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Markús Skeggjason (Mark)

12th century; volume 2; ed. Jayne Carroll;

III. 2. Fragments (Frag) - 2

Markús Skeggjason (Mark) was the son of Skeggi Bjarnason and possibly a brother of the poet Þórarinn Skeggjason (ÞSkegg). He was lawspeaker in Iceland from 1084 until his death on 15 October 1107. In Íslendingabók (Íslb, ÍF 1, 22) he is named as an important informant for Ari Þorgilsson about the lives of the earlier lawspeakers in Iceland. He had gained this information from his brother, father and grandfather. Markús appears to have had close ties to the Church: during his time as lawspeaker, and with his guidance, Gizurr Ísleifsson, bishop of Skálholt (1081-1118), established the Icel. tithe laws (ÍF 1, 22). Markús was among the most respected poets in the canon of the C13th and he is cited often in SnE and TGT (see below).

In Skáldatal, Markús is associated with S. Knútr Sveinsson of Denmark (d. 1086), Eiríkr inn góði ‘the Good’ Sveinsson of Denmark (d. 1103), and Ingi Steinkelsson of Sweden (d. 1110) (SnE 1848-87, III, 252, 258, 260, 267, 271, 283, see also 348-53). An extended hrynhent poem about Eiríkr (Mark Eirdr), composed after his death in 1103, and one helmingr about ‘Sveinn’s brother’, probably S. Knútr (Mark KnútdrIII), survive, alongside one helmingr and a couplet from a possible drápa about Christ (Mark KristdrIII) and two lvv. (Mark Lv 1-2III). Aside from Eirdr, all of Markús’s extant poetry is transmitted in SnE or TGT, and it has been edited in SkP III.

Fragments — Mark FragIII

Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘ Markús Skeggjason, 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. 293. <> (accessed 18 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2 

Skj: Markús Skeggjason: 3. Kristsdrápa(?) (AI, 452, BI, 420)

SkP info: III, 294

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Mark Frag 2III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Markús Skeggjason, Fragments 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 294.

This couplet (Mark Frag 2) is transmitted only in ms. W of TGT, where it is attributed to Markús. Jón Sigurðsson (SnE 1848-87, III, 350) assigns it to Markús’s poem about Knútr Sveinsson (Mark Knútr), while Finnur Jónsson (Skj) believed that it belonged to Markús’s putative KristdrápaDrápa about Christ’ (see Introductions to Mark Knútr and Mark Frag 1 above, as well as Fidjestøl 1982, 153). The couplet is too fragmentary to allow for a definite attribution to an ecclesiastical or a secular sphere (see Notes below).

Hjartfœrra veit harri
hreinvazta sik baztan.

{Harri {hjartfœrra hreinvazta}} veit sik baztan.

{The lord {of deer-traversed reindeer-seas}} [EARTH > RULER] knows himself to be the best.

Mss: W(109) (TGT)

Editions: Skj: Markús Skeggjason, 3. Kristsdrápa(?) 2: AI, 452, BI, 420, Skald I, 208, NN §918; SnE 1848-87, II, 162-3, III, 148-9, TGT 1884, 28, 105, TGT 1927, 77, 105.

Context: The kenning hreinvaztir lit. ‘reindeer-fishing-grounds’ is given in TGT among examples of metaphors, and the text explains that this entails kalla jǫrð sæ dýra ‘to call the earth the sea of animals’ (TGT 1927, 77).

Notes: [1] hjartfœrra (f. gen. pl.) ‘of deer-traversed’: I.e. a place that is passable (-fœrr) for deer or traversed by deer (see LP: hjartfœrr). — [1, 2] veit sik baztan ‘knows himself to be the best’: This formula also occurs in the split refrain (klofastef) of Steinn ÓldrII (for that refrain, see Note to Steinn Óldr 1/8II). — [2]: For the internal rhyme vazt- : bazt-, see also Bragi Frag 6/2. — [2] hreinvazta (f. gen. pl.) ‘reindeer-seas [EARTH]’: Vǫzt, from Proto-Nordic *waða-stō, originally meant ‘fishing ground’ (see AEW: vǫzt as well as Note to Bragi Frag 6/2), but by extension the word could mean ‘sea’ and function as a base-word in kennings for ‘earth, land’ (Meissner 87). It is not quite clear what the actual referent of harri hreinvazta ‘lord of the reindeer-seas’ is. In the present edn, the paraphrase is taken broadly as a kenning for ‘ruler’ (for that kenning pattern, see Meissner 352-3). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: hjartfœrr) interprets hreinvazta as ‘of the mountains’ and regards it as part of a kenning for ‘God’ in which a now lost determinant with the meaning ‘roof, hall’ was contained in the other, no longer extant couplet; i.e. ‘lord of the roof/hall of the mountains [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]’. Although Finnur’s suggestion cannot be dismissed out of hand, it would be odd indeed for God (or Christ) to consider ‘himself to be the best’; rather, such a phrasing is much more suitable in a secular poem (cf. Note to ll. 1, 2 above and Steinn ÓldrII). Kock (NN §918) argues that nothing is missing here, and that the kenning harri hreinvazta, which he interprets as Fjällens herre ‘Lord of the mountains’, refers to a king of Norway. That is unlikely, however, because Markús is not associated with any Norwegian kings, only with kings of Denmark and with Ingi Steinkelsson of Sweden (see Markús’s Biography in SkP II).

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated