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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 29 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, 906

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — HSt Rst 9I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Rolf Stavnem (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja 9’ 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. 906.

Fémildr fylkir vildi
firna mǫrg ok hǫrga
blóthús brenna láta;
bað heiðin goð meiða.
Siðvandr síðan kenndi
sannhróðigr trú góða
herlundr hǫlða kindum.
Hann vas ríkstr konungmanna.

Fémildr fylkir vildi láta brenna firna mǫrg hǫrga ok blóthús; bað meiða heiðin goð. {Siðvandr, sannhróðigr herlundr} kenndi síðan góða trú kindum hǫlða. Hann vas ríkstr konungmanna …

The generous ruler wanted to have very many temples and sacrificial buildings burned; he ordered the heathen gods to be harmed. {The devout, truly famous war-tree} [WARRIOR = Óláfr] then taught the good faith to the offspring of men. He was the mightiest of royal men …

Mss: Bb(111vb); 61(32ra), 54(30vb), Bb(44vb), 62(14vb), Flat(37vb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Fé‑: ‘Se‑’ Bb(44vb)    [2] hǫrga: hǫggva 62    [5] Siðvandr: so all others, sigrbands Bb(111vb)    [6] ‑hróðigr: ‑fróðum 61, 54, Bb(44vb), 62, ‑fróðr Flat    [7] her‑: so all others, ýr‑ Bb(111vb);    ‑lundr: ‘lyndr’ 62;    hǫlða: hauka 54, Bb(44vb);    kindum: so all others, om. Bb(111vb)    [8] vas (‘var’): er all others;    konung‑: konungr 61, Bb(44vb), kóngr 54

Editions: Skj: Hallar-Steinn, 1. Rekstefja 9: AI, 545, BI, 527, Skald I, 256, NN §§1795, 2316C, 2990I; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 308 (ch. 142), Flat 1860-8, I, 285; SHI 3, 248-51, CPB II, 296-7, Wisén 1886-9, I, 47, Finnur Jónsson 1893b, 164, Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 212-18.

Context: Óláfr Christianizes the people of Norway with a firm hand, burning down heathen temples, destroying sacrificial sites and replacing them with churches and priests.

Notes: [All]: Óláfr’s promulgation of Christianity in Norway is also the subject of Anon Óldr 9-10. — [1-4]: For Óláfr as an enemy of heathen shrines, see also Hfr Óldr 1. — [2] firna ‘very’: Intensifying gen. of firnar f. pl. ‘something remote, exceptional’ used adverbially, cf. LP: firnar. — [5] siðvandr ‘devout’: (a) Lit. ‘faith-careful’. This, the reading of the ÓT mss, is the most straightforward and credible reading. (b) Sigrbands ‘of the victory-god’ in Bb is problematic. Band n. in the sense ‘god’ is normally in the pl. (bǫnd) and refers to heathen gods (LP: band 5). The use of sg. band to refer to the Christian God, which the context would appear to require, would therefore be without precedent. (c) Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SHI 3) suggests sigrbrands ‘victorious sword’. — [6] sannhróðigr ‘truly famous’: Sannfróðum ‘truly knowing, wise’ in most ÓT mss is unsatisfactory since it would qualify dat. pl. kindum hǫlða ‘the offspring of men’, and would imply that they are not in need of Óláfr’s teaching. The reading sannfróðr ‘truly wise’ from Flat is preferred in Skj B and Skald, who also read disyllabic trúu ‘faith’ (cf. Anon Óldr 9/8 and Note, also 12/8). — [7] herlundr ‘war-tree [WARRIOR = Óláfr]’: This, the ÓT reading, provides alliteration on hǫlða; the variant in Bb(111vb) is ýrlundr ‘bow-tree [WARRIOR]’, which does not. — [8] hann vas ríkstr konungmanna ‘he was the mightiest of royal men’: The line is identical to Anon Óldr 11/6, and is among echoes of Steinn ÓldrII in Rst; see Note to st. 12 [All] below. The stef ‘refrain’ of Rst begins in this stanza and is completed in the next two (sts 10/8, 11/8); the pattern is then repeated four times in sts 12-23. (a) The complete refrain in this edn reads: Hann vas ríkstr konungmanna | Óláfr und veg sólar | hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu, i.e. Hann, Óláfr, vas ríkstr konungmanna und veg sólar, hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu ‘He, Óláfr, was the mightiest of royal men under the path of the sun [SKY], faithful and foremost in all things’. (b) The interpretation favoured in Skj B and Skald, based on the ÓT version, is: Hann vas / Hanns ríkstr konungmanna | Óláfr und veg- sólar | hǫll ok ‑fremstr at ǫllu ‘He, Óláfr, was/is the mightiest and foremost in honour of royal men in all things under the hall of the sun [SKY]’. This solution is primarily based on the reading hǫll ‘hall’, which is preferable to hollr ‘faithful’ insofar as it forms an exact aðalhending with ǫll-. However, this argument is not strong in Rst, where the rhyme is somewhat irregular (see Introduction), while the postulated vegfremstr ‘foremost in honour’ involves an unusual tmesis across stanzas, and the prep. und ‘under’ is syntactically detached from veg, the noun that follows it (cf. Kuhn 1983, 120-2 on proclitic prepositions). (c) Sveinbjörn Egilsson (Fms 12, 54) avoids these problems by taking vegsólar as a cpd equivalent to vegligrar sólar ‘of the magnificent sun’. — [8] vas ‘was’: The ÓT version has er (normalised es) ‘is’. The pres. tense could refer to Óláfr’s enduring reputation, but seems out of place in so retrospective a poem.

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