Óttarr svarti (Ótt)
11th century; volume 1; ed. Matthew Townend;
1. Hǫfuðlausn (Hfl) - 20
2. Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) - 11
3. Lausavísur (Lv) - 3
III. Óláfsdrápa sœnska (Óldr) - 6
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).
Óláfsdrápa sœnska (‘Drápa about Óláfr the Swede’)
Matthew Townend 2017, ‘ Óttarr svarti, Óláfsdrápa sœnska’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 335. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=1342> (accessed 28 October 2021)
Skj: Óttarr svarti: 1. Óláfsdrápa sœnska, omkr. 1018 (AI, 289-290, BI, 267); stanzas (if different): 2 |
SkP info: III, 337
2 — Ótt Óldr 2III
Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2017, ‘Óttarr svarti, Óláfsdrápa sœnska 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 337.
|Þengill vas þegar ungr
þreks gjǫrr vígǫrr;
haldask biðk hans aldr;
hann telk yfirmann.
Ungr þengill, gjǫrr þreks, vas þegar vígǫrr; biðk aldr hans haldask; telk hann yfirmann.
The young ruler, filled with power, was already battle-eager; I wish his life to continue; I reckon him a superior man.
Mss: R(39v), Tˣ(41r), U(37r), 744ˣ(40v), C(9r) (SnE)
Readings:  ungr: ‘[…]gr’ U  þreks: ‘þ[…]’ U; gjǫrr: so C, gjǫr R, gǫrr Tˣ, ‘gerr avrr’ U, gerr 744ˣ; víg‑: vígs C  tel: læt C; yfir‑: fyrir 744ˣ
Editions: Skj: Óttarr svarti, 1. Óláfsdrápa sœnska 3: AI, 289, BI, 267, Skald I, 137, NN §718; SnE 1848-87, I, 518-19, II, 342, 539, 606, III, 108, SnE 1931, 182, SnE 1998, I, 101.
Context: This stanza is quoted in Skm to illustrate the use of þengill as a heiti for ‘ruler’.
Notes: [All]: In U, the helmingr is attributed to ‘Arnórr’ (possibly Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson). —  vígǫrr ‘battle-eager’: Both Skj B and Skald prefer the C variant vígs ǫrr (i.e. ǫrr vígs ‘eager in battle’), but the majority form is perfectly acceptable.