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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Lv 2I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Lausavísur 2’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 786.

Óttarr svartiLausavísur


The likely date of Óttarr svarti’s Knútsdrápa (Ótt Knútdr) is c. 1027, and the date of this lausavísa (Ótt Lv 2) is likely to be the same (see Introduction to Knútdr, and Townend 2001, 157-61). Fidjestøl (1982, 84-5) explored the possibility that (semi-) independent verses sometimes introduced formal drápur and it is conceivable that this stanza (in irregular fornyrðislag) formed a kind of prologue to Óttarr’s Knútdr proper (in dróttkvætt), though its different preservation, only in ÓHLeg (ms. DG8), might suggest that saga compilers were not aware of this. In terms of its date and political rhetoric, Lv 2 closely resembles Knútr’s 1027 Letter to his subjects (see Note to ll. 2-4 below).

text and translation

Svá skal kveðja         konung Dana,
Íra ok Engla         ok Eybúa,
at hans fari         með himinkrǫptum
lǫndum ǫllum         lof víðara.

Skal svá kveðja {konung Dana, Íra ok Engla ok Eybúa}, at lof hans fari með himinkrǫptum víðara ǫllum lǫndum.
‘[I] shall so greet the king of the Danes, of the Irish and of the English and of the Island-dwellers [= Knútr], that his praise may travel with heavenly support more widely through all the lands.

notes and context

ÓHLeg tells of how Óttarr entered into Knútr’s service. He comes into the king’s hall and speaks the stanza, which serves as a promise of a fuller kvæði ‘poem’ which Óttarr subsequently recites (and which is not quoted; see Introduction).

[2-4]: The best parallel for this ostentatious roll-call of subjects is Knútr’s 1027 Letter, which proclaims him as (in William of Malmesbury’s version) rex totius Angliae et Danemarkiae et Norregiae et partis Swauorum ‘king of all England, Denmark, and Norway, and of part of the Swedes’ (Mynors, Thomson and Winterbottom 1998-9, I, 324, cf. Darlington and McGurk 1995-, II, 512). The rhetoric of imperial over-kingship is similar, though Óttarr’s list in ll. 3-4 seems to focus deliberately on the British Isles (on Knútr’s empire see Bolton 2009).



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: Óttarr svarti, Lausavísur 2: AI, 299, BI, 275, Skald I, 141, NN §3073; ÓHLeg 1922, 56, ÓHLeg 1982, 130-1.


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