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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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EirRagn Lv 4VIII (Ragn 14)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 14 (Eiríkr Ragnarsson, Lausavísur 4)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 653.

Eiríkr RagnarssonLausavísur

text and translation

Hlakkar hrafn of höfði
hér mínu nú sýnu;
krefr unda valr augna
ósynju hér minna.
Veiztu, ef hrafn ór höfði
høggr brúnsteina mína,
launar unda valr egðis
illa marga fylli.

Sýnu hlakkar nú hrafn hér of höfði mínu; hér krefr {valr unda} ósynju augna minna. Veiztu, ef hrafn høggr {brúnsteina mína} ór höfði, launar {valr unda} illa {marga fylli egðis}.
‘A raven is now clearly shrieking here above my head; the falcon of wounds [RAVEN] is here at an ill-fated hour claiming my eyes. You know, if a raven hacks my brow-stones [EYES] from my head, the falcon of wounds [RAVEN] will be paying a poor reward for many a full meal of the wolf [CORPSE].

notes and context

After being placed on the spears and seeing a raven flying by, Eiríkr recites this stanza just before dying his heroic death.

This stanza is comparable in sentiment to Ket 34, where, however, it is the eagle rather than the raven that functions as a bird of battle; see also Jesch (2002b). The stanza shows a striking degree of parallelism, with its near-repetition in l. 5 hrafn ór höfði ‘… a raven … from my head’ of hrafn of höfði ‘… a raven … over my head’, occurring in the same position in l. 1, the corresponding line of the first half-stanza; and with the repetition from l. 3 of the kenning valr unda ‘the falcon of wounds [RAVEN]’ in l. 7, the corresponding line of the second half-stanza, also in the same position. The problematic readings in ll. 2 and 4, and also in l. 7, to be discussed below, unfortunately obfuscate whatever poetic or rhetorical effect this parallelism may originally have had. — [1-4]: The present ed. follows Kock’s interpretation of this helmingr (see (c) below). (a) Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 205) retains hrafn in l. 1, emends sína to steina (gen. pl.) ‘stones, jewels’ in l. 2, and ‘osína’ to ósynju, f. dat. sg. ‘groundlessly, wantonly’, in l. 4, thus giving: ‘a raven is shrieking here over my head; the falcon of wounds [RAVEN] is now wantonly claiming the jewels of (which) my eyes (consist) (i.e. my eye-jewels (augnasteina) [EYES])’. (b) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B adopts Valdimar Ásmundarson’s emendations and interpretation of ll. 1-2 (hrafn to már ‘seagull’ in l. 1 and sína to sára ‘of wounds’ in l. 2), but in l. 4 also emends ‘o sína’ to ósynju, thus giving as the meaning of ll. 3-4: ‘the falcon of wounds [RAVEN] is here gratuitously claiming my eyes’. (Finnur’s alternative reading (in Skj A II n. 4) of sína in l. 2 as ‘sma’ (smá ‘small’) is questionable in itself and makes for an unsatisfactory reading of the line, both semantically and metrically.) (c) Kock (Skald; NN §§2368, 3245), evidently accepting Finnur’s reading of ll. 3-4, retains hrafn in l. 1 and emends sína in l. 2 to sýnu n. dat. sg. of sýnn ‘evident’, thus interpreting the first sentence as ‘a raven is now clearly shrieking here above my head’. However, sýnu, when used as an intensifying adv., usually appears with comparatives or superlatives, and that is not the case here (cf. LP: sýnn; Heggstad et al. 2008: sýnn 1, with examples at the end of both entries). (d) Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985) adopts the emendation ósynju ‘unrightfully’ in l. 4, but emends sína in l. 2 to sinna, gen. pl. of refl. poss. adj. sinn ‘his (own)’, taking it as complement to augna, gen. pl. object of krefr, and so producing the meaning ‘the falcon of wounds [RAVEN] is now unrightfully claiming my eyes as its own’. — [7]: This line is hypermetrical, and most eds have dealt with it by (a) converting the ms’s unda valr to a cpd undvalr ‘wound-hawk’ (so Olsen, Eskeland, Ebel) or unnvalr ‘wave-horse’ (Skj B; Skald) and (b) by emending the ms.’s ‘ekils’, which, with its short first syllable, would not be expected in the cadence of a dróttkvætt line (see Note to ll. 7, 8 below).



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. 2. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ragnarssaga loðbrókar V 4: AII, 235, BII, 255, Skald II, 132, NN §§1456, 2368, 3245; FSN 1, 263 (Ragn ch. 9), Ragn 1891, 196-7 (ch. 9), Ragn 1906-8, 140, 205 (ch. 10), Ragn 1944, 66-7 (ch. 10), FSGJ 1, 250 (Ragn ch. 10), Ragn 1985, 124-5 (ch. 10), Ragn 2003, 35-6 (ch. 10), CPB II, 348.


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