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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;

III. Fragments (Frag) - 6

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.

Fragments — HSt FragIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Hallar-Steinn, 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. 202.

 2   3   4   5   6   7 

Skj: Hallar-Steinn: 2. a. Af et digt om en kvinde (AI, 552-3, BI, 534-5); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

SkP info: III, 205

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — HSt Frag 4III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallar-Steinn, Fragments 4’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 205.

Þú munt, fúrs, sem fleiri,
flóðs hirði-Sif, tróður,
grǫnn, við gæfu þinni
grjóts Hjaðninga brjótask.

{Grǫnn hirði-Sif {fúrs flóðs}}, þú munt brjótask við gæfu þinni sem {fleiri tróður {grjóts Hjaðninga}}.

{Slender guarding-Sif <goddess> {of the fire of the sea}} [GOLD > WOMAN], you will struggle against your luck just like {other poles {of the stones of the Hjaðningar <Heðinn and his followers>}} [CORPSES > VALKYRIES].

Mss: R(33r), Tˣ(34v), W(76), U(32r), A(10v), C(4v) (SnE)

Readings: [1] fúrs: fús U    [2] hirði‑Sif: ‘hir[…]’ U;    tróður: so A, tróðar R, tróða Tˣ, W, C, ‘troþ[…]’ U    [3] grǫnn: grunn A;    við: ‘[…]’ U, at C    [4] brjótask: ‘b[…]az’ U

Editions: Skj: Hallar-Steinn, 2. a. Af et digt om en kvinde 3: AI, 552, BI, 534-5, Skald I, 260, NN §3240; SnE 1848-87, I, 410-11, II, 324, 435, 584, III, 73, SnE 1931, 146, SnE 1998, I, 63-4.

Context: This helmingr is cited in Skm (SnE) to illustrate a woman-kenning with tróða ‘pole’ as its base-word.

Notes: [1] sem fleiri ‘just like other’: Lit. ‘just like more’. — [1, 2] hirði-Sif fúrs flóðs ‘guarding-Sif <goddess> of the fire of the sea [GOLD > WOMAN]’: Sif is the wife of Þórr. The kenning consists of the base-word (which is compounded with the verbal stem hirði- ‘guard, look after’) and a gold-kenning which depends syntactically on the verbal stem hirði. A similarly constructed kenning is found in VGl Lv 7/1, 2V (Glúm 7) hirði-Sif virkis víns ‘the guarding-Sif <goddess> of the stronghold of wine [WINE VAT > WOMAN]’. — [2, 4] tróður grjóts Hjaðninga ‘poles of the stones of the Hjaðningar <Heðinn and his followers> [CORPSES > VALKYRIES]’: There have been various attempts to interpret this puzzling kenning. The problem is the phrase grjóts Hjaðninga ‘of the stones of the Hjaðningar’ (grjót is a collective noun ‘stones’). The Hjaðningar are the warriors of Heðinn, who fights a never-ending battle known as the Hjaðningavíg ‘battle of the Hjaðningar’ against Hǫgni, the father of Heðinn’s beloved (Hildr). Skm (SnE 1998, I, 72) describes how the corpses of the warriors, as well as their weapons, all turn to stone, only to come to life again in the morning and continue fighting. Three explanations for this kenning have been suggested, none of which is fully satisfactory. (a) The determinant kenning ‘stones of the Hjaðningar’ is a kenning for ‘weapons’ (SnE 1848-87, III, 73; NN §3240). Weapons, however, are not attested as determinants in traditional woman-kennings (see Meissner 413-18; cf. also the criticism in LP: grjót). (b) Kock (NN §3240) attempts to interpret the kenning as an expression for ‘valkyries’ (‘poles of weapons’). From the narrative of the slain and their weapons turning to stone, one can derive not only the meaning ‘weapon’ but also ‘the slain’ or ‘corpses’, i.e. valr. The kenning tróður grjóts Hjaðninga ‘poles of the stones of the Hjaðningar’ would then be a term for ‘valkyries’ (adopted in this edn), despite the fact that ‘weapons’ and ‘battle’ are more typical determinants of valkyrie-kennings. The problem with this interpretation (and also with the interpretation given under (a) above) is that such base-words as tróða ‘pole’, which denote a pole or a staff or similar, are not attested elsewhere in kennings for valkyries (cf. Meissner 396-8). (c) The kenning could refer to a valuable decoration or ornament (LP: Hjaðningar). Such an interpretation is supported by the legendary motif that prompted the battle between Heðinn and Hǫgni: Hildr offers, but then withdraws, a conciliatory gift, a precious ring, to her father (see SnE 1998, I, 72). According to this interpretation, then, the kenning would be a regular woman-kenning with an ornament as the determinant. That legend, however, specifically mentions a ring and not a decorative stone. Assuming that the kenning is correctly interpreted as ‘valkyrie’ (cf. Marold 1990b, 201 Anm. 35), the sense of the stanza is ‘you struggle against your luck, just like other valkyries’. This might allude to the Helgi legends, where a valkyrie (Sigrún, Sváva) acts against her lover and plots his death; Hildr also brings about a struggle between her father and her lover Heðinn. An allusion to a general hostility on the part of the valkyries toward men could be conceivable as well (cf. Þhorn Hkv 2/2-3I verar né óru þekkir inni framsóttu feimu ‘men were not pleasing to the aggressive maid’).

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