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Runic Dictionary

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Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson (Ólsv)

13th century; volume 3; ed. R. D. Fulk;

1. Hákonardrápa (Hákdr) - 2

It is possible that Óláfr (Ólsv) was a nephew of the poet Játgeirr Torfason (SnE 1848-87, III, 681; SkP II, 652). In Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 279) he is identified as a poet attached to the court of King Hákon Hákonarson (r. 1217-63; see SkP II, lxxxi-lxxxii). His nickname svartaskáld ‘Black Skald’ no doubt was employed to distinguish him from his contemporary at Hákon’s court, Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (Ólhv; see SkP II, 656), and presumably it indicates that he had dark hair. He plays a role in a narrative in Sturlunga saga (ch. 228) set in the period 1230-1 (see Stu 1988, I, 329-30). According to that saga, he was a poor man who was in the company of Snorri Sturluson’s son, Jón murtr ‘Roach’, in Bergen in 1231. During a drunken brawl he dealt Jón an axe-blow that led to Jón’s death. Óláfr managed to escape the scene of the crime under the cover of darkness and he was not punished. He is not mentioned again in any literary source. The remains of his poetry are almost all fragmentary: these include what appear to be drápur dedicated to King Hákon (Hákdr), to Christ (Kristdr), and to the Norwegian Skúli jarl Bárðarson (1189-1240) (Skúldr), as well as a love poem (Love); the one complete work is a lone lausavísa.

Hákonardrápa (‘Drápa about Hákon’) — Ólsv HákdrIII

R. D. Fulk 2017, ‘ Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson, Hákonardrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 311. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=1329> (accessed 25 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2 

Skj: Óláfr Leggsson, svartaskáld: 1. En drape om kong Hakon (?) (AII, 84-85, BII, 96)

SkP info: III, 312

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Ólsv Hákdr 1III

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Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2017, ‘Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson, Hákonardrápa 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. 312.

Gjarn emk máls of, Mǫrnar,
mæring, þanns blik særir.

Emk gjarn máls of mæring, þanns særir {blik Mǫrnar}.

I am eager for talk of the noble man who wounds {the gleam of Mǫrn <river>} [GOLD].

Mss: W(168) (SnE); 761bˣ(261r)

Readings: [2] særir: færir 761bˣ

Editions: Skj: Óláfr Leggsson, svartaskáld, 1. En drape om kong Hakon (?) 1: AII, 84, BII, 96, Skald II, 51, NN §1331; SnE 1848-87, II, 498, III, 177.

Context: The couplet is cited to illustrate a kenning for a man who distributes gold.

Notes: [All]: The analysis presented here is in conformity with what appears to have been the understanding of the compiler of W. This analysis is almost certainly wrong, but the correct interpretation is now irrecoverable. The gold-kenning as perceived by the compiler is plainly blik Mǫrnar ‘the gleam of Mǫrn <river>’ (Mǫrn is a river in this instance: see Þul Á 3/3 and LP: 1. Mǫrn). The compiler’s understanding of the lines is perhaps further explained by his immediately following citation of SnSt Ht 40/8 hann vélir blik spannar ‘he tricks the gleam of the grip [GOLD]’, which is straightforward in terms of word order and is plainly parallel to þanns særir blik Mǫrnar ‘who wounds the gleam of Mǫrn <river> [GOLD]’, which may have been what prompted the inclusion of Óláfr’s couplet in the first place. However, as Kock points out (NN §1331), the prep. of must not be separated from its object, mæring ‘noble man’ (l. 2): such separation never occurs in dróttkvætt. He takes mæring Mǫrnar ‘the noble man of Mǫrn’ to be a kenning for ‘seafarer’ and blik ‘gleam’ alone as a heiti for ‘gold’. This solution is the only one possible from the point of view of word order. On the other hand, a kenning such as mæringr Mǫrnar ‘seafarer’ is unprecedented, as is the simplex blik for ‘gold’. The correct solution must depend upon material contained in the missing lines. — [1, 2] þanns særir blik Mǫrnar ‘who wounds the gleam of Mǫrn <river> [GOLD]’: To wound gold is to distribute it (by breaking it into pieces).

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