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Runic Dictionary

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Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson (Ólhv)

13th century; volume 2; ed. Lauren Goetting;

III. 1. Thómasdrápa (Thómdr) - 2

prose works

Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (Ólhv) was an accomplished Icel. scholar and a prolific poet. Details of his life are documented in Sturlunga saga (Stu), Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák), and Knýtlinga saga (Knýtl). He was born c. 1210-12 at Staður on Snæfellsness, Iceland, as the eldest son of Þórðr Sturluson and his concubine Þóra. He was the nephew of Snorri Sturluson (SnSt; d. 1241), with whom he spent long periods of time as a young man, and the older brother of Sturla Þórðarson (Sturl; d. 1284). In 1237 he left Iceland with Snorri to embark upon a career as a professional poet at the courts of Scandinavia. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256-8, 260, 378-84) Óláfr composed poetry in honour of a large number of kings and noblemen, including the following: (in Norway) Jarl Skúli Bárðarson (d. 1240), King Hákon Hákonarson (d. 1263) and his son Hákon ungi ‘the Young’ Hákonarson (d. 1257), Jarl Knútr Hákonarson (d. 1261); (in Sweden) King Eiríkr Eiríkson (d. 1250); (in Denmark) King Valdimarr Valdimarsson (d. 1241). Because of Óláfr’s close association with Valdimarr, from whom he hafði ... margar ágætligar frásagnir ‘got ... many excellent narratives’ (ÍF 35, 315), he is thought by some to have written Knýtl, which recounts the history of Dan. rulers (see LH 1894-1901, II, 275, 784-5). Around 1242 Óláfr returned to Iceland and founded a school at Stafaholt in Borgarfjörður, where he wrote the Third Grammatical Treatise (TGT) and devoted himself to teaching and writing until his death in 1259. In addition to these pursuits, he was ordained subdeacon at some point after his return to Iceland and also served as lawspeaker 1248-50.

Most of Óláfr’s extant poetry consists of encomia to King Hákon Hákonarson and is inserted throughout the prose in Hák. This includes part of Hrynhenda (Ólhv Hryn), one st. from a Poem about Hákon (Ólhv Hák), and two lvv. (Ólhv Lv). One lv. traditionally assigned to him, has been reassigned in the present edn to Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson (Ólsv Love 3III). Aside from the aforementioned, the remainder of Óláfr’s known poetic works includes two sts from ÁrónsdrápaDrápa about Árón’ (Ólhv ÁrdrIV), composed about his friend Árón Hjǫrleifsson, and two sts from ThómasdrápaDrápa about Thomas (ꜳ Becket)’ (Ólhv ThómdrIII), recorded in the Fourth Grammatical Treatise (FoGT). Finally, nine fragments of sts from TGT (Ólhv FragIII), treated as anonymous in previous eds, are attributed to Óláfr in this edn.

Thómasdrápa — Ólhv ThómdrIII

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Óláfr hvítaskáld Þórðarson, Thómasdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 301.

stanzas:  1   2 

Skj: Óláfr Þórðarson hvítaskáld: 4. Af et digt om Thomas Becket (AII, 97, BII, 109)

in texts: FoGT, Gramm

SkP info: III, 301

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

Two dróttkvætt couplets (Ólhv Thómdr) are all that remain of a poem, possibly a drápa, in honour of one Thomas, generally considered to be S. Thomas Becket (1120?-70), Archbishop of Canterbury, who was canonised in 1173. On the popularity of S. Thomas of Canterbury in Iceland generally and among the clergy in particular, see Notes to Anon Heil 1-4VII.

These couplets are cited by the author of FoGT to illustrate the rhetorical figure of apostrophe, an exclamatory address to a particular person or thing, and are attributed to a certain Óláfr. Although the author of the treatise gives no patronymic, it is generally assumed by modern scholars that the poet was Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (d. 1259). No medieval title of the poem from which these extracts come is known to exist, but the name ‘Thomas drapa’ appears in Árni Magnússon’s copy of the two couplets in 761aˣ(84r), where he speculates on whether the composer was Óláfr svartaskáld ‘Black Skald’ Leggsson or some other Óláfr. The text of this poem is extant only in ms. W, the sole medieval examplar of FoGT.

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