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Runic Dictionary

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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 20 September 2021)

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, 772

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Ótt Knútdr 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 5’ 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. 772.

Gunni lézt í grœnni,
gramr, Lindisey framða;
belldu viðr, þvís vildu,
víkingar þar ríki.
Bíða lézt í breiðri
borg Hemminga sorgir
œst fyr Úsu vestan
engst folk, Svía þrøngvir.

Gramr, lézt gunni framða í grœnni Lindisey; þar belldu víkingar ríki viðr, þvís vildu. {Þrøngvir Svía}, lézt œst engst folk bíða sorgir í breiðri borg Hemminga fyr vestan Úsu.

King, you caused battle to be fought in green Lindsey; there the vikings used in opposition the strength they wished. {Oppressor of the Swedes} [= Knútr], you angrily caused the English people to experience sorrows in broad Hemingbrough, to the west of the Ouse.

Mss: (14), 20dˣ(5v), 873ˣ(6v), 41ˣ(5r-v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [4] þar: því all    [6] Hemminga‑: Heminga JÓ, 20dˣ, 873ˣ, helminga 41ˣ;    sorgir: sorgar all

Editions: Skj: Óttarr svarti, 3. Knútsdrápa 5: AI, 297, BI, 273, Skald I, 140, NN §§735, 2218C; Fms 11, 188-9, Fms 12, 248, SHI 11, 177-8, Knýtl 1919-25, 38, ÍF 35, 106 (ch. 8).

Context: This stanza is quoted after a brief statement that Knútr had his first battles in England in Lindisey (Lindsey) and Hemingaborg (Hemingbrough).

Notes: [All]: The ASC (s.a. 1016) records that early in 1016 Knútr took his army north through Lincolnshire into Northumbria. — [2] Lindisey ‘Lindsey’: OE Lindesey, a district of Lincolnshire. — [3-4]: These are difficult lines, and some form of emendation seems necessary. Knýtl 1919-25 and ÍF 35 (followed here) prefer to emend því to þar in l. 4, while Skj B and Skald emend þvís to þeirs in l. 3, resulting in the sense ‘the vikings who wished used in opposition that strength’. The former interpretation seems preferable from a scribal point of view, as the second því could have arisen through dittography, perhaps encouraged by agreement with the following ríki. — [3] viðr ‘in opposition’: This is in stressed and alliterating position, and hence likely to be the adv. (see LP: 1. við, viðr), with the fuller form viðr. Kock (NN §2218C) takes it as the prep. governing ríki, hence víkingar belldu viðr því ríki ‘the vikings proceeded against that power’ (i.e. the force of Knútr’s attack). However, dat. sg. ríki can equally well be the object of belldu ‘used’, as assumed here. — [4] víkingar ‘the vikings’: It is uncertain whether these are Knútr’s supporters or his enemies. Jesch (2001a, 44-54, especially 52-3), following Kock (NN §2218C), argues that belldu viðr has the sense ‘resisted’, and that the víkingar are Knútr’s enemies. However, although Kock’s interpretation avoids emendation in l. 4 it involves emendation of þvís to þeirs ‘(those) who’ in l. 3. For further ambiguous uses of víkingar, see Note to Sigv Víkv 3/6. — [5, 6] bíða sorgir ‘to experience sorrows’: This verb takes the gen. when meaning ‘to wait for’ but the acc. when meaning ‘to experience’. The ms. readings suggest that scribes took the meaning here to be ‘to wait for’ (hence gen. sg. sorgar), but ‘to experience’ gives much better sense, hence the emendation here and in all previous eds to acc. pl. sorgir. — [5] breiðri ‘broad’: As Jesch (2001a, 61) notes, Óttarr collocates this adj. with the noun borg elsewhere: see Ótt Hfl 10/3-4 breiða borg Kantara ‘broad Canterbury’ and Note. — [6] borg Hemminga ‘Hemingbrough’: OE *Hem(m)ingaburh, probably Hemingbrough in East Yorkshire, though there are problems with the identification, in that Hemingbrough is to the north-east of the Ouse, rather than to the west. A battle there is not mentioned in the ASC, though it is plausible (see Poole 1987, 272-3; Townend 1998, 34-6). The p. n. is positioned with mild tmesis (cf. Ótt Hfl 10/4 and Note), and the form Hemm- rather than Hem- is required by the metre. — [7] œst ‘angrily’: The p. p. of œsa ‘to stir up, set in motion’, taken here as an adverbial use of the n. form (cf. LP: œsa). If adjectival it could grammatically qualify (engst) folk ‘(English) people’, though if, as is most usual, the connotations are of vigour or ferocity, it is more likely to be attributed to Knútr. Skj B, Skald, and Knýtl 1919-25 all emend to the m. form œstr ‘angered’, to agree with þrøngvir ‘oppressor’ (ÍF 35 prints œst in the main text, but œstr in a footnote, and the latter seems intended). — [7] Úsu ‘the Ouse’: The Yorkshire river, which joins the Trent to form the Humber. — [8] engst ‘English’: This form, rather than enskt, is suggested by the aðalhending on þrøngvir (cf. ANG §291.7). — [8] þrøngvir Svía ‘oppressor of the Swedes [= Knútr]’: This term would seem to allude to the battle of Á in helga (Helgeå, Skåne) c. 1026, and together with st. 11 may therefore supply a terminus post quem for the composition of the poem (see Introduction).

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