Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þskúm Lv 1I

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorleifr skúma Þorkelsson, Lausavísa 1’ 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. 360.

Þorleifr skúma ÞorkelssonLausavísa1

text and translation

Hefk í hendi         til hǫfuðs gerva
beinbrot Búa         bǫl Sigvalda
vô víkinga         vǫrn Hôkunar.
Sjá skal verða,         ef vér lifum,
eikikylfa         óþǫrf Dǫnum.

Hefk í hendi gerva til hǫfuðs beinbrot Búa, bǫl Sigvalda, vô víkinga, vǫrn Hôkunar. Sjá eikikylfa skal verða óþǫrf Dǫnum, ef vér lifum.
‘I have in my hand readied against heads [lit. to the head] the bone-breaker of Búi, the ruin of Sigvaldi, the woe of vikings, the defence of Hákon. This oaken club shall prove unhelpful to the Danes, if we [I] live.

notes and context

Four Icelanders are named among the troops fighting for the Norwegian jarls against the Jómsvíkingar at Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen), though there is some difference between Jvs and Fsk, and among the Jvs mss, as to the individuals named. Fsk remarks that the memory of the battle has been maintained in Iceland, partly through poetry, partly through other narratives. The stanza is attributed to one of the Icelanders before the fighting started: he is swinging a club, and answers in verse when the jarl asks what this signifies. In Jvs, this is (Þorleifr) skúma, responding to Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson, while in Fsk it is Vígfúss Víga-Glúmsson, responding to Hákon jarl Sigurðarson, and the stanza is followed by the words Þá kvað hann ok þetta ‘Then he also spoke this’ and Vígf Lv. In FoGT, the stanza is attributed to ‘Þorleifr’, and offered as an example of what some call emphasis, in which a weapon, here kylfa ‘club’, is referred to or distinguished by the work it does.

The stanza is followed in FoGT by a comment on its mixed imagery, which, it is said, Óláfr [Þórðarson] calls finngálknat ‘monstrous’, compared with the harmonized imagery which is preferable in extended poems and even individual verses. — The stanza consists of ten lines rather than the more conventional eight, and Fsk omits lines 5-6 (Finnur Jónsson in Skj B prints these in brackets). Meanwhile, doubt has been cast over ll. 3-4. Björn Magnússon Ólsen (FoGT 1884, 263-4) noted that omitting them obviates some problems in the stanza, especially in l. 2. Firstly, til hǫfuðs ‘against heads’ or lit. ‘to the head’ is obscure since nothing in ll. 1-4 specifies whose head, and secondly, in an otherwise straightforward stanza, it is awkward that gerva (f. acc. sg.) in l. 2 is immediately followed by beinbrot n. ‘bone-breaker, bone-breaking’ in l. 3. To the latter problem the main solutions Björn mentions are that gerva ‘readied’ qualifies an unspoken kylfu (f. acc. sg.) ‘club’; that it qualifies v (f. acc. sg.) ‘woe’ in l. 5; or (his favoured option), that ll. 3-4 should be omitted. He suggests that this would also allow for víkinga (gen. pl.) ‘of vikings’ to function both with ‘woe’ and with hǫfuðs ‘head’ (cf. FoGT 2004, where hǫfuðs víkinga ‘head(s) of the vikings’ is construed together, leaving ‘woe’ unqualified and referring to the club).



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: Þórleifr skúma Þórkelsson, Lausavísa: AI, 117, BI, 111-12, Skald I, 63; Fms 11, 130, Fms 12, 238, Flat 1860-8, I, 189, Jvs 1875, 28, Jvs 1879, 73-4, Jvs 1882, 111, Jvs 1962, 34, Jvs 1969, 180; Fsk 1902-3, 95 (ch. 20), ÍF 29, 132 (ch. 22); SnE 1848-87, II, 212, FoGT 1884, 131, 262-4, FoGT 2004, 112-13.


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