Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 37. Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur, 19 [Vol. 1, 609]

[5-8]: Editors have proposed very diverse interpretations of the helmingr, none of which provides a conclusive answer to its linguistic and historical difficulties. (a) The text and translation above are indebted to a suggestion of Kari Ellen Gade. ‘Þvi at’ in most mss (l. 5) is taken straightforwardly as þvít ‘because’, and ‘er’ (l. 7) as a subordinating conj. es ‘that’ (see LP: es 7 for alternation of es and at in this role), dependent on kveðk ‘I declare’. Stóðusk (l. 8) is taken as 3rd pers. pl. pret. indic. ‘supported’, since a pl. verb is possible with the collective noun lið ‘troop’ (see NS §66 Anm. 2). Grammatically it could, alternatively, be taken as a past inf., together with kveðk ‘I declare’. (b) Ternström (1871, 51) makes of bróður lið (l. 8) a cpd ‘brother-support’ (so also Tveiten 1966, 93), on which he would have frænda ‘kinsman’s’ (l. 5) depend, and he would have eins ‘alone’ in l. 6 modify frænda, while jarla ‘of jarls’ in l. 5 would modify jǫrð. With other eds he reverses ms. ‘þvi at’ (l. 5), taking it as at því ‘to this end’, with es (l. 7) depending on it. The resulting meaning is ‘But I say, the brotherly help of Úlfr’s kinsman (i.e. Rǫgnvaldr) alone was useful to you to the end that you gained the jarls’ land (i.e. Norway), which you took from Sveinn’. Ternström (1871, 52) takes Sigvatr to mean that the best sign of Rǫgnvaldr’s loyalty to Óláfr Haraldsson is the help he afforded in the defeat of Sveinn (on whom, see Note below), though Snorri makes no mention of this in ÓH or Hkr. However, þvít, being unstressed, cannot be construed as at því. (c) Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27, owing much to Sveinbjörn Egilsson, SHI 4, 183, and to Ternström 1871, 51-2) also analyses þvít ‘because’ in l. 5 as if it were at því ‘to this end’ (or ‘when’: Hkr 1991), and assumes that þvís ‘that which’ in l. 6 takes its n. dat. sg. form from an unexpressed landi ‘land’ rather than agreeing (if emended) with f. jǫrð ‘land’. (d) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; 1934a, 37) shares many of Ternström’s editorial preferences, but he alters þvís ‘that which’ in l. 6 to þás, to agree with jǫrð ‘land’ in l. 7, and he takes es in l. 7 to introduce a clause from which the word order isolates it. Also, for en ‘but’ in l. 5 he reads enn ‘again’, which is likewise taken to stand outside its clause. The meaning produced is, ‘By this means only (þvít eins) did you manage again to keep the jarls’ land, which you took from Sveinn, [the means] that Úlfr’s kinsman’s brother-help, as I say, was given to you’. Finnur Jónsson (1932, 18) understands this to mean that in the face of the conspiracies against him, Óláfr might have lost control of Norway, had Rǫgnvaldr not been so trusty. (e) The interpretation of Kock (NN §629) is similar, but he would emend frænda to nom. sg. frændi, making of frændi jarla a vocative addressed to King Óláfr. This reduces some of the tortuousness of the word order, but there is no ms. evidence for this reading. The strained syntax of these interpretations results from efforts to have the text say that Óláfr Haraldsson was assisted by Rǫgnvaldr, who cannot be called ‘Úlfr’s brother’ (see below). It is natural to expect that the text should refer to him, since the preceding two stanzas indicate that Sigvatr’s message to Óláfr is that he can rely on Rǫgnvaldr’s loyalty; but no very plausible interperetation of the syntax will allow this helmingr to be about Rǫgnvaldr.

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