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Prose works relevant to the database

The Fourth Grammatical Treatise (FoGT)

Skaldic vol. 3; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross

part of: Málfrœðiritgerðirnar

verse introduction manuscripts contents

Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 > 8. Volume Introduction > 3. Sources for skaldic poetry cited in the kings’ sagas: manuscripts, facsimiles and editions > 3.3. Other sources > 3. The First, Third and Fourth Grammatical Treatises (FGT, TGT, FoGT)


A:        AM 748 I b 4° (c. 1300-25). Also contains SnE. TGT: fols 1r-8v.

W:       Codex Wormianus, AM 242 fol (c. 1350). Also contains SnE. FGT: fols 84-90; TGT: fols 94-111; FoGT: fols 111-19.

B:        AM 757 a 4° (c. 1400). Also contains SnE. TGT: fols 1r-3r.

744ˣ:    AM 744 4° (early C18th, by Jón Ólafsson). A copy of B made when was more legible than it is now. Used selectively to confirm or supplement B readings.

158 8oˣ: AM 158 8°ˣ (early C18th, by Jón Ólafsson). Also contains SnE. Materials from a grammatical treatise related to TGT.

Facsimiles and editions: W 1931, A 1945; SnE 1848-87, II, 2-249, 397-428, 501-11, FGT 1972a, FGT 1972b, TGT 1884, TGT 1927, TGT 1998, FoGT 1884, FoGT 2004.


FGT contains Ótt Hfl 8, as one of its two skaldic citations, and FoGT (whose sixty-two citations are mainly of anonymous illustrative poetry unique to this text) cites Þjsk Hák 2 and Þskúm Lv; all three stanzas are also recorded elsewhere. TGT contains 123 verse citations, normally of four or two lines, but occasionally of eight or one lines, and of these twelve are edited in this volume, including Sigv ErfÓl 26 which is unique to TGT. The fragment sometimes referred to as the Fifth Grammatical Treatise contains later Icelandic poetry, but none edited in this volume; the Second Grammatical Treatise contains no poetry. For poetry from the Grammatical Treatises in SkP II, see SkP II, lxxviii.

Vol. II. Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: from c. 1035 to c. 1300 > 8. Introduction > 4. Sources for Skaldic Poetry Cited in the Kings' Sagas > 3. Other sources > 3. The First, Third and Fourth Grammatical Treatises (FGT, TGT, FoGT)


W:            Codex Wormianus, AM 242 fol. See SnE. FGT: 84-90; TGT: 94-111; FoGT: 111-19.

A:             AM 748 I b 4°. See SnE. TGT: 1r-8v.

B:             AM 757 a 4°. See SnE. TGT: 1r-3r.

Facsimiles and editions: W 1931, A 1945; SnE 1848-87, II, 2-249, 397-428, 501-11, FGT 1972a, FGT 1972b, TGT 1884, TGT 1927, TGT 1998, FoGT 1884, FoGT 2004.


FGT contains ÞjóðA Har 3/1-2, and FoGT cites Arn Hryn 3/3-4. The following stanzas are found in TGT: Sigv Berv 12/1-4, ÞjóðA Sex 28, ÞjóðA Lv 1, ÞjóðA Frag 4, Arn Hryn 1-2, 3/3-4, Hskv Útdr 12. Of these stanzas, ÞjóðA Sex 28, ÞjóðA Lv 1, ÞjóðA Frag 4, Arn Hryn 1-2 and Hskv Útdr 12 are not recorded elsewhere.

Vol. III. Poetry from Treatises on Poetics > 7. Introduction > 4. Sources > 4.2. The Works > 4.2.5. The Fourth Grammatical Treatise

The Fourth Grammatical Treatise (FoGT) is extant only in W, where it occupies pages 111-19 of the ms.’s seventh gathering, immediately following the end of The Third Grammatical Treatise (TGT). Together with the Prologue to all the grammatical treatises in W, which may have been composed by the same anonymous author (Sverrir Tómasson 1993), FoGT is the youngest of the four main Old Icelandic grammatical treatises, and most likely dates from some time after 1309, the date of an incident mentioned in one of the stanzas (Anon (FoGT) 7), and before 1350, the latter being the probable date of the writing of W. Although the author of FoGT is unknown, it is likely that he belonged to a learned milieu, and various indications suggest a connection with one of the northern Icelandic Benedictine monasteries of Þingeyrar or Munkaþverá.

