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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;

Fragment (Frag) - 1

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.

Fragment — Sveinn FragIII

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Sveinn, Fragment’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 397.


SkP info: III, 397

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Sveinn Frag 1III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Sveinn, Fragment 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. 397.

Þar kømr, lyngs en lǫngum
lind vanði mik strindar
leika leynisíka
lævi, ô til sævar.

Þar kømr ô til sævar, en {lind {strindar {leynisíka lyngs}}} vanði mik lǫngum leika lævi.

There the river comes to the sea, but {the linden tree {of the land {of the hiding fishes of the heather}}} [SNAKES > GOLD > WOMAN] for a long time accustomed me to use deceit.

Mss: A(7v), W(110) (TGT)

Readings: [1] lyngs: langs W;    en: að W

Editions: Skj: Sveinn, Norðrsetudrápa 4: AI, 418, BI, 388, Skald I, 192; SnE 1848-87, II, 178-9, 425, III, 151, TGT 1884, 30, 113, 231, TGT 1927, 84, 107-8.

Context: This helmingr is cited by Óláfr Þórðarson in ch. 16 of the Málskrúðsfræði section of TGT to exemplify the trope of allegoria, which he defines as conveying a meaning other than the literal sense of the words used.

Notes: [All]: The full context of this helmingr is unknown, but the subject-matter seems unrelated to Norðrdr. It certainly does not refer directly to the weather in Greenland. The significance of the allusion to a woman who accustoms the poet to use deceit, presumably in a love-entanglement, is also unknown. The helmingr may well be part of the last stanza of a poem, whether a drápa or not. For the reason, see the following Note. — [1, 4] þar kømr ô til sævar ‘there the river comes to the sea’: This statement provides TGT’s example of allegoria. The poet uses the image of a river ending its course in the sea as a way of saying that he is coming to the end of his poem. The metaphor may have been conventional or it may have been a deliberate borrowing; Úlfr Uggason uses the same expression in Húsdr 12/1, 3 and it also occurs in Anon Mhkv 27/5. — [3, 4] leika lævi ‘to use deceit’: Lit. ‘to play deceit’. — [3] leynisíka ‘of the hiding fishes’: The base-word of a kenning for a snake. Síkr is the Old Norse word for a kind of whitefish, either the houting (Coregonus lavaretus), an extinct species of whitefish, Coregonus oxyrhinchus, once found in rivers, lakes and the Baltic and eastern parts of the North Sea, or Coregonus maraena, another European whitefish. On these fish, see FishBase ( See also Note to Þul Fiska 2/3.

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