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Runic Dictionary

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Þorbjǫrn dísarskáld (Þdís)

10th century; volume 3; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

1. Poem about Þórr (Þórr) - 2

Nothing is known for certain about Þorbjǫrn dísarskáld ‘Lady’s poet’ (Þdís), aside from his name and two fragmentary poetic compositions ascribed to a Þorbjǫrn in mss of SnE. It is not even certain that the Þorbjǫrn to whom two stanzas of a Poem about Þórr (Þdís Þórr) are ascribed (SnE 1998, I, 16-17) is the same poet as the composer of the so-called Poem about a Saint (Þdís Saint, SnE 1998, I, 76). In the first case the poet is named in SnE mss as Þorbjǫrn dísarskáld, but in the second he is called Þorbjǫrn without the nickname. It has been conventionally assumed, and is so here, that both poems were the work of a single poet. If so, he must have lived about the time of the conversion to Christianity (c. 1000) and is likely to have been converted himself, as one poem praises the god Þórr and the other is about the baptism of an unknown man. The significance of the nickname dísarskáld can only be guessed at: possibly Þórbjǫrn was known for his composition of poetry about a lady or, as dís often refers to a supernatural being, he may have celebrated a particular goddess. It is not known whether he was Norwegian or Icelandic, but most earlier editors have regarded him as Icelandic.

Poem about Þórr — Þdís ÞórrIII

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘ Þorbjǫrn dísarskáld, Poem about Þórr’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 470. <> (accessed 20 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2 

Skj: Þorbjǫrn dísarskáld: 1. Et digt om Tor (AI, 144, BI, 135)

SkP info: III, 471

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Þdís Þórr 2III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Þorbjǫrn dísarskáld, Poem about Þórr 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. 471.

Ball í Keilu kolli,
Kjallandi brauzt alla,
áðr drapt Lút ok Leiða,
lézt dreyra Búseyru,
heptir Hengjankjǫptu,
Hyrrokkin dó fyrri,
þó vas snemr in sáma
Svívǫr numin lífi.

Ball í kolli Keilu, brauzt alla Kjallandi, áðr drapt Lút ok Leiða, lézt dreyra Búseyru, heptir Hengjankjǫptu, Hyrrokkin dó fyrri, þó vas snemr in sáma Svívǫr numin lífi.

There was a clang on Keila’s crown, you broke all of Kjallandi, you had already killed Lútr and Leiði, you caused Búseyra to bleed, you bring Hengjankjǫpta to a halt, Hyrrokkin had died previously, yet the swarthy Svívǫr was [even] earlier deprived of life.

Mss: R(22r), Tˣ(22v), W(47), U(28r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] Ball: Gall W;    kolli: kosti Tˣ    [2] Kjall‑: ‘kall‑’ U    [3] Lút: lit U;    Leiða: ‘loþa’ U    [5] heptir (‘heftir þv’): so W, ‘hepp ok þv’ R, Tˣ, heptuð U;    Hengjan‑: ‘hengiann’ W, ‘hangan’ U;    ‑kjǫptu: so Tˣ, W, ‘keoptv’ R, ‘kepto’ U    [6] Hyrrokkin: ‘hyr rærin’ U    [7] snemr: meirr U;    sáma: mæra U    [8] lífi: so all others, lífa R

Editions: Skj: Þorbjǫrn dísarskáld, 1. Et digt om Tor 2: AI, 144, BI, 135, Skald I, 74; SnE 1848-87, I, 260-1, II, 310, III, 19, SnE 1931, 97, SnE 1998, I, 17.

Notes: [All]: Most of the verbs in this stanza, with the exception of ball ‘there was a clang, it resounded’ (l. 1), ‘[she] had died’ (l. 6) and vas ‘was’ (l. 7), which are in the 3rd pers. sg. pret. indic., are 2nd pers. sg. forms, directly addressing Þórr. In order to produce metrically regular lines, it has been necessary to delete the suffixed or free-standing 2nd pers. sg. pronouns that accompany them in all mss, except for U’s heptuð (l. 5), which is 2nd pers. pl., a form favoured by Skj B and Skald, but rejected here in favour of W’s heptir, which is supported by the reading of R, , where the scribes seem to have misunderstood an abbreviated <tir>. — [All]: Little or nothing is known about a number of Þórr’s giant adversaries listed in this stanza, most of them female. His killing of giantesses and other supernatural females seems to have been well known; cf. Hárb 23, 37-9. — [1] Keilu ‘Keila’s’: An otherwise unknown giantess. The common noun keila appears in a þula as a kind of fish, cusk or tusk (Brosmius brosme), much used for stockfish in Scandinavia (Þul Fiska 4/4) and also in a list of heiti for a hen in ms. B (Þul Hana 1/7). The underlying meaning seems to be ‘narrow crevice in a ravine, waterway’ (AEW: keila), a sense probably transferred to the female sexual organs. — [2] Kjallandi: Otherwise only listed among names for troll-women (Þul Trollkvenna 5/4). — [3] Lút ok Leiða ‘Lútr and Leiði’: Apparently giants, although all the other beings listed in this stanza are female. Lútr ‘stooped, bent’ is the name of one of the children of thralls in 12/9. — [5] Hengjankjǫptu (acc.) ‘Hengjankjǫpta’: Lit. ‘female with a dewlap or drooping jaw’. Þul Trollkvenna 2/2 records a form Hengikepta. — [6] Hyrrokkin: ‘One withered by fire’. Cf. Þul Trollkvenna 2/1 and Note. Name of the giantess who attended the god Baldr’s cremation riding on a wolf with snakes for reins, and managed to launch the god’s funeral ship. This enraged Þórr, who was restrained from killing her then and there, according to Gylf (SnE 2005, 46). Úlfr Uggason treats this subject in Húsdr 11, although he does not name the giantess. It is not known whether Þorbjǫrn is referring to this occasion or to some other, when he says that Hyrrokkin had died previously. It is generally assumed that the Viking-Age carving on DR 284, originally from Hunnestad, Skåne (see DRI I, 284), and now in Lund, represents Hyrrokkin riding the wolf with snakes for reins. — [8] Svívǫr: Nothing is known of this giantess; Þul Trollkvenna 3/7 mentions a Sívǫr. LP: Sívǫr suggests this name means ‘always cautious’; not very plausible, as most giantess-names seem to be pejorative. Simek (1993, 308) proposes ‘shame-mouth’ for Svívǫr, with the second element from vǫrr ‘lip’. For other possible etymologies, see Note to Þul Trollkvenna 3/7.

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