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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hfr Hákdr 2III

Kate Heslop (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Hákonardrápa 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. 216.

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ÓttarssonHákonardrápa

text and translation

Ólítit brestr úti
unndýrs sumum runnum
hart á Hamðis skyrtum
hryngráp Egils vápna.
Þaðan verða fǫt fyrða
— fregnk gǫrla þat — Sǫrla
rjóðask bjǫrt í blóði
benfúr méilskúrum.

{Ólítit hryngráp {vápna Egils}} brestr hart á {skyrtum Hamðis} {sumum runnum {unndýrs}} úti. Þaðan verða {bjǫrt fǫt Sǫrla} rjóðask í blóði fyrða {benfúr} {méilskúrum}; fregnk þat gǫrla.
‘Not a little ringing hail of Egill’s <legendary archer’s> weapons [BOWS > ARROWS] crashes hard against Hamðir’s <legendary hero’s> shirts [MAIL-SHIRTS] of some bushes of the wave-beast [SHIP > SEAFARERS] out at sea. As a result the bright garments of Sǫrli <legendary hero> [MAIL-SHIRTS] must be reddened in the blood of men by wound-fire [SWORD] in missile-showers [BATTLE]; I learn clearly of that.

notes and context

Skm quotes the helmingar of this stanza in succession as instances of kennings for weapons and armour, here skyrtur Hamðis ‘Hamðir’s shirts’ and fǫt Sǫrla ‘Sǫrli’s garments’. In ms. A, the second helmingr follows directly with no intervening prose.

[5-8]: The crucial issue here is the gender of benfúr ‘wound-fire’ in l. 8 (ms. R’s ben fyr spoils the aðalhending and must be rejected). (a) If the second element is taken as (an inflected form of) fúrr m. ‘fire’, as is conventional, it must be acc. or dat. sg., so it cannot be the subject of rjóðask ‘are reddened’. The interpretation in the Text, that of Faulkes (SnE 1998), solves this by taking benfúr as instr. with verða rjóðask (ll. 5, 7), where rjóðask is an inf. (b) Following Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 114-15), Reichardt (1928, 62-4) suggests that fúr is n. (and so nom. pl.). He also adopts C’s fyr in l. 8, and reads: Þaðan verða Sǫrla fǫt fyrða fyr méilskúrum; fregnk gǫrla þat; bjǫrt benfúr rjóðask í blóði ‘As a result the mail-shirts of the warriors are exposed to missiles; I learn clearly of that; bright swords are reddened with blood’. Reichardt’s reading is undeniably attractive (NN §1834 and Davidson follow him), but there are several problems with it: ms. C’s ‘fvr fyrir’ is unsupported by the other mss and looks like dittography; the identity of disyllabic méil with monosyllabic mél is questionable (see Note to l. 8 below); and there are a few unambiguous instances of fúrr m. but none, save the one Reichardt posits in the present verse, of fúr n. (c) Skj B takes l. 8 as part of the stef, and so does not include it in the syntax of the helmingr (ll. 5-7 are interpreted as above): this is unsatisfactory.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 1. Hákonardrápa 8: AI, 156, BI, 148, Skald I, 81, NN §1834; SnE 1848-87, I, 422-5, II, 328, 439, 588, III, 79, SnE 1931, 150-1, SnE 1998, I, 68; Davidson 1983, 448, 479-86.


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