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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson (Hfr)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Diana Whaley;

2. Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (ErfÓl) - 29

Skj info: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, Islandsk skjald, død ved 1007. (AI, 155-73, BI, 147-63).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonardrápa
2. Óláfsdrápa
3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa
4. Eiríksdrápa
5. Lausavísur

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ‘Troublesome-poet’ Óttarsson (Hfr) was brought up in Vatnsdalur, northern Iceland, probably in the 960s. He is the subject of Hallfreðar saga (Hallfr), which survives both as a continuous text (ÍF 8, 133-200) and interpolated into ÓT. The main strands of the saga are Hallfreðr’s unhappy relationship with Kolfinna Ávaldadóttir, his travels as trader, fighter and poet, his conversion to Christianity and his devotion to Óláfr Tryggvason, and all these aspects of his life occasioned poetry which partially survives.

Fragments of an early drápa for Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (r. c. 970-c. 995) are extant (Hfr HákdrIII; ÍF 8, 151), but the greater part of Hallfreðr’s court poetry, and the poetry edited in this volume, concerns King Óláfr Tryggvason (c. 995-c. 1000): Óláfsdrápa (Hfr Óldr) and Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (Hfr ErfÓl). Like other Icelanders, Hallfreðr accepted Christian baptism under the influence of Óláfr. The difficulty, for a poet and pagan, of this switch of religious allegiance is the theme of Hfr Lv 6-10V, and is, according to the sagas, alluded to in his nickname vandræðaskáld, lit. ‘Poet of difficulties’. The sagas agree that the name was bestowed by the king, though they differ about the precise reason (ÓTOdd 1932, 125-6; Hkr, ÍF 26, 331-2; Hallfr, ÍF 8, 155; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 387). Hallfreðr is attributed with a lost Uppreistardrápa ‘Restoration drápa’ (?), supposedly composed to atone for his journey into pagan Gautland (Västergötland, ÍF 8, 178). He is also credited in Hallfr (ÍF 8, 194-5) with an encounter with Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (r. c. 1000-c. 1014) and in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 266, 280) with poetry for him; this is vestigially preserved in Eiríksdrápa (Hfr EirdrV). The saga also shows Hallfreðr presenting a flokkr to the Danish jarl Sigvaldi (ÍF 8, 168) and a poem to the Swedish king Óláfr Eiríksson (ÍF 8, 177-8), but no traces of these survive.

The marriage of Kolfinna, the love of Hallfreðr’s youth, to Gríss Sæmingsson provoked Hallfreðr both early and later in life to compose strikingly inventive stanzas which intertwine themes of yearning love and rivalry (Hfr Lv 1-3, 15-24V), and his níð against Gríss led to legal proceedings and indirectly to the killing of Hallfreðr’s brother Galti (Ldn, ÍF 1, 224; ÍF 8, 189-90). In the course of an adventure in Västergötland (Hfr Lv 12-14V), Hallfreðr met and married Ingibjǫrg Þórisdóttir, who died young, but not before bearing two sons, Auðgísl and Hallfreðr. According to Hallfr (ÍF 8, 196-9), Hallfreðr himself died at the age of nearly forty, from a combination of illness and injury as he sailed through the Hebrides; he was buried on Iona (cf. Hfr Lv 26-7V).

Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar (‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr Tryggvason’) — Hfr ErfÓlI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘ Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar’ 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. 400. <> (accessed 5 August 2021)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26a   26b   27   28 

Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld: 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa, 1001 (AI, 159-66, BI, 150-7); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 27 | 28 | 29

SkP info: I, 425

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

18 — Hfr ErfÓl 18I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 18’ 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. 425.

Veitkat hitt, hvárt Heita
hungrdeyfi skalk leyfa
dynsæðinga dauðan
dýrbliks eða þó kvikvan,
alls sannliga segja
— sárr mun gramr at hvôru —
— hætts til hans at frétta —
hvárrtveggja mér seggir.

Veitkat hitt, hvárt skalk leyfa {{{{{Heita dýr}bliks} dyn}sæðinga} hungrdeyfi} dauðan eða þó kvikvan, alls seggir segja mér hvárrtveggja sannliga; gramr mun sárr at hvôru; hætts at frétta til hans.

I do not know whether I am to praise {the hunger-soother {of the gulls {of the din {of the gleam {of the beast of Heiti <sea-king>}}}}} [(lit. ‘hunger-soother of the din-gulls of the beast-gleam of Heiti’) SHIP > SHIELD > BATTLE > RAVENS/EAGLES > WARRIOR] dead or, after all, alive, since men tell me both as the truth; the lord must be wounded either way; it is risky to enquire about him.

