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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hallar-Steinn (HSt)

12th century; volume 1; ed. Rolf Stavnem;

1. Rekstefja (Rst) - 35

Skj info: Hallar-Steinn, Islandsk skjald, 12. årh. (AI, 543-53, BI, 525-35).

Skj poems:
1. Rekstefja
2. a. Af et digt om en kvinde
2. b. Af et digt om Skáldhelgi(?)

Nothing is known about this skald (HSt) except what can be deduced from his nickname, which has been identified with the farm-name Höll, in Þverárhlíð, Mýrasýsla, western Iceland (Finnur Jónsson 1907, 185), and from the poetry attributed to him. His main extant work is the drápa Rekstefja (HSt Rst), whose ambitious praise of Óláfr Tryggvason might well point to Iceland at the end of the twelfth century or somewhat later (see Skj, and Introduction to the poem below). Hallar-Steinn has been identified (e.g. by Wisén 1886-9, I, 143) with the eleventh-century poet Steinn Herdísarson (SteinnII), but this is implausible. HSt Frag 1, of uncertain origin but probably attributable to this poet, may also commemorate Óláfr Tryggvason, while HSt Frag 2-5III represent a love-lorn poet. These fragments are preserved only in treatises on poetics and grammar, and are therefore edited in SkP III, as are two further fragments, HSt Frag 6-7III.

Rekstefja (‘Split-refrain’) — HSt RstI

Rolf Stavnem 2012, ‘ Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 893. <> (accessed 27 January 2022)

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Skj: Hallar-Steinn: 1. Rekstefja (AI, 543-52, BI, 525-34); stanzas (if different): 3 | 4 | 5

SkP info: I, 928

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

26 — HSt Rst 26I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Rolf Stavnem (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja 26’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 928.

Valstafns vætki rofna,
viti menn, at frák tvenna
haus manns hringi ljósum
hirðmeðr konungs veðja.
Hermart (hjǫrva snyrtir
hvárr lézk grams í hamri)
styrremðr stillir framði
stœrra (ǫðrum fœrri).

Viti menn, at frák tvenna hirðmeðr konungs, vætki rofna {valstafns}, veðja haus manns ljósum hringi. {Hvárr snyrtir hjǫrva} grams lézk fœrri ǫðrum í hamri; styrremðr stillir framði hermart stœrra.

May people know that I have heard that two retainers of the king, not giving way {in the falcon-stem} [ARM], bet a man’s head [and] a shining ring. {Each polisher of swords} [WARRIOR] of the prince claimed he was more agile than the other on the crag; the battle-mighty ruler [Óláfr] performed very much [that was] greater.

Mss: Bb(112rb); 61(64ra), 53(61rb), 54(58va), Bb(94rb), Flat(62ra) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Valstafns: vark jafns 61, 53, 54, Bb(94rb), var jafn Flat;    vætki: so all others, ‘vatki’ Bb(112rb);    rofna: rofnat 61, 53, 54, Bb(94rb), rofnaðr Flat    [2] frák (‘ek fra’): so all others, ek sá Bb(112rb)    [3] ljósum: lausum 54, Bb(94rb)    [4] hirð‑: hríð‑ Flat;    veðja: at veðja 54, Bb(94rb)    [6] lézk: ‘bet(z)’(?) Bb(94rb);    grams: gramr 54, Bb(94rb)    [7] styrremðr: so 61, Bb(94rb), Flat, styr réð Bb(112rb), styrr eðr 53, ‘styremdr’ 54    [8] fœrri: ferri 53

Editions: Skj: Hallar-Steinn, 1. Rekstefja 26: AI, 550, BI, 531-2, Skald I, 258, NN §§1183-4; ÓT 1958-2000, II, 229 (ch. 237), Flat 1860-8, I, 465; SHI 3, 262-3, CPB II, 299, Wisén 1886-9, I, 49, Finnur Jónsson 1893b, 164, Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 270-1.


This and the following two stanzas illustrate a narrative about a rock-climbing incident. Two of Óláfr’s retainers bet on who will be the fastest to climb a high and precipitous crag. One wagers his head, the other a gold ring.

Notes: [1] valstafns ‘in the falcon-stem [ARM]’: Another kenning referring to ‘arm’ as the perch of a hunting bird is found in st. 8/1, 4. Valstafn also occurs in Anon Gyð 6/4VII. — [1] vætki rofna valstafns ‘not giving way in the falcon-stem [ARM]’: (a) The line is problematic, but the present interpretation (which matches that of SHI 3 and Konráð Gíslason 1895-7) gives reasonable sense by taking rofna as the adjectival m. acc. pl. p. p. from rjúfa ‘to break’, hence, with the negative vætki, ‘not at all broken, not giving way or failing’. This is taken with the arm-kenning valstafns, hence ‘not giving way in the arm’ (cf. NS §137 for adj. + gen. constructions), and it qualifies hirðmeðr ‘retainers’ (l. 4), characterizing them as powerful warriors (and perhaps, in the context, climbers). (b) The reading of the ÓT mss, vask jafns rofnat, is still more difficult to construe. Finnur Jónsson’s solution (Skj B) involves emendation to (rofna) vizku ‘(deprived of) their wits’, as well as a complex word order. (c) This is rejected by Kock (NN §1183), whose interpretation involves postulating a verb *rafna ‘perform’ (cf. OE ræfnian ‘perform, carry out’). — [2] frák ‘I have heard’: This, the reading of the ÓT mss, is preferable to sák ‘I saw’ in Bb(112rb), since Hallar-Steinn could not claim to be an eye-witness. — [3, 4] veðja haus manns ljósum hringi ‘bet a man’s head [and] a shining ring’: Veðja ‘to bet, wager’ takes a dat. object, as seen in ljósum hringi ‘a shining ring’. Haus (manns) seems to be used in an equivalent way to denote the other part of the reciprocal wager, and it is taken as such by the ÓT compiler, but dat. hausi (manns) ‘(a man’s) head’ would be expected; haus must therefore be taken as an endingless dat. — [5] hermart ‘very much’: The form mart rather than margt is indicated by the hending with snyrtir; cf. also st. 34/1. Syntactically, Kock (NN §1184) takes the word with lézk ‘declared’ (l. 6) rather than with framði ‘performed’ (l. 7), producing a simpler word order but less good sense.

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