þul Sækonunga 1/2) seems most likely here. Kock (NN §222) argues that ála is gen. pl. of áll ‘deep narrow channel in sea or river’ and that undirkúlu ála ‘under-knob of channels’ is a kenning concealing the name Steinn ‘Stone’ for Bragi’s unnamed friend. — [2] rǫdd ‘the voice’: The majority mss and the prose context indicate rǫdd is to be preferred over R’s rǫðli < rǫðull ‘wheel, disk’, as do metrical considerations. However, Skald adopts the cpd vatzrǫðli ‘water-sun [GOLD]’, construing it with l. 1 áttak þann vin verstan vatzrǫðli ‘I had that friend worst to water-sun [GOLD]’. — [3] -undirkúlu ‘-under-knob’: The second element of a cpd separated by tmesis from its first element vazt (l. 2). The whole cpd forms a kenning for a rock.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated