This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

Note to stanza

2. Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, 4. Þorfinnsdrápa, 14 [Vol. 2, 244-6]

[All]: The text as it stands in Flat is clearly corrupt, and that in 21 6 7 IIˣ is still more so, so that the focus here is on the Flat text. The chief problems are that the verbs unni and brá both require objects but do not both have them, and that Baldrs in isolation makes no sense. Since the problems are so closely interrelated two analyses are presented complete here, both possible but not entirely satisfactory; (a) is the one followed above. (a) Skotaveldi ‘the realm of the Scots’ (l. 4) could grammatically be construed as object to any one of the verbs unni ‘loved’ (l. 1), sótti ‘attacked’ (l. 2) or brá ‘changed, moved quickly’ (l. 4). Sótti Skotaveldi ‘attacked the realm of the Scots’ gives the best meaning, though brá Skotaveldi in the sense ‘ravaged Scotland’ is also conceivable, and is assumed by Finnur Jónsson (LP: bregða) and by Kock (NN §831), who assumes sótti to be intransitive. The co-ordinated noun phrase eða brezkar aldir ‘and the British people’ (l. 3) is here construed with Skotaveldi, as object of sótti (so Finnur Jónsson 1934, 45). That the conj. eða (ms. ‘edr’) precedes brezkar aldir, the first of the co-ordinated phrases, is not a difficulty: cf. the placing of ok Danmǫrk allri ‘and the whole of Denmark’ in Arn Magndr 7/2. Brezkar aldir could alternatively be subject, along with írsk drótt ‘Irish troop’ (l. 3), of fell ‘fell’ (l. 2) (so Skj B; the meaning of brezkr is discussed below). If sótti brezkar aldir eða Skotaveldi ‘he attacked the British people and the realm of the Scots’ is construed together, brá ‘changed’ is left without an object, and brá eldr is also metrically suspect, juxtaposing two vowels at the syllable boundary, so that on two counts emendation to the intransitive brann eldr ‘fire blazed’ is expedient. An original brann could have been ‘corrected’ to brá by someone who mistakenly read the l. brann eldr Skotaveldi as a syntactic unit and found the intransitive brann incompatible with the object Skotaveldi. The problems of the remaining object-less verb unni and the isolated Baldrs are perhaps best solved by Finnur Jónsson’s emendation of ms. ‘sa er unne ... balldrs’ to sá unnar ... Baldr ‘that Baldr of the sword’ (Skj B and 1934, 45). This would be an acceptable warrior-kenning built on the familiar pattern with a god’s name, here Baldr, as base-word, and fortunately the reading Baldr is confirmed by 21 6 7 IIˣ. The determinant unnr m. ‘sword’ is a rare word, which de Vries (AEW) connects with vinna ‘do, perform’ or ‘win’. It is attested in HelgÓl Lv ll. 3-4IV (C10th) ítrtungur unnar ‘sword’s bright tongues’, i.e. ‘sword-blades’, and possibly in Þorb Lv 2V (C14th). (b) Under the second analysis the ms. text is preserved but unni is assumed to have the implied object ‘battle’, so that sás unni ... þás sótti means ‘the one who bestowed/loved [battle] when he attacked’ (so Finnbogi Guðmundsson, ÍF 34, 59 n.). Brá in brá eldr Skotaveldi is understood as ‘destroyed’. Two interpretations of ms. balldrs are compatible with this analysis. (i) Finnbogi construes it with eða brezkar aldir and offers the ingenious (though unsubstantiated) conjecture that aldir Baldrs refers to the Norse-Gaelic settlers of western Scotland—Baldr was the most Christ-like figure in Norse paganism and would thus symbolise the mixed religion of these people. (ii) Eldr Baldrs could be an (otherwise unparalleled) variant on the kenning formula ‘Óðinn’s flame’ meaning ‘sword’ (Meissner 157). Hence eldr Baldrs brá Skotaveldi could be construed as a wittily concise reference to ravaging Scotland with fire (eldr) and the sword (eldr Baldrs).


© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.