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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hǫrðr Lv 4VIII (HjǪ 43)

Richard L. Harris (ed.) 2017, ‘Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis 43 (Hǫrðr/Hringr, Lausavísur 4)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 534.


text and translation

Eyðaz mun sæmd þín,         ef líkr skal ek vera
aumum illþræli,         er ekki prýðir,
ragr í hverja taug,         nema vakta mat svínum,
halr inn hrafnsvarti         í hrævar skrúði.

Sæmd þín mun eyðaz, ef ek skal vera líkr aumum illþræli, er ekki prýðir, ragr í hverja taug, nema vakta svínum mat, inn hrafnsvarti halr í skrúði hrævar.
‘Your honour will be destroyed, if I must be like a poor wretched slave, whom sobbing adorns, craven in every fibre, only good to look after food for swine, the raven-black fellow in the clothing of a corpse.

notes and context

The prose text prefaces this stanza by stating that King Hringr becomes angry at the stanza Hjálmþér had just spoken and utters this one in response.

Compare Hjálmþérsrímur IX, 70-1 (Finnur Jónsson 1905-22, II, 65) with this stanza. — Presumably this stanza is to be understood semi-humorously, but the idea that Hjálmþér’s honour would have been destroyed if his companion was really a swineherd rather than a king depends on a set of beliefs about early Nordic society that was deeply held (cf. Meulengracht Sørensen 1983). These would normally inhibit men of high social status from consorting with the lower orders, who were deemed to be inherently cowardly and craven (ragr, l. 5). However, according to the saga, Hjálmþér had treated Hǫrðr as his trusted companion during a series of adventures and had been carrying the corpse of his supposed slave on his back for two days. In this stanza there are several allusions to the supposed slave’s cowardly and unmanly behaviour that could have dishonoured Hjálmþér.



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: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 16. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Hjálmþérs saga ok Ǫlvis VI 2: AII, 340-1, BII, 362-3, Skald II, 196, NN §2840; HjǪ 1720, 73, FSN 3, 512, FSGJ 4, 237, HjǪ 1970, 59, 109, 177.


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