Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Óttarr svarti (Ótt)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Matthew Townend;

1. Hǫfuðlausn (Hfl) - 20

Skj info: Óttarr svarti, Islandsk skjald, 11. årh. (AI, 289-99, BI, 267-75).

Skj poems:
Lausavísur
1. Óláfsdrápa sœnska
2. Hǫfuðlausn
3. Knútsdrápa

The Icelandic poet Óttarr svarti ‘the Black’ (Ótt) was remembered in the twelfth century (ESk Geisl 12) as one of the hǫfuðskǫld ‘chief skalds’ of the late Viking Age. His nickname would seem to locate him within the tradition of poets being ‘dark’ in either appearance or temperament (see Clunies Ross 1978b; Finlay 2000). According to Styrmir Kárason (ÓH 1941, II, 688), the poet Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) was a mikill vinr ‘great friend’ of Óttarr, and indeed Óttarr’s Hǫfuðlausn (Ótt Hfl) is greatly indebted to Sigvatr’s Víkingarvísur (Sigv Víkv, see Introduction to Hfl). Snorri Sturluson (ÍF 27, 144; ÓH 1941, I, 203) further describes Óttarr as Sigvatr’s maternal nephew, and if this is correct he would have been the grandson of Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld ‘Poet of Sigvaldi’ (see Biography of Sigvatr Þórðarson). Óttarr features in the various sagas of Óláfr Haraldsson, but the only major anecdote about him is the story surrounding his Hfl (see Introduction).

Skáldatal, in one or both of its recensions (SnE 1848-87, III, 252, 253, 258, 260, 261, 267, 269), lists Óttarr as having composed for six patrons: the Danes Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ Haraldsson and his son Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great); Óláfr sœnski ‘the Swede’ Eiríksson and his son Ǫnundr Óláfsson; and the Norwegian King Óláfr inn helgi Haraldsson (S. Óláfr), and the Norwegian magnate Dala-Guðbrandr (‘Guðbrandr of the Dales’, on whom, see ÍF 27, 183-90; ÓH 1941, I, 271-82). For Sveinn and Dala-Guðbrandr, Óttarr is the only poet listed in Skáldatal. Panegyric poetry by Óttarr is certainly extant for three of these patrons: Óláfsdrápa (ÓldrIII) for Óláfr Eiríksson (preserved only in SnE and therefore edited in SkP III), Hfl for Óláfr Haraldsson, and Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) and Lv 2 for Knútr. It has, moreover, been suggested that one stanza in Knútdr may have been misplaced from an earlier poem for Sveinn (see Note to st. 9 [All]). No poetry survives for Ǫnundr or Dala-Guðbrandr. From all the evidence, it is likely that Óttarr visited, and composed, for, his patrons in this order: Sveinn until his death in 1014; Óláfr Eiríksson until his death c. 1021 (though ÓHLeg 1982, 130-1, has Óttarr, a young man fresh from Iceland, approaching him as his first patron), then his son Ǫnundr; Óláfr Haraldsson in the early 1020s, and Dala-Guðbrandr in the same period; Knútr by c. 1027 for an unknown period (Knútr died in 1035). For previous discussions of Óttarr’s career, see SnE 1848-87, III, 326-33, LH I, 574-7 and Poole (1993b).

Hǫfuðlausn (‘Head-ransom’) — Ótt HflI

Matthew Townend 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 739.

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Skj: Óttarr svarti: 2. Hǫfuðlausn, o. 1023 (AI, 290-6, BI, 268-72); stanzas (if different): 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

SkP info: I, 761

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

16 — Ótt Hfl 16I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 16’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 761.

Blágjóða, tókt, bræðir
bengjalfrs, ok þá sjalfa,
skatti gnœgðr, með skreyttu
skeið Hôkonar reiði.
Ungr sóttir þú, Þróttar
þings mágrennir, hingat,
(máttit jarl) þaus ôttuð,
áttlǫnd (fyr því standa).

{Bræðir {blágjóða {bengjalfrs}}}, gnœgðr skatti, tókt skeið Hôkonar með skreyttu reiði ok þá sjalfa. {{{Þróttar þings} má}grennir}, þú sóttir ungr áttlǫnd hingat, þaus ôttuð; jarl máttit standa fyr því.

