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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sveinn (Sveinn)

11th century; volume 3; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

Norðrsetudrápa (Norðrdr) - 3

Skj info: Sveinn, Islænder, 11. årh.(?) (AI, 418, BI, 387-388).

Skj poems:

Four fragmentary dróttkvætt stanzas are ascribed to a certain Sveinn (Sveinn), about whom nothing else is known: two in SnE mss, and two in TGT. SnE mss record of st. 2: Svá sagði Sveinn í Norðrsetudrápu ‘So said Sveinn in Norðrsetudrápa’ (SnE 1998, I, 39), giving the name of the poem. Although the poem title is not mentioned apropos any of the other stanzas, the common subject-matter of sts 1-3 indicates that they probably all belonged to this drápa.  The fourth stanza is treated here as belonging to a different poem (Sveinn Frag 1). Norðrseta (pl. ‑setur) was the name of an area to the north of the Western Settlement in Greenland, where the best hunting grounds were located, and where people also obtained driftwood (Ólafur Halldórsson 1993). The poem describes the kind of wild weather that one would be likely to encounter in Greenland, so it seems reasonable to consider Sveinn as either an inhabitant of Greenland or an Icelander who had visited the colony. Editors have conventionally suggested a date in the eleventh century for Sveinn, and this seems reasonable; cf. Jakob Benediktsson’s (1981) proposal that Hafgerðingadrápa ‘Tremendous waves’ drápa’ (Anon HafgIV), also about stormy sea-travel to Greenland, dates from the second half of the eleventh century.

Norðrsetudrápa — Sveinn NorðrdrIII

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Sveinn, Norðrsetudrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 398.

 1   2   3 

Skj: Sveinn: Norðrsetudrápa (AI, 418, BI, 387-388); stanzas (if different): 4

SkP info: III, 399

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Sveinn Norðrdr 1III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Sveinn, Norðrsetudrápa 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 399.

Þás élreifar ófu
Ægis dœtr ok tœttu
fǫls við frost of alnar
fjallgarðs rokur harðar.

Þás harðar rokur fǫls fjallgarðs ófu ok tœttu {élreifar dœtr Ægis}, of alnar við frost.

When hard whirlwinds from the white mountain range wove and tore apart {the storm-happy daughters of Ægir <giant>} [WAVES], nourished by frost.

Mss: R(26v), Tˣ(27r), W(57), B(5r), 744ˣ(31r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] ‑reifar: so all others, ‑refar R;    ófu: ‘afu’ B    [2] tœttu: so all others, teygðu R    [3] fǫls: fals all;    frost: frest W    [4] fjallgarðs: ‘f[…]’ B, ‘fiardgers’ 744ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sveinn, Norðrsetudrápa 1: AI, 418, BI, 387, Skald I, 192, NN §§903, 2989H; SnE 1848-87, I, 324-7, II, 529, III, 51-2, SnE 1931, 116, SnE 1998, I, 37.

Context: This helmingr is cited in the section of Skm exemplifying kennings for the sea. Strictly speaking, the stanza exemplifies kennings for the waves, said to be the daughters of the giant Ægir, a personification of the sea.

Notes: [All]: This helmingr is a subordinate clause so the full sense of the complete stanza can only be guessed at. There are two ways of construing the clause: as is done here, in Skj B and SnE 1998, and as suggested by Kock (NN §2989H). Kock takes élreifar dœtr Ægis ‘the storm-happy daughters of Ægir’ as the subject of the clause, with harðar rokur ‘hard whirlwinds’ as direct object. This gives the sense ‘when the storm-happy daughters of Ægir [WAVES] wove and tore apart hard whirlwinds, nourished by frost, from the white mountain range’. Grammatically, it is unexceptional, but it seems to be less good from the point of view of sense. — [2] dœtr Ægis ‘daughters of Ægir <giant> [WAVES]’: Ægir was a giant, the personification of the sea. His wife Rán personified the sea’s destructive power, while Ægir’s daughters are the waves; cf. st. 3/1 below, HHund I 29/6 and Gestumbl Heiðr 8-10VIII, as well as Þul Sjóvar 4, Þul Waves and ESk Frag 17. In SnE 1998, I, 36, the prose text preceding the citation of this stanza names Ægir’s nine daughters, all with names suggesting the sea’s turbulence. — [2] tœttu ‘tore apart’: The verb tœta means ‘tear wool, tease or pick wool’, and is clearly the antithesis of ófu (l. 1, from vefa ‘weave, bring together’), describing the action of the whirlwinds in blowing the waves now together, now apart. Ms. R’s teygðu (from teygja ‘entice, lure, draw out’) is possible but less good than the majority mss’ reading, both in sense and because it does not provide aðalhending. — [3] fǫls ‘white’: All eds have emended the mss’ ‘fals’ to fǫls, following a suggestion of Konráð Gíslason (see Skj AI, 418 n.). The scribes may have sought to correct the rhyme between ǫ and a, which did not occur after the late C12th (see Hreinn Benediktsson 1963a). Fǫlr usually means ‘pale’, but here must refer to the snow-covered Greenland mountains.

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