FoGT is best considered as a continuation and amplification of TGT, a relationship discussed in detail in the Introduction to FoGT 2014 (FoGT 2014, xxxvii-xliv). The author acknowledges his debt to TGT’s composer, Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson, in several places and also shows his awareness of Snorri Sturluson’s writing, particularly Háttatal. However, the foundation of FoGT and its principal source was the twelfth chapter of the Doctrinale (c. 1200) of Alexander de Villa-Dei. The Doctrinale (ed. Reichling 1893) was a popular versified textbook of Latin grammar for intermediate students in medieval European schools. Its twelfth chapter describes a selection of rhetorical figures used by Latin poets. In the second part of TGT, the so-called Málskrúðsfræði ‘The Lore of Rhetoric’, Óláfr Þórðarson based himself largely on Donatus’s Barbarismus, but TGT also shows the influence of the Doctrinale, especially towards the end of Málskrúðsfræði, as Wellendorf (FoGT 2014, xli-xliv and forthcoming) has now demonstrated. The author of FoGT has presented an Icelandic version of all the Graeco-Latin figures in the Doctrinale’s twelfth chapter, together with some additional figures from another popular Latin treatise, the Graecismus (c. 1200), ascribed to Eberhard of Béthune (ed. Wrobel 1887). He also knew and made use of some Latin commentaries on the Doctrinale and the Graecismus for his examples of rhetorical figures, as Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1884) and now Clunies Ross and Wellendorf (FoGT 2014) have shown in their editions.

What is new in FoGT, from the perspective of the history of medieval Icelandic grammatical literature, is the unique selection of indigenous poetic examples the author uses to illustrate the various rhetorical figures. Although both Snorri Sturluson and Óláfr Þórðarson do use some anonymous poetic examples to illustrate their treatises on poetics, most of their citations are taken from named Norse poets, of whom the majority are Icelanders. By contrast, the majority of the poetic examples in FoGT (forty-seven out of sixty-two stanzas) are anonymous. Moreover, many of them are so ingeniously crafted to demonstrate close parallels to the examples given in FoGT’s Latin sources that it seems probable that they were composed for that very purpose and did not otherwise have currency in the skaldic repertoire. They are therefore likely to be of early fourteenth-century date and possibly the work of the treatise’s author himself. Many of the examples have a strongly Christian religious or didactic character, unlike most of the examples provided by Snorri and Óláfr, which are either secular or (especially in the case of early skaldic poetry) draw upon the pre-Christian mythological system. The prose text of FoGT, too, delights in theological or moralising explanations and digressions.

The fifteen stanzas of FoGT that are either attributed to named poets in the treatise or can be identified from external sources include the work of some of the major poets of the Old Norse repertoire cited in the grammatical treatises: Bragi Boddason, Arnórr jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’ Poet’ Þórðarson, Einarr Skúlason, Snorri Sturluson and Óláfr (probably Þórðarson). Others are less frequently cited and, as a general comment, it can be observed that FoGT’s coverage of poetic examples from the chief poets of the eleventh and twelfth centuries is quite restricted compared with both SnE and TGT. On the other hand, the author quotes stanzas by three late tenth- or early eleventh-century skalds from the north of Iceland, Þorleifr jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s Poet’ Rauðfeldarson, Eiríkr viðsjá ‘the Circumspect’ and Þorleifr skúma ‘Dusky’ (?) Þorkelsson. This slight bias in favour of northern skalds may support the presumption of many scholars that W was itself a product of the Þingeyrar scriptorium (W 1924, i-ii; Sigurður Nordal 1931, 17-18), and that FoGT may have been composed somewhere nearby, if not in that monastery.

FoGT exists in six independent editions. The first edition of FoGT was that of Rasmus Rask in his edition of SnE (SnE 1818, 335-53). Rask did not consider FoGT an independent text but a continuation of TGT, entitled Figúrur í ræðunni ‘Figures of speech’. The second edition was that of Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SnE 1848, 200-12), in which FoGT was entitled Seinni viðbættir við málskrúðs-fræðina ‘Later supplement to the lore of rhetoric’ and the third the Arnamagnæan Commission’s edition (SnE 1848-87, II, 190-249, III, 152-63), whose editor-in-chief was Jón Sigurðsson, but to which Sveinbjörn Egilsson contributed the facing Latin translation in Volume II (1852) and a number of Latin notes in Volume III (1880-7). In that edition FoGT is entitled IV (Málskrúðs-fræði). The fourth edition (FoGT 1884) is by Björn Magnússon Ólsen. It includes an Introduction, an unnormalised text with notes, citation of some Latin sources, and separate editions of the stanzas cited and notes on their interpretation. The fifth edition is the unpublished doctoral dissertation from the University of Palermo by Michele Longo (FoGT 2004), which includes an Italian translation and commentary on the Icelandic text, with separate notes on the poetry. Finally, Margaret Clunies Ross and Jonas Wellendorf (FoGT 2014) have recently produced a new edition of FoGT, with an Introduction that places the treatise in the medieval Latin rhetorical tradition, an English translation and extensive Commentary on both prose and verse.

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