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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, 436

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

25 — Hfr ErfÓl 25I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 25’ 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. 436.

Illt vas, þats ulfa sultar
optþverri stóðk ferri,
mest þars malmar brustu,
mein, þótt smátt sé und einum.
Skiliðr em ek við skylja;
skalmǫld hefr því valdit;
vættik virða dróttins;
vils mest ok dul flestum.

Illt mein vas, þats stóðk ferri {optþverri sultar ulfa}, þars malmar brustu mest, þótt smátt sé und einum. Skiliðr em ek við skylja; {skalmǫld} hefr valdit því; vættik {dróttins virða}; flestum [e]s mest vil ok dul.

It was an evil, harmful thing that I stood far from {the frequent diminisher of the famine of wolves} [WARRIOR], where metal weapons clashed most, though little may depend on one man. I am separated from the ruler; {a sword-age} [BATTLE] has caused that; I hope for {the lord of men} [RULER]; to most it [that hope] is the greatest wilfulness and delusion.

Mss: 61(69vb), 53(66rb), 54(67va), 325VIII 2 g(1va), Bb(103ra) (ÓT); R(39v), Tˣ(41r-v), U(37r), A(15r), B(6v), 744ˣ(41r), C(9r) (SnE, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [2] optþverri: opt þverri all;    ferri (‘fjarri’): so all others, ‘fierri’ 61    [4] þótt (‘þo at’): ‘þo et’ 53    [5] Skiliðr: ‘skildr’ A, B, ‘skylíndr’ C;    skylja: ‘skyha’ 325VIII 2 g, ‘skvha’ Bb, ‘sk(yia)’(?) ‘sk[…]’ U    [6] skalmǫld hefr því valdit: ‘ska[…]’ B, skalmǫld hefir því valdit 744ˣ;    skalm‑: ‘skam’ U    [7] vættik (‘vætti ek’): ‘uetta ec’ Tˣ, ‘v[…]ti […]’ B, vætti ek 744ˣ;    virða: ‘[…]’ B, virða 744ˣ, ‘vida’ C    [8] vils (‘vil er’): vil ek 53, A, B, vilja 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb, villa er U;    dul: ‘[…]vl’ U

Editions: Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 27: AI, 165-6, BI, 156, Skald I, 85, NN §§514, 1779D, 1835, 2213; SHI 3, 10, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 294 (ch. 256); SnE 1848-87, I, 520-1, II, 343, 461, 540, 607, SnE 1931, 182, SnE 1998, I, 102, 221.

Context: In ÓT, this follows st. 24 as part of a discussion of rumours about Óláfr’s fate after the battle. In the Skm section of SnE, ll. 5-8 come eighth in a series of nine helmingar exemplifying heiti for rulers, in this case skyli. The prose explains these heiti as the names of the last nine sons of Hálfdan gamli ‘the Old’.

Notes: [All]: Ms. 744ˣ, a copy of B by Jón Ólafsson, has been used selectively, to supply readings (whether these match or differ from the main text) where B is not legible.  — [2] optþverri ‘the frequent diminisher’: Reichardt (1928, 90-1) reads ‘opt þverrir’ in the mss as a cpd, which simplifies the helmingr’s syntax and has met with widespread approval (NN §1835; LP: optþverrir; Ohlmarks 1958, 463). The adverbial opt- ‘often’ seems plausible as a prefix to the agent noun þverrir, although seemingly without precise parallel (Skarp Lv 3/4V (Nj 18) optveitendr ‘frequent givers’ is editorial and unnecessary, cf. Meissner 63-4). Skj B awkwardly takes opt with þótt smátt sé und einum, hence ‘though one person often makes little difference’. — [2] stóðk ferri ‘I stood far from’: As opposed to standa nær ‘stand by, support, back’. Hallfreðr missed the battle of Svǫlðr, having gone to Iceland. According to Hallfr (ÍF 8, 169), his bitter regret was predicted by Óláfr. — [2] ferri ‘far from’: Grammatically the comp. form ‘farther’. Ferri and the more usual fjarri are variant forms resulting from breaking and analogy (ANG §92). Most mss have ‘fiarri’ here, but normalised ferri is indicated by the aðalhending on þverri, as also in st. 20/8 ferri : verr, where some scribes seem to have been confused by the form (see Readings). — [5]: The lexis and metrical pattern of this line echo st. 12/7; cf. Note there. — [6] skalmǫld ‘a sword-age [BATTLE]’: In Vsp 45/7, skalmǫld characterises the violence and chaos before the world plunges into Ragnarǫk, but in skaldic poems it is used in non-eschatological contexts, to mean ‘important, decisive battle’ (Þorm Lv 19/4V (Fbr 34), Anon (Stu) 40/8IV). The cpd is tentatively considered a kenning here (cf. Meissner 201), though the pattern is not typical. — [7-8]: The sense of these lines is somewhat elusive, but seems to be ‘I hope for the ruler (Óláfr), but most people count that hope as a delusion’. As in sts 19-23, Hallfreðr seems to raise the possibility that Óláfr is alive only to reject it. Skj B emends vættik ‘I expect’ to vætta ‘(to) expect’ and construes ll. 7-8 as: flestum es mest vil ok dul vætta virða dróttins ‘for most it is the greatest wilfulness and delusion to expect the lord of men [RULER]’; so also Skald. — [7] dróttins virða ‘the lord of men [RULER]’: Ruler-kennings of this type are also used of God (Meissner 369-70), and this cannot be ruled out here, though see Note to ll. 7-8. The gen. case of dróttins is required by the verb vættik ‘I hope’. — [8] [e]s mest vil ok dul ‘it [that hope] is the greatest wilfulness and delusion’: Vil ok dul is a standing phrase in both verse (LP: 2. vil) and prose (FGT 1972a, 220), and persists in ModIcel.

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