Mss: FskAˣ(144) (Fsk); Holm18(54r), 310(92), 4-7(1vb) (ÓTOdd, ll. 1-4); Kˣ(216v), 22ˣ(102r marg), F(36vb), J1ˣ(134v), J2ˣ(117r) (Hkr); 61(69rb), 53(65vb), 54(67ra), 325VIII 2 g(1ra), Bb(102vb), Flat(66ra) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Veitkat (‘Veit ec eighi’): ‘Væitat ec’ 310, ‘Vættkaþa ek’ 54, 325VIII 2 g, ‘Vattkada ek’ Bb;    hvárt: so 310, F, J2ˣ, 61, 53, hvar FskAˣ, hvé Holm18, Flat, þó at 4‑7, áðr Kˣ, hvert J1ˣ, Flat;    Heita: so Holm18, 4‑7, Kˣ, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, 53, 325VIII 2 g, Bb, Flat, ‘hætta’ FskAˣ, ‘hreyti’ 310, ‘hetta’ 54    [4] dýrbliks: dagbliks 22ˣmarg, F, dýrðlíks 61, 53, dýrligs 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb    [5] alls: all 22ˣmarg, 53;    segja: segjum Flat    [6] sárr: so all others, sárt FskAˣ    [7] frétta: ‘fratta’ F    [8] hvárr‑: hvart J1ˣ;    seggir: seggr J1ˣ

Editions: Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 20: AI, 163-4, BI, 154, Skj AI, 163, Skj BI, 154, Skald I, 84, NN §§1085, 1957, 1959; Fsk 1902-3, 132 (ch. 22), ÍF 29, 160 (ch. 24); ÓTOdd 1932, 233, 256, ÍF 25, 348-9; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 455, IV, 101-2, ÍF 26, 368, Hkr 1991, I, 250 (ÓTHkr ch. 112), F 1871, 166; SHI 3, 6, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 290 (ch. 256), Flat 1860-8, I, 494.

Context: Óláfr is defeated, but accounts of the battle’s last moments are contradictory: some people celebrate his underwater escape to the ship of his allies, the Wends, while some mourn his death.

Notes: [All]: On the configuration of helmingar in ms. 4-7, see Note to st. 19 [All]. — [1] hvárt ‘whether’: The extreme variation in the mss perhaps reflects the unexpectedness of the statement in the first helmingr, but only hvárt completes the syntax. It also has the strongest ms. support. — [1, 2, 3, 4] Heita dýrbliks dynsæðinga hungrdeyfi ‘the hunger-soother of the gulls of the din of the gleam of the beast of Heiti <sea-king> [(lit. ‘hunger-soother of the din-gulls of the beast-gleam of Heiti’) SHIP > SHIELD > BATTLE > RAVENS/EAGLES > WARRIOR]’: This splendid, complex rekit ‘extended’ kenning is all the more striking in contrast to the formal simplicity of much of ErfÓl. Although it is structurally complex, its components are clearly linked by alliteration, enjambment and vertical placement (see Gade 1995a, 202-8, 216-17) and it conforms to well-established patterns. For comment on the constituent parts and variant readings, see following Notes. — [1, 4] Heita dýrbliks ‘of the gleam of the beast of Heiti <sea-king> [(lit. ‘of the beast-gleam of Heiti’) SHIP > SHIELD]’: Alternatives (excluding FskAˣ’s ‘hætta’, which makes no sense in context) are the following. (a) Hreyti, dat. of hreytir ‘strewer’, could possibly form a man-kenning (hreyti dýrbliks ‘strewer of the precious gleam [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’), but the determinant, bliks, is only a half-kenning, and the other elements are left hanging. (b) Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SHI 3) and Kock (NN §1085) suggest dýr- is the intensifying adj. ‘precious, splendid’, so ‘the splendid gleam of Heiti [SWORD/SHIELD]’, but this kenning lacks parallels. — [3] -sæðinga ‘of the gulls’: Sæðingr m. is the Common Gull (Larus canus; so Fritzner). — [4] dýrbliks ‘of the gleam of the beast (lit. ‘of the beast-gleam’)’: The variants dýrðlíks/dýrligs ‘of the glorious’ attempt to simplify the main kenning by substituting an adj. for one of its elements. While both are syntactically possible, they are clearly secondary; dýrligs is also unmetrical. F’s dagbliks ‘of the day-gleam’ is difficult to make sense of. — [5]: The line lacks internal rhyme, and Kock (NN §1959; Skald) tentatively proposed that senna ‘allege’ might have been replaced by segja ‘say’, the reading of all mss, very early in the transmission. — [7] hætts at frétta til hans ‘it is risky to enquire about him’: A contrasting sentiment is expressed in st. 15/1. Skj B takes hætt as the p. p. of hætta ‘to cease’, rather than n. nom. sg. of hættr ‘risky, dangerous’ as in NN §1957 and the Text above, and construes the clause as meaning ‘[people] have ceased to hear anything of him’. This is a possible alternative but it has not found support (see ÍF 29; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991).

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