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Runic Dictionary

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Hallvarðr háreksblesi (Hallv)

11th century; volume 3; ed. Matthew Townend;

Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) - 8

Hallvarðr (Hallv) is an obscure figure, and the poem edited here is his only extant work. In Skáldatal he is listed once, amongst Knútr Sveinsson’s (r. 1018-35) poets (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267, 282), and he also appears to be mentioned only once in saga-sources, namely in Tómasskinna’s account of Knútr’s attempt to recruit Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld to his service (ÓH 1941, II, 803): Þormodr þackade honum fyrer bodit. enn kuozt eigi fær til ath ganga j stad haufud skalldanna er uerit haufdu med Knuti konungi. Þorarins loftungu eda Halluardz eda Ottars eda Sighuatz ‘Þormóðr thanked him for the invitation, but he said he was not able to take the place of the chief poets who had been with King Knútr: Þórarinn loftunga or Hallvarðr or Óttarr or Sigvatr’. The significance of Hallvarðr’s nickname, which is attributed to him in ÓH (ÓH 1941, I, 477), Hkr (ÍF 27, 311) and Knýtl (ÍF 35, 103), is unclear: blesi means ‘blaze (on a horse’s head)’ and the word occurs mostly as a masculine nickname, but who Hárekr was, and why Hallvarðr should be ‘Hárekr’s blaze’, is unknown (see Finnur Jónsson 1907, 170, 198 and Lind 1920-1, col. 136).

Knútsdrápa (‘Drápa about Knútr’) — Hallv KnútdrIII

Matthew Townend 2017, ‘ Hallvarðr háreksblesi, Knútsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 230. <> (accessed 19 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

Skj: Hallvarðr háreksblesi: Knútsdrápa (AI, 317-18, BI, 293-4); stanzas (if different): 4 | 5

SkP info: III, 231

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Hallv Knútdr 1III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallvarðr háreksblesi, Knútsdrápa 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 231.

Súðlǫngum komt Sveiða,
— sunds liðu dýr frá grundu —
sigrakkr, Sǫlsa bekkjar,
Sveins mǫgr, á trǫð hreinum.

{Sigrakkr mǫgr Sveins}, komt {súðlǫngum hreinum {bekkjar Sǫlsa}} á {trǫð Sveiða}; {dýr sunds} liðu frá grundu.

{Battle-bold son of Sveinn} [= Knútr], you brought {the long-planked reindeer {of the bench of Sǫlsi <sea-king>}} [SEA > SHIPS] onto {the path of Sveiði <sea-king>} [SEA]; {the animals of the sound} [SHIPS] glided from land.

Mss: R(35r), Tˣ(36v), W(80), A(11v-12r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] komt: kom A;    Sveiða: so all others, sveita R    [2] sunds liðu dýr: ‘s[…]dz[…]yr’ W    [3] sigrakkr: so W, A, sigrakr R, Tˣ    [4] mǫgr: rakkr W

Editions: Skj: Hallvarðr háreksblesi, Knútsdrápa 1: AI, 317, BI, 293, Skald I, 149; SnE 1848-87, I, 440-1, II, 442-3, III, 87, SnE 1931, 156, SnE 1998, I, 74; Frank 1994b, 121, Jesch 2000, 245.

Context: This stanza is quoted in Skm to illustrate the ship-kenning hreinar Sveiða ‘the reindeer of Sveiði’. After quoting the stanza Snorri comments (SnE 1998, I, 74): Svá kvað Hallvarðr. Hér er ok kǫlluð sunds dýr ok særinn Sǫlsa bekkr ‘So said Hallvarðr. Here it [i.e. a ship] is also called the animal of the sound and the sea the bench of Sǫlsi’.

Notes: [All]: The two kennings involving sea-kings in this helmingr can be interpreted in different ways (see Faulkes in SnE 1998, I, 199 and Jesch 2000, 251). As seen from the Context above, Snorri gives the kennings as hreinar Sveiða ‘the reindeer of Sveiði <sea-king> [SHIPS]’ and bekkr Sǫlsa ‘the bench of Sǫlsi <sea-king> [SEA]’. However, this might be disputed, not least because it leaves trǫð ‘path’ (l. 4) unattached. Alternative configurations would be: (a) hreinar Sveiða ‘reindeer of Sveiði [SHIPS]’ and trǫð bekkjar Sǫlsa ‘the path of the bench of Sǫlsi [SHIP > SEA]’ (so Skj B, Frank 1994b, and Faulkes in SnE 1998, I, 199); (b) hreinar bekkjar Sǫlsa ‘reindeer of the bench of Sǫlsi  [SEA > SHIPS]’ and trǫð Sveiða ‘the path of Sveiði [SEA]’ (so Jesch 2000). The second of these alternatives is preferred here, as it forms a closer parallel to ÞKolb Eirdr 1/5, 7I vangr Sveiða ‘the field of Sveiði [SEA]’ (see Note to l. 1 below).  — [1] Sveiða ‘of Sveiði <sea-king>’: Sveiði is listed as a sea-king heiti in Þul Sækonunga 1/8 (see Note there), and the name also occurs in the kenning vangr Sveiða ‘Sveiði’s plain [SEA]’ in ÞKolb Eirdr 1/5, 7I. In fact, Þórðr’s l. 5 súðlǫngum frá Sveiða bears an obvious resemblance to l. 1 of the present stanza. Eirdr was composed in honour jointly of Knútr and his Norwegian jarl Eiríkr Hákonarson, probably in England c. 1016-23 (Poole 1987, 270-1); Hallvarðr’s echoes suggest that Þórðr’s poem continued to be known among the poets at Knútr’s court. — [2] liðu ‘glided’: On the meaning of this verb (occurring also in st. 3/2), see further Jesch (2001a, 175). — [3] Sǫlsa ‘of Sǫlsi <sea-king>’: Like Sveiði (l. 1), Sǫlsi is listed as a heiti for ‘sea-king’ in the þulur (Þul Sea-kings l. 6; Þul Sækonunga 5/2). — [4] mǫgr Sveins ‘son of Sveinn [= Knútr]’: As Frank (1994b, 112) points out, Knútr’s poets frequently characterise him as the son of his father, Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ Haraldsson. The same phrase is also found, in identical position, in Ótt Knútdr 6/8I.

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