{Feeder {of the dark ospreys {of the wound-sea}}} [BLOOD > RAVENS/EAGLES > WARRIOR = Óláfr], replete with tribute, you captured the warship of Hákon with [its] ornamented tackle, and the men themselves. {Feeder {of the gull {of the assembly of Þróttr <= Óðinn>}}} [(lit. ‘gull-feeder of the assembly of Þróttr’) BATTLE > RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR = Óláfr], you sought [when] young your ancestral lands here, which you owned; the jarl could not stand in the way of that.

Mss: (234v-235r) (Hkr); Holm2(9r), J1ˣ(147r), J2ˣ(127v), 325VI(7rb), 321ˣ(39), 73aˣ(26r), 78aˣ(26r), 68(8r), 61(82ra), Holm4(1ra) (ll. 2-8), 75c(6v), 325V(11va), Bb(131ra), Flat(82ra), Tóm(98v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Blá‑: ‘Bía’ 321ˣ, ‘Hia‑’ 78aˣ;    ‑gjóða: ‘‑gæida’ Flat, ‑greiða Tóm;    tókt (‘toctu’): tóku 73aˣ;    bræðir: beiðir J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 78aˣ, beiðir with bræðir in margin in later hand 325VI    [2] bengjalfrs: ‘[…]frs’ Holm4;    ‑gjalfrs: ‑gjalfr 321ˣ, 78aˣ, ‑gjalfs 61;    ok: sé 321ˣ    [3] skatti: skapti J1ˣ, J2ˣ, Flat, skipti Tóm;    gnœgðr: ‘gnégr’ 75c, gnógs Flat, Tóm;    skreyttu: skreyttum 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325V, skreyttri 61    [6] má‑: ‘mai‑’ 73aˣ, már‑ 68, 61;    ‑grennir: ‘‑grennr’ 325VI, ‑greinir 73aˣ    [7] máttit: ‘ma[…]’ Bb, môttut Flat, Tóm;    þaus (‘þꜹ er’): þar er 325VI, 325V, Flat, Tóm, sá er 61, þá er Bb;    ôttuð: átti 61    [8] átt‑: ætt‑ J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 325V, á Tóm;    ‑lǫnd: land or ‘lǫ̨nd’ 325VI, 321ˣ, 61, Flat, land 78aˣ, Holm4, landi Tóm;    því: þér 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, þeim 68, om. 325V, sér Tóm

Editions: Skj: Óttarr svarti, 2. Hǫfuðlausn 15: AI, 294, BI, 271, Skald I, 139; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 38-9, IV, 117, ÍF 27, 37 (ÓHHkr ch. 30); ÓH 1941, I, 63 (ch. 32), Flat 1860-8, II, 32.

Context: The stanza is quoted in an account of Óláfr’s ambush of Hákon jarl Eiríksson’s warship in Sauðungssund (Sauesund).

Notes: [All]: For Óláfr’s encounter with Hákon, see also Sigv Víkv 15, which Snorri quotes shortly after this stanza. — [2] ok þá sjalfa ‘and the men themselves’: If þá sjalfa is to be construed as demonstrative + adj., then the phrase must be either m. acc. pl. or f. acc. sg. Skeið ‘warship’ supplies a f. noun, but is itself specified as an object for tókt ‘you captured’ (l. 4), and the use of ok ‘and’ suggests that tókt should have at least two different objects. So þá sjalfa is likely to be m. acc. pl., and the usual assumption (Skj B, ÍF 27 and here) is that it refers to the men on board the skeið, as opposed to the skeið itself. — [3, 4] með skreyttu reiði ‘with [its] ornamented tackle’: Reiði is a general term for ‘tackle, rigging’; Jesch (2001a, 165) suggests a reference here to the craftsmanship of the blocks used to control the rigging. — [4] Hôkonar ‘of Hákon’: Hákon Eiríksson was the oldest son of Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson of Hlaðir (Lade) and Gyða, daughter of King Sveinn tjúguskegg Haraldsson of Denmark. Later he was Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson’s regent in Norway after Óláfr had gone into exile (c. 1028); there was thus to be a long history of hostility between Hákon and Óláfr. — [8] áttlǫnd ‘ancestral lands’: As with áttstuðill ‘prop of the family’ in st. 13/7, the mss show fluctuation between the variant forms átt- and ætt-. Ættlǫnd occurs in st. 19/6. — [8] standa fyr því ‘stand in the way of this’: The translation is taken from Rainford (1995, 70). Some mss have þér instead of því, hence ‘stand in the way of you’– a very plausible reading, and there could well have been confusion over ms. abbreviations in transmission.

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