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Óttarr svarti (Ótt)

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

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’) — Ótt ÓldrIII

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. <> (accessed 20 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6 

Skj: Óttarr svarti: 1. Óláfsdrápa sœnska, omkr. 1018 (AI, 289-290, BI, 267); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 5

SkP info: III, 338

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Ótt Óldr 4III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2017, ‘Óttarr svarti, Óláfsdrápa sœnska 4’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 338.

Ǫrn drekkr undarn;
ylgr fær af hræum sylg;
opt rýðr ulfr kjǫpt;
ari getr verð þar.

Ǫrn drekkr undarn; ylgr fær sylg af hræum; ulfr rýðr opt kjǫpt; ari getr verð þar.

The eagle drinks breakfast; the she-wolf gets a sip from corpses; the wolf often reddens its jaw; the eagle gets food there.

Mss: R(38r), Tˣ(39v), A(14r), 744ˣ(45r-v), C(7r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] ‑arn: ‑járn 744ˣ, ‘‑ranar’ C    [2] fær: so A, C, ferr R, 744ˣ, fór Tˣ;    af: so all others, at R;    hræum: ‘hre᷎i’ 744ˣ

Editions: Skj: Óttarr svarti, 1. Óláfsdrápa sœnska 4: AI, 289, BI, 267, Skald I, 137, NN §719; SnE 1848-87, I, 490-3, II, 457, 544, 598, III, 101, SnE 1931, 173, SnE 1998, I, 92.

Context: This stanza is quoted in Skm to illustrate the use of ari as a heiti for ‘eagle’.

Notes: [1-2]: There is potential uncertainty here in that there are two subjects (ǫrn ‘eagle’ and ylgr ‘she-wolf’), two verbs (drekkr ‘drinks’ and fær ‘gets’) and two objects (undarn ‘breakfast’ and sylg ‘sip’). Skj B construes the clauses as ǫrn drekkr sylg ‘the eagle drinks a sip’ and ylgr fær undarn ‘the she-wolf gets breakfast’. While this has semantic coherence (especially with drekkr and sylg), it seems preferable to assume a pattern of one clause per line, as this is continued in ll. 3-4. The present edn follows Skald and NN §719 (so also SnE 1998). — [1] undarn ‘breakfast’: Lit. ‘time in between’ (cf. OE undern, OS undorn ‘morning’, OHG untarn ‘midday’; AEW: undorn). A certain time in the morning (probably 9 o’clock), and hence the meal taken at that time. The word is not common (see LP: undurn; Fritzner: undorn), and the readings of C and 744ˣ (B) suggest that the term was unfamiliar to some scribes. See also Vsp 6/9 (NK 2) undorn oc aptan ‘morning and evening’. — [2] fær … af ‘gets … from’: So A, C. The mss show almost equal distribution of fær ‘gets’ (3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of ‘get, obtain’) and ferr ‘goes’ (3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of fara ‘go, travel’); the former gives better sense. Ms. R is unique in preferring the prep. at ‘to’ (which makes better sense with fara and is likely to be a lectio facilior) to af ‘from’, the reading of the other mss (which goes better with ). — [3] kjǫpt ‘jaw’: The mss present a range of spellings here (‘keypt’ (R), ‘kept’ (), ‘kæpt’ (A),‘kíappt’ (B) and ‘kiopt’ (C), and see also LP: kjǫptr). Skj B and Skald both print kjǫpt, as here, though SnE 1998 prefers the unbroken form køpt. See also ANG §§91, 93 and AEW: kjapta.

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