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Runic Dictionary

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Ormr Steinþórsson (Ormr)

11th century; volume 3; ed. Russell Poole;

1. Poem about a woman (Woman) - 7

Nothing is known about Ormr Steinþórsson (Ormr). The patronymic indicates that he was probably an Icelander rather than a Norwegian (Ólafur Halldórsson 1969b, 156). Finnur Jónsson (Skj AI, 415) places him in the eleventh century, with a query, but commonalities between his work and certain other poems, noted below, make a floruit in the late twelfth century, perhaps even the turn of the thirteenth, more probable. He appears from the internal evidence of poetic fragments attributed to him to have composed for both male and female patrons; one of the male recipients was evidently blind (see Introduction to Ormr Frag below).

Poem about a woman — Ormr WomanIII

Russell Poole 2017, ‘ Ormr Steinþórsson, Poem about a woman’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 323. <> (accessed 27 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6 

for reference only:  1x 

Skj: Ormr Steinþórsson: 1. Af et digt om en kvinde (?) (AI, 415-416, BI, 385); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

SkP info: III, 329

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Ormr Woman 5III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Ormr Steinþórsson, Poem about a woman 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 329.

At væri borit bjórs
bríkar ok mitt lík
— rekkar nemi dauðs drykk
Dvalins — í einn sal.

At væri lík {bríkar bjórs} ok mitt borit í einn sal; nemi rekkar {drykk dauðs Dvalins}.

That the body {of the board of beer} [WOMAN] and my [body] were borne into one hall; may men learn {the drink of the dead Dvalinn <dwarf>} [POEM].

Mss: R(21v), Tˣ(21v), W(46), U(27r), B(4r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] borit: burs U    [3] drykk: ‘dr[…]k’ U

Editions: Skj: Ormr Steinþórsson, 1. Af et digt om en kvinde (?) 1: AI, 415, BI, 385, Skald I, 191, NN §§898, 2925; SnE 1848-87, I, 246-7, II, 306, 521, III, 11, SnE 1931, 92, SnE 1998, I, 12.

Context: In Skm (SnE) the stanza occurs in a series of citations exemplifying kennings for ‘poetry’.

Notes: [All]: The whole of the fragment is an at-clause; the remainder of the sentence is not extant (SnE 1998, I, 161). The speaker evidently expresses reluctance to be separated from the woman. In the Snæfríðr story, Haraldr is so infatuated with Snæfríðr that he never leaves her side so long as she lives and sits by her body for three years after she has died (Ágr, ÍF 29, 6; Hkr, ÍF 26, 126; Flat 1860-8, I, 582). Nothing is said, however, as to his wishes regarding the disposition of his own body after his death. This stanza and Hhárf Snædr 1I have in common the use of the words rekkr ‘man’ (l. 3) and Dvalinn (l. 4). — [1] bjórs ‘of beer’: This interpretation, with LP: 1. bjórr, is the most straightforward and best paralleled in woman-kennings. The two alternative senses proposed by Kock (NN §2925) as determinants, isättning ‘gore’ or bonad ‘wall hanging’, drawn from the semantic field of ‘sewing’, fit well with women’s activities but have weaker support in terms of actual kenning usage (cf. Meissner 417-18). — [3-4]: It is not fully clear how to construe the potential kenning elements in these two lines. (a) This edn follows Kock (NN §898), who construes dauðs ‘of the dead’ (l. 3) as an adj. describing Dvalins in l. 4 (cf. SnE 1998), yielding a kenning of the ‘drink of the dwarfs’ = ‘poetry’ type. When Dvalinn is described as ‘dead’, the poet may be influenced by a linkage in the mythology between dwarfs and the dead (see Reichborn-Kjennerud 1934a, 282; Holtsmark 1989, 77). (b) Earlier solutions hinged on taking dauðs outside the parenthesis, though this would make for aberrant word order by skaldic norms. In CPB II, 322 dauðs is apparently combined with sal ‘hall’ (l. 4) to yield the meaning ‘grave’, which in and of itself is contextually superior to ‘hall’ (since the speaker would more naturally wish for his and the woman’s body to be placed in a common grave rather than in one hall) but cannot be sustained in terms of kenning usage and word order. (c) In Skj B, here following SnE 1848-87, III, it is instead combined with mitt, with translation mit afsjælede legeme ‘my dead body’, but the syntax of this is unclear and the problem of word order persists. (d) If Dvalins could instead be construed with sal the result would be a kenning for ‘stone’ or ‘mountain’, since the dwarfs characteristically dwell there (see Note to st. 6/2 below). The legend of king Sveigðir shows that human beings could be envisaged as disappearing into such ‘stones’ never to reappear (see Þjóð Yt 2I Note to [All]), as if into the grave, which would yield an appropriate wish on the part of the speaker. But that, unless we presuppose apo koinou of Dvalins between the parenthesis and the subordinate clause, would entail accepting drykk dauðs ‘drink of a dead [one]’ as a kenning for ‘poetry’. Such a combination would be unparalleled in kenning usage. On the other hand, given the equally aberrant kenning kerlaug drauga ‘the cup-liquid of the undead [POETRY]’ in Hhárf Snædr 1/4I and the occurrence of Dvalins in a second unparalleled kenning, greip Dvalins ‘the grasp of Dvalinn <dwarf> [MOUTH]’, in Hhárf Snædr 1/5I, it could be that the original Snæfríðardrápa contained much play upon the motifs of the dead, the undead and dwarfs, incorporating some free handling of traditional kenning templates. To this extent, the possibility of a poetry-kenning drykk dauðs should be kept in consideration. — [3-4]: The speaker of the parenthesis is the poet rather than the hero of the inset narrative, who speaks the rest of the helmingr.

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