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Óttarr svarti (Ótt)

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

2. Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) - 11

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).

Knútsdrápa (‘Drápa about Knútr’) — Ótt KnútdrI

Matthew Townend 2012, ‘ Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa’ 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. 767. <> (accessed 3 July 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11 

Skj: Óttarr svarti: 3. Knútsdrápa, 1026 (AI, 296-8, BI, 272-5); stanzas (if different): 8 | 10

SkP info: I, 771

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Ótt Knútdr 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 3’ 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. 771.

Herskjǫld bart ok helduð,
hilmir, ríkr af slíku;
hykkat, þengill, þekkðusk
þik kyrrsetu mikla.
Ætt drap Jóta dróttinn
Játgeirs í fǫr þeiri;
þveit rakt — þrár est heitinn —
þeim, stillis konr, illan.

Bart herskjǫld, hilmir, ok helduð, ríkr af slíku; hykkat, þengill, þik þekkðusk mikla kyrrsetu. {Dróttinn Jóta} drap {ætt Játgeirs} í þeiri fǫr; {konr stillis}, rakt þeim illan þveit; est heitinn þrár.

You carried the war-shield, prince, and prevailed, powerful by such means; I do not think, lord, you cared much for sitting in peace. {The lord of the Jótar} [DANISH KING = Knútr] struck {the kindred of Eadgar} [THE ENGLISH] on that expedition; {ruler’s son} [= Knútr], you dealt them a harsh blow; you are called defiant.

Mss: (12), 20dˣ(5r), 873ˣ(6r), 41ˣ(5r) (Knýtl)

Readings: [4] kyrr‑: hyr‑ 20dˣ    [7] rakt: so 41ˣ, rakr with rakt in margin JÓ, rakt with rakr in margin 20dˣ, 873ˣ;    est (‘ert’): er 20dˣ    [8] konr: so with kom in margin JÓ, kom with konr in margin 20dˣ, 873ˣ, kom 41ˣ

Editions: Skj: Óttarr svarti, 3. Knútsdrápa 3: AI, 297, BI, 273, Skald I, 140, NN §733; Fms 11, 187-8, Fms 12, 247-8, SHI 11, 176, Knýtl 1919-25, 37, ÍF 35, 104 (ch. 8).

Context: Knútr lands in England and begins ravaging.

Notes: [1] helduð ‘prevailed’: This assumes an unusual intransitive use of halda ‘hold, keep’; it may be that herskjǫld ‘war-shield’ or a more general ‘land/power’ is the understood object. — [3-4] þik þekkðusk ‘you cared’: Lit. ‘you to have cared’. An acc. with past inf. construction following hykkat ‘I do not think’. — [5, 6] ætt Játgeirs ‘the kindred of Eadgar [THE ENGLISH]’: Eadgar was king of England 959-75. Ætt Játgeirs, if taken narrowly, could signify the royal family alone, but Knútr’s attacks were against the English people more generally, cf. Ótt Hfl 11/1-2 ǫld enskrar ættar ‘the people of English race’. — [5] drap ‘struck’: As in st. 2/3, the mss present a single 3rd pers. verb in a stanza of otherwise 2nd pers. narration. The form is also retained in ÍF 35 but emended to 2nd sg. drapt ‘you killed’ in Skj B and Skald. — [7] þveit ‘blow’: According to LP: þveitr, only recorded here in skaldic verse. CVC: þveitr suggests that the word is equivalent to þviti ‘sling-stone’ and that the construction here is comparable with ljósta e-n illum steini ‘to strike sby with an evil stone’ (see ÞjóðA Sex 22/3, 4II).

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated