This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson (Ólsv)

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

3. Kristsdrápa (Kristdr) - 2

Skj info: Óláfr Leggsson, svartaskáld, Islandsk skjald, 13. årh. (AII, 84-86, BII, 96-97).

Skj poems:
1. En drape om kong Hakon (?)
2. En drape om Skule jarl
3. En drape om Kristus (?)
4. Af et kærlighedsdigt (?)
5. Lausavísa

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.

Kristsdrápa (‘Drápa about Christ’) — Ólsv KristdrIII

Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘ Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson, Kristsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 314. <> (accessed 2 December 2021)

 1   2 

Skj: Óláfr Leggsson, svartaskáld: 3. En drape om Kristus (?) (AII, 85, BII, 96)

SkP info: III, 315

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Ólsv Kristdr 2III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson, Kristsdrápa 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. 315.

Tungl gaft, tryggvinr engla,
talið dœgr megin lœgis,
— fekk hlýrnir stað stjǫrnum —
sterkr, ok aldir merkja.

{Sterkr tryggvinr engla}, gaft tungl merkja talið dœgr, megin lœgis ok aldir; hlýrnir fekk stjǫrnum stað.

{Powerful faithful friend of angels} [= God], you gave celestial bodies to mark the number of days and nights, the power of the sea and the ages; the sky found a place for the stars.

Mss: 743ˣ(87r), 2368ˣ(114) (LaufE)

Readings: [1] gaft: gaf 2368ˣ;    ‑vinr: ‘‑umur’ 2368ˣ    [2] megin: megir both

Editions: Skj: Óláfr Leggsson, svartaskáld, 3. En drape om Kristus (?) 2: AII, 85, BII, 96, Skald II, 52, NN §1333; SnE 1848-87, II, 629, III, 193, LaufE 1979, 372-3.

Context: As st. 1 above.

Notes: [All]: Given the theme of creation, the referent of the kenning tryggvinr engla ‘faithful friend of angels’ (l. 1) must be ‘God’ rather than ‘Christ’. The content of the stanza is very reminiscent of the creation of the world according to Vsp (sts 5-6), especially st. 6/5-10 (NK 2): nótt oc niðiom | nǫfn um gáfo, | morgin héto | oc miðian dag, | undorn oc aptan, | árom at telia ‘[they] gave names to the night and the waning moon, they named the morning and the middle of the day, the afternoon and the evening, so as to keep count of the years’. See also Vafþr 22-5. Ártali ‘year-counter’ is also a heiti for ‘moon’ (see Þul Tungls l. 6, Alv 14/6 and Skm, SnE 1998, I, 85). See also Gen. I.14. — [2] dœgr ‘days and nights’: Dœgr could mean the twelve-hour period of the day (or night) as well as the full twenty-four hours (see Introduction to Þul Dœgra). — [2] megin lœgis ‘the power of the sea’: Both mss have ‘meger’, i.e. megir m. nom. pl. ‘sons’, which makes no sense syntactically. The reading was undoubtedly introduced by the compiler of this section of LaufE (or its exemplar), based on the assumption that megir lœgis ‘sons of the sea’ was a kenning for ‘men’ (cf. Context to st. 1 above). The emendation is in keeping with earlier eds. Megin ‘power’ also occurs in Vsp 5/9-10 (NK 2): máni þat né vissi, | hvat hann megins átti ‘the moon did not know what power it had’. It is not immediately clear what the creation of celestial bodies had to do with the power of the sea, but it probably refers to high and low tide, phenomena caused by the gravitational forces of the heavenly bodies and the earth’s rotation (see Clunies Ross and Gade 2012, 202). — [3] hlýrnir fekk stjǫrnum stað ‘the sky found a place for the stars’: Cf. Vsp 5/7-8 (NK 2): stiǫrnor þat né visso, | hvar þær staði átto ‘the stars did not know where they should be placed’. For hlýrnir as a heiti for ‘sky, heaven’, see Note to Þul Himins I l. 13. — [4] merkja ‘to mark’: Merkja is taken here (with SnE 1848-87 and Skj B) as a verb (‘mark’). Kock (NN §1333) treats this as a noun ‘of the stars’, gen. pl., qualifying aldir (aldir merkja ‘the ages of the stars’). According to that interpretation, the first clause would be construed as gaft tungl, talið dœgr, megin lœgis, aldir merkja ‘you gave celestial bodies, the number of days and nights, the power of the sea, the ages of the stars’. Aside from the fact that it is difficult to see what ‘(you gave) the ages of the stars’ would mean, it is out of keeping with Old Norse cosmology, which was very much preoccupied with computation (see Note to [All] above, as well as Clunies Ross and Gade 2012).

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.