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Runic Dictionary

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Óttarr svarti (Ótt)

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

1. Hǫfuðlausn (Hfl) - 20

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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 22 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20 

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, 762

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

17 — Ótt Hfl 17I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 17’ 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. 762.

Lýtandi, hefr ljótu
lands rôðǫndum, branda,
umbstillingar allar,
ifla folds, of goldit.
Hafa lézt heiðska jǫfra,
herskorðandi, forðum,
mundangs laun, þás meinum,
mætr gramr, við þik sættu.

{Lýtandi {branda {folds ifla}}}, hefr of goldit ljótu rôðǫndum lands allar umbstillingar. {Herskorðandi}, mætr gramr, lézt heiðska jǫfra, þás forðum sættu meinum við þik, hafa laun mundangs.

{Harmer {of the flames {of the land of the hawk}}} [HAND > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = Óláfr], you have paid with ill the rulers of the land for all their plottings. {Army-supporter} [RULER], excellent ruler, you let the Hedmark princes who previously planned injuries against you receive an appropriate payment.

Mss: (281v), Bb(146rb) (Hkr); Holm2(20r), 325V(26ra), J2ˣ(149v), 75a(12va), 68(19r), 61(90rb), Holm4(11va), 325VII(9r), Flat(86vb), Tóm(108r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Lýtandi: lútandi 325V;    ljótu: ljótum 61, ljótan Holm4, Flat, Tóm, ‘[...]tan’ 325VII    [2] lands: land J2ˣ, 61, Flat, Tóm;    rôðǫndum: ráðandi J2ˣ, ‘ræðendvm’ 75a    [4] folds: flóðs Bb, fold 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [5] heiðska: so Holm2, J2ˣ, 75a, heimska Kˣ, 325V, 68, Flat, Tóm, ‘hoska’ Bb, heiðskra 61, heinska Holm4, 325VII    [7] laun: lǫng Flat;    meinum: meiðum 325V    [8] sættu: sættusk 325V, sæta J2ˣ

Editions: Skj: Óttarr svarti, 2. Hǫfuðlausn 16: AI, 294-5, BI, 271, Skald I, 139, NN §§721A, 730, 2780 anm.; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 130, IV, 128-9, ÍF 27, 106 (ÓHHkr ch. 75); ÓH 1941, I, 154 (ch. 58), Flat 1860-8, II, 67.

Context: Five kings of Upplǫnd (Opplandene) plot to rise up against Óláfr, but their plan is uncovered and they and their followers are banished or mutilated, though peace is made with some. Stanzas 17-19 are cited in a block without prose interruption.

Notes: [All]: The Bb text for sts 17-20 belongs to the Hkr redaction, being copied from a ms. akin to K (ÓH 1941, II, 1116), while the greater part of Bb belongs to the ÓH redaction. — [All]: According to Hkr and ÓH, a great deal occurred between the events of st. 16 and those of st. 17: Óláfr was acknowledged as king of Norway, and defeated Sveinn jarl Hákonarson at the battle of Nesjar, fought on Palm Sunday 1016. There is no evidence that Óttarr’s poem ever treated of these subjects; rather, its narrative now moves forward to Óláfr’s defeat of five kings of Uppland, perhaps in c. 1018. On sts 17-19, see Introduction. — [1] ljótu (n. dat. sg.) ‘with ill’: The strong adj. ljótr ‘ugly, bad’, used substantivally. — [3] umbstillingar ‘plottings’: All mss read um-, but this is a younger form, and all eds print older umb- (see CVC: um; Finnur Jónsson 1901, 122). — [4] ifla ‘of the hawk’: This could either be gen. sg. of ifli m. or gen. pl. of ifill m., both meaning ‘hawk’. The former is preferred here, as kennings of this type more frequently have a sg. determinant than a pl. — [4] folds ‘of the land’: A problematic reading, though most mss (including the best ones) have it, since fold ‘land’ is f., with foldar as its usual gen. sg. (a) ÍF 27 suggests simply that folds is an irregular gen. sg. for foldar, of a type paralleled by some other f. nouns, though normally in compounds (e.g. hjálpsmaðr for usual hjálparmaðr ‘helper’: see CVC: hjálps-maðr); this solution is followed here since it respects the dominant ms. form. (b) Kock (NN §730; Skald) emends to foldar, even though this requires the deletion of the expletive particle of, in order to retain the requisite six syllables in the line. (c) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B adopts the reading fold, found in the relatively unauthoritative mss 325VII, Flat, and Tóm, and suggests that it combines with branda to form a cpd fold-branda ‘land-flames (of the hawk) [ARM > GOLD]’ whose elements are separated by a kind of reverse tmesis. However, as Kock notes, Finnur in LP is inconsistent, suggesting ifla fold-branda under lýta, but brandr ifla foldar under 1. brandr . — [5] heiðska ‘Hedmark’: An adj. referring to the people of Hedmark (ON Heiðmǫrk) and recorded only here. A form deriving from heiðskr or heizkr (cf. the first element of Heiðmǫrk) is indicated by the readings of Holm2 (‘heizca’), J2x (‘hæiðzka’), 61 (‘heiðskra’) and 75a (‘hæizka’), and this is retained here. The meaning ‘from Hedmark’ is elsewhere expressed by the adjectives heinverskr (CVC: Heinverskr; LP: heinverskr) and heiðneskr (CVC, also with the sense ‘heathen’). — [6] forðum ‘previously’: Skj B (followed here) takes this adv. to qualify sættu ‘planned’ (inf. sæta), whereas Kock (NN §2780 anm., followed by ÍF 27) suggests it modifies lézt (hafa) ‘you let (receive)’. Forðum also occurs in st. 19/3, where it clearly applies to the period before Óláfr conquered the five princes. — [7] mundangs laun ‘an appropriate payment’: Lit. ‘a payment of appropriateness’. Mundang n. is ‘the tongue of the balance, balance, moderation, the mean’, hence ‘what is appropriate’.

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