Margaret Clunies Ross 2012, ‘The division of the corpus in this edition’ 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, pp. xxv-xxvii.
Finnur Jónsson’s Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning (Skj) and E. A. Kock’s Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen (Skald) both arranged the skaldic corpus chronologically and divided it into two volumes, with the dividing line being the end of the twelfth century. The present edition continues their chronological principle of organisation (while admitting that dating is often problematic), but has divided the corpus into eight volumes, with a ninth containing a comprehensive bibliography and indices. The main reason for such a procedure is the editors’ strong belief that skaldic poetry can best be classified and understood in its context of preservation. That context largely comprises medieval Icelandic manuscripts, together with some paper copies of medieval manuscripts dating from the post-medieval period. These manuscripts are held in major collections in Scandinavia, with a smaller number in libraries in other, mainly European, countries.
In §1.1 we touched on the relationship between poetic corpora and their contexts of preservation, which, in the case of much skaldic poetry, are different types of prose text. Some poems, principally Christian devotional compositions, have been preserved in anthologies or miscellanies outside a prose context. The arrangement of the present edition allows the user to understand how and where poetry of a particular kind has been preserved, and thus to appreciate some of the general characteristics of that kind of verse. For example, in SkP I and II it is possible to compare a variety of different encomia for Scandinavian rulers, often in the most elaborate skaldic form of the drápa (see further §§3.1 and 4.4 below), and to trace the development of this important genre. There are also many spirited lausavísur attributed to royal skalds in SkP I and II, stanzas that record specific events or military campaigns, or, on a more personal basis, individual experiences of the skalds and their patrons.
Other text corpora reveal particular poetic genres and stylistic characteristics. In SkP IV and V poetry composed by Icelanders in Iceland shows a great variety of compositional modes, ranging from the poetry of personal insult (níð) to love poetry, hagiography and occasional verse of various kinds. In SkP III poetry from the poetic treatises both complements that available from the texts represented in SkP I and II, IV and V, and adds depth to the poetry composed by the poets of the Viking Age and the twelfth century that Snorri Sturluson in his Edda termed hǫfuðskáld ‘chief poets’, that is, those who in his opinion set the standard for the art. Poetry from fornaldarsögur uses largely eddic verse-forms to represent the speech and often the fantastic deeds of heroes of prehistoric times. These stanzas are edited together in SkP VIII.
It is fitting that the poetry recorded in runes, mostly on a variety of hard surfaces, rather than in manuscripts, should have a volume to itself. When Finnur Jónsson produced Skj he included only one runic inscription, that on the Karlevi stone (Run Öl1VI) on the island of Öland in the Baltic. Many of the runic inscriptions that have been edited in SkP VI were unknown in Finnur’s day, so this volume, in particular, represents a significant increase in the skaldic corpus. It also includes poetry from Denmark and Sweden as well as the West Norse area, principally Norway.
The poems in SkP VII, Poetry on Christian Subjects, have benefitted from being edited together, not only because it is possible to take full cognisance of the circumstances of their preservation and the prose texts that often underlie them, but because it has also been possible for the first time to set out in a systematic way the underlying theological and iconographic influences upon them and to see this poetry in the general context of medieval European Christian spirituality and religious verse. While a number of scholars of earlier generations have studied these influences, there has not been a close analysis of all the concepts expressed in the poems, many of them little known to the modern reader, that were theological commonplaces in the Middle Ages.
It is important to note that some poetry has been preserved in more than one kind of prose context. For example, two lausavísur ascribed to Einarr skálaglamm ‘Tinkle-scales’ Helgason (Eskál Lv 1 and 2) are found both in manuscripts of Jómsvíkinga saga and in manuscripts of Egils saga. This sort of situation calls for difficult editorial decisions, especially where the texts of stanzas differ considerably, and in some cases, as here, the editors have decided to publish the stanzas in more than one volume, in Einarr’s case in SkP I and V. Conversely, some stanzas that appear in manuscripts of Snorra Edda are edited in either SkP I or II, where they appear as parts of extended poems. The editorial methodology described in this section has also required other compromises: the works of some poets (e.g. Einarr Skúlason) are divided between two or more volumes, depending on the manuscript contexts in which they have been preserved. In Einarr’s case, his Geisli ‘Light beam’ appears in SkP VII, his royal encomia in SkP II, and some lausavísur and fragments preserved in grammatical treatises in SkP III.
The volumes are: SkP I = Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035, ed. Diana Whaley; SkP II = Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300, ed. Kari Ellen Gade (2009); SkP III = Poetry from Treatises on Poetics, ed. Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold; SkP IV = Poetry on Icelandic History, ed. Guðrún Nordal; SkP V = Poetry in Sagas of Icelanders, ed. Guðrún Nordal and Tarrin Wills; SkP VI = Runic Poetry, ed. Edith Marold; SkP VII = Poetry on Christian Subjects, ed. Margaret Clunies Ross (2007); SkP VIII = Poetry in fornaldarsögur, ed. Margaret Clunies Ross; SkP IX = Bibliography and Indices, ed. Margaret Clunies Ross et al.