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Runic Dictionary

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Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson (Ólsv)

13th century; volume 3; ed. R. D. Fulk;

3. Kristsdrápa (Kristdr) - 2

It is possible that Óláfr (Ólsv) was a nephew of the poet Játgeirr Torfason (SnE 1848-87, III, 681; SkP II, 652). In Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 279) he is identified as a poet attached to the court of King Hákon Hákonarson (r. 1217-63; see SkP II, lxxxi-lxxxii). His nickname svartaskáld ‘Black Skald’ no doubt was employed to distinguish him from his contemporary at Hákon’s court, Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (Ólhv; see SkP II, 656), and presumably it indicates that he had dark hair. He plays a role in a narrative in Sturlunga saga (ch. 228) set in the period 1230-1 (see Stu 1988, I, 329-30). According to that saga, he was a poor man who was in the company of Snorri Sturluson’s son, Jón murtr ‘Roach’, in Bergen in 1231. During a drunken brawl he dealt Jón an axe-blow that led to Jón’s death. Óláfr managed to escape the scene of the crime under the cover of darkness and he was not punished. He is not mentioned again in any literary source. The remains of his poetry are almost all fragmentary: these include what appear to be drápur dedicated to King Hákon (Hákdr), to Christ (Kristdr), and to the Norwegian Skúli jarl Bárðarson (1189-1240) (Skúldr), as well as a love poem (Love); the one complete work is a lone lausavísa.

Kristsdrápa (‘Drápa about Christ’) — Ólsv KristdrIII

Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘ Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson, Kristsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 314. <> (accessed 19 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2 

Skj: Óláfr Leggsson, svartaskáld: 3. En drape om Kristus (?) (AII, 85, BII, 96)

in texts: LaufE

SkP info: III, 314

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


These two fragments, KristsdrápaDrápa about Christ’ (Ólsv Kristdr), are transmitted in the Y redaction of LaufE (mss 2368ˣ, 743ˣ), and they were copied from a LaufE ms. in RE 1665(Ji). Ms. 743ˣ has the superior readings and is therefore the main ms. The editions in Skj and Skald are based on 743ˣ only. The fragments are transmitted consecutively in LaufE and are attributed to Óláfr Leggsson in both mss. They are clearly taken from a religious poem (or poems), but the title of this putative poem is a modern construct (Skj B: En drape om Kristus (?) ‘A drápa about Christ (?)’; Skald: Religiös dråpa ‘A religious drápa’), and there is no evidence that they belonged to the same poem and that this was a drápa about Christ.
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