This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Runic Dictionary

login: password: stay logged in: help

Hallar-Steinn (HSt)

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

III. Fragments (Frag) - 6

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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 27 May 2022)

stanzas:  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, 206

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — HSt Frag 5III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallar-Steinn, Fragments 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 206.

Ek hef óðar lokri,
ǫlstafna, þér skafna,
væn mǫrk, — skala verki
vandr — stefknarrar branda.

Ek hef skafna þér {branda {stefknarrar}} {lokri óðar}, {væn mǫrk {ǫlstafna}}; verki skala vandr.

I have smoothed {the bows {of the refrain-ship}} [DRÁPA > UPPHAF] for you {with the plane of poetry} [TONGUE], {beautiful forest {of ale-prows}} [DRINKING HORNS > WOMAN]; the poem should not be difficult.

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

Readings: [1] hef: ‘[…]’ U;    óðar lokri: ‘o[…]’ U    [2] ǫl‑: ‘au‑’ Tˣ, auð‑ W;    ‑stafna: ‘sta(f)na’(?) U;    þér: bil A;    skafna: ‘skafn(a)’(?) U    [3] væn: so all others, ‘vetz’ R;    verki: verki corrected from merki Tˣ, verka C    [4] vandr: ‘[…]ndir’ U;    ‑knarrar: so Tˣ, W, A, C, ‘‑knarrarar’ R, ‘[…]’ U;    branda: ‘[…]randa’ U

Editions: Skj: Hallar-Steinn, 2. a. Af et digt om en kvinde 4: AI, 553, BI, 535, Skald I, 260, NN §§447A, 1188, 1853E; SnE 1848-87, I, 410-11, II, 324, 435, 584, III, 73, SnE 1931, 146, SnE 1998, I, 63.

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

Notes: [All]: In this stanza, Hallar-Steinn compares the activity of composing poetry to that of a ship-builder smoothing wood with a plane; the poem (drápa) is a ship (stefknǫrr ‘refrain-ship’) and the beginning of the poem (upphaf) the bow(s) (brandar) of a ship (Clunies Ross 2005a, 38). Cf. also RvHbreiðm Hl 3/3, where framstafn ‘the prow’ refers to the beginning of the poem (see Kreutzer 1977, 255-7 on comparison of poems to ships in skaldic poetry, as well as Clunies Ross 2005a, 87). — [1] ek hef ‘I have’: The older form ek hef has been adopted here in place of the later ek hefi used in the mss (cf. ANG §532.6). — [1] lokri óðar ‘with the plane of poetry [TONGUE]’: In accordance with the comparison of composing poetry with building a ship, the tongue as the tool of poetry is paraphrased by the nýgerving ‘plane of poetry’. A similar kenning, ómunlokri ‘with the voice-plane’, is found in Egill Arkv 15/2V (Eg 111); see Note to l. 2 there. — [2] þér ‘for you’: This edn adopts þér (so mss R, , U, W, C) following the interpretation of Jón Þorkelsson (1890, 5-6). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), followed by all subsequent eds, opted for the A variant Bil (the name of a goddess). Hence his interpretation contains two woman-kennings, Bil ǫlstafna ‘Bil <goddess> of ale-prows’ and væn mǫrk skála ‘beautiful forest of bowls’ (for skála, see Note to ll. 3-4 below). Finnur Jónsson takes Bil ǫlstafna as dat. (‘for the woman’) and væn mǫrk skála as a form of address. That interpretation is highly unlikely, because the woman is then addressed directly while at the same time being referred to in the third person in the same helmingr. Kock (NN §§1188, 1853) also reads Bil but regards both woman-kennings as nom. and as parallel. The examples given in NN §1853, however, actually show that two kennings seldom form such parallelisms – instead, one of the two constituents of a parallelism is a personal name. — [2, 3] mǫrk ǫlstafna ‘forest of ale-prows [DRINKING HORNS > WOMAN]’: Meissner (Meissner 410) holds that a collective noun meaning ‘forest’, in place of a tree-name, could be used as the base-word in a woman-kenning. However, mǫrk ‘forest’ could also be interpreted as a variation of the base-word ‘land’, which is also frequently found in woman-kennings (NN §447A). ‘Prows’ here is to be understood as pars pro toto for ‘ship’ (Meissner 434), and ‘ale-ships’ is a kenning for ‘drinking horns’ (cf. ǫlstafns ‘of the ale-prow’ in KormǪ Lv 18/6V (Korm 19)). — [3-4] verki skala vandr ‘the poem should not be difficult’: This edn takes the mss’ ‘skala’ as skala, the finite verb skal ‘shall, will, must’ plus the negative suffix ‑a in an intercalated clause (verki skala vandr ‘the poem should not be difficult’; cf. Jón Þorkelsson 1890, 5-6). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), followed by all other eds, interpreted ‘skala’ as the noun skála f. gen. pl. ‘of bowls’ and joined it with mǫrk ‘forest’ to form the woman-kenning mǫrk skála ‘forest of bowls [WOMAN]’. In eds which regard skála as the determinant in a woman-kenning, verki (verka ms. C) is interpreted differently in syntactical terms. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Kock (Skald) choose the C variant verka and regard it as gen. governed by vandr ‘careful’ (l. 4), hence vandr verka is translated as ‘careful with the poem’ and regarded as an attribute to the subject ek ‘I’ (l. 1). Faulkes’s edn (SnE 1998, I, 63) has vandr verki ‘careful with the work’ (verki regarded as dat. of verk n.) in the same syntactical function (SnE 1998, II, 420). However, vandr is normally construed with prepositions like at, um or við ‘with, concerning sth.’ (Fritzner: vandr 1) and not with the gen. or dat. Furthermore, skála is unmetrical, because the disyllabic word in metrical positions 3-4 must have a short stem vowel in this type of odd line (A2k; cf. Gade 1995a, 117-18). — [4] branda stefknarrar ‘the bows of the refrain-ship [DRÁPA > UPPHAF]’: A drápa is a longer poem with one or more refrains (stef). Upphaf ‘beginning’ is usually the technical term for the first part of a drápa, its introductory section before the first stef ‘refrain’ (see Section 4.5 in the General Introduction in SkP I). — [4] branda ‘the bows’: Taken here as acc. pl. of brandr m. In skaldic poetry brandr is often used in the pl. (LP: 3. brandr) and as pars pro toto for ‘ship’ (Jesch 2001a, 147-8). Accordingly, in such cases it must have referred to some part of a ship, but it is not clear exactly which part (ibid.). According to Falk (1912, 44-5) brandr was a strip of wood running along the side of a ship’s prow, and Clunies Ross (2005a, 38 n. 16) assumes that brandar refer to a pair of these wooden strips and hence to the prow as a whole in the present stanza.

© 2008-