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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sturla Þórðarson (Sturl)

13th century; volume 2; ed. Kari Ellen Gade;

3. Hrafnsmál (Hrafn) - 20

Skj info: Sturla Þórðarson, Islandsk skjald og historiker, 1214-84 (AII, 101-29, BII, 112-36).

Skj poems:
1. Þverárvísur
2. Þorgilsdrápa
3. Hrynhenda
4. Hákonarkviða
5. Hrafnsmál
6. Hákonarflokkr
7. En drape om Magnús lagaböter
8. Lausavísur

The life of Sturla Þórðarson (Sturl) is chronicled in Sturlunga saga (Stu). He was born on 29 July 1214 as the second son of Þórðr Sturluson and his concubine Þóra, and he was the younger brother of Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson (Ólhv). In his early years he spent much time with his uncle, the poet, historian and lawspeaker Snorri Sturluson (SnSt, d. 1241), and later he took an active part in the events that played out before and after the collapse of the Icel. Commonwealth. Sturla was lawspeaker in Iceland 1251-2 and lawman, appointed by the Norw. king, 1272-82. In 1263 he went to Norway where he met King Magnús lagabœtir ‘Law-mender’ Hákonarson (d. 1280). After an initially very cool reception, the king commissioned him to write the saga of Magnús’s father Hákon Hákonarson (d. 1264) and also that of Magnús himself. Sturla later became the retainer (hirðmaðr, skutilsveinn) of Magnús and brought the law code Járnsíða ‘Ironside’ from Norway to Iceland in 1271. The story of Sturla’s journey to Norway in 1263 and his dealings with Magnús is recounted in Sturlu þáttr (StÞ), preserved in a version of Stu. In addition to the sagas of Hákon Hákonarson (Hák) and the no longer extant saga of his son Magnús lagabœtir (only two leaves are preserved in AM 325 X 4°), Sturla is the author of Íslendinga saga (Ísls) and of a redaction of Landnámabók (Ldn, in AM 107 folˣ = Stˣ). Some scholars believe that he may have been responsible for the extant redaction of Kristni saga (Kristni) (see LH 1894-1901, II, 98-105, 717-43), and he is also mentioned as an informant by the author of Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar (Gr; see ÍF 7, 157, 226, 289). Like his uncle, Snorri, and his brother, Óláfr, Sturla was a prolific poet. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 260, 272, 279, 384-96), he composed poems in honour of the Norw. kings Hákon Hákonarson and Magnús lagabœtir Hákonarson, and also about the Swed. jarl Birgir Magnússon (d. 1266). Nothing is preserved of Sturla’s panegyrics to the latter, but two sts from his poetry to Magnús are recorded in Hák (see Magnússdrápa (Sturl Magndr) below). The bulk of Sturla’s poetic oeuvre about Hákon Hákonarson is interspersed with the prose in Hák: Hrynhenda (Sturl Hryn), Hákonarkviða (Sturl Hákkv), Hrafnsmál (Sturl Hrafn) and Hákonarflokkr (Sturl Hákfl). In addition to these encomia, Sturla composed poetry about events and dignitaries in Iceland: namely Þverárvísur (Sturl ÞvervIV) and Þorgilsdrápa (Sturl ÞorgdrIV), both of which have been edited in SkP IV. That is also the case with his lvv. (Sturl Lv 1-4IV). One fragment which earlier eds assigned to Hryn (earlier st. 22) has been edited in SkP III as Sturl FragIII. Sturla died on 30 July 1284 and was buried in the Church of S. Peter at Staðarhóll.

Hrafnsmál — Sturl HrafnII

Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Sturla Þórðarson, Hrafnsmál’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 727-45.

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Skj: Sturla Þórðarson: 5. Hrafnsmál (AII, 119-24, BII, 126-31)

SkP info: II, 731-2

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Sturl Hrafn 5II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sturla Þórðarson, Hrafnsmál 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 731-2.

Leysti lögrastar
landa stýrandi
— heldu of haf aldir
húfum — bládúfur.
Lýstiz hrein hæstum
höfn af skipstöfnum
eldi álfoldar
auðar glóðrauðum.

{Stýrandi landa} leysti {bládúfur {lögrastar}}; aldir heldu húfum of haf. Hrein höfn lýstiz {eldi {álfoldar}} af hæstum skipstöfnum, glóðrauðum auðar.

{The controller of lands} [RULER] launched {the dark doves {of the water-way}} [SEA > SHIPS]; men steered the hulls across the sea. The safe harbour was illuminated {by the fire {of the eel-ground}} [SEA > GOLD] from the loftiest ship-prows, red-glowing with wealth.

Mss: F(122ra), Flat(185rb) (Hák)

Readings: [1] lög‑: so Flat, lang‑ F    [3] heldu of (‘heldo vm’): heldum Flat;    aldir: aldar Flat    [7] eldi: aldi Flat    [8] glóð‑: blóð‑ Flat

Editions: Skj: Sturla Þórðarson, 5. Hrafnsmál 5: AII, 120, BII, 127-8, Skald II, 68-9, NN §2580; F 1871, 572, Flat 1860-8, III, 220.

Context: After two days at sea, Hákon arrived with part of his fleet in Shetland and put in to harbour in Bressay.

Notes: [1, 4] leysti bládúfur lögrastar ‘launched the dark doves of the water-way [SEA > SHIPS]’: Skj B (and Skald?) takes bládúfur ‘dark doves’ in the meaning ‘dark waves’ (dúfa can mean both ‘dove’ and ‘wave’) and translates leysti bládúfur lögrastar as furede havets blå bølger ‘furrowed the blue waves of the ocean’. This requires an unattested meaning of the verb leysa lit. ‘loosen’ (see Fritzner: leysa, especially leysa 9-10; LP: leysa, especially leysa 3). See also st. 15/5 below. Dúfa ‘dove’ (‘bird’) can be the base-word in a kenning for ‘ship’ (see Meissner 216). Both lögröst (gen. sg. lögrastar) ‘water-way’ (l. 1) and bládúfa ‘dark dove’ (l. 4) are hap. leg. — [4] húfum ‘the hulls’: See Note to Mberf Lv 1/3. In LP: dúfa Finnur takes this word with the first cl. of the helmingr (‘furrowed the dark waves of the ocean with the hulls’; not so in Skj B). — [5, 6] hrein höfn ‘the safe harbour’: Lit. ‘clean harbour’. Bressay (island off Lerwick) was known for its good harbour. — [8] auðar (f. gen. sg.) ‘with wealth’: Lit. ‘of wealth’. Following NN §2580, the noun is taken here with the adj. glóðrauðum ‘red-glowing’ (l. 8) qualifying skipstöfnum ‘ship-prows’ (l. 6). Skj B construes it with af hæstum skipstöfnum ‘from the loftiest ship-prows’ (ll. 5, 6; af auðar-hæstum skipstöfnum), translated as på de rigt smykkede skibstavne ‘on the richly adorned ship-prows’, which is less likely from the point of view of w. o. According to that interpretation, glóðrauðum ‘red-glowing’ qualifies eldi ‘fire’ (l. 7). The ‘wealth’ likely refers either to the adorned strips of wood curving down from the prow or to gilded weather-vanes. See Notes to Sturl Hákkv 12/5, Arn Hryn 10/7-8, Bǫlv Hardr 2/2, Halli XI Fl 1/5, 8, Valg Har 10-11 and Ív Sig 16/1.

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