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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 2. General Introduction A. Notes

A. Notes

[1] This Introduction, edited by Margaret Clunies Ross, is an introduction to the nine-volume series Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages; see below for the introduction to Volume I. It is a joint production of all the General Editors of SkP, and the parts can be attributed in the following way to individual authors: §§1.1, 1.2, 1.4 and 2.1, Margaret Clunies Ross; §§2.2 and 2.5, Tarrin Wills; §§2.3, 2.4 and 3.1, Diana Whaley; §§3.2 and 4, Kari Ellen Gade; §§1.3.1 and 5, Edith Marold, and §§1.3.2 and 6, Guðrún Nordal. Edith Marold’s sections were translated from German by John Foulks.

[2] On the etymology and cognates of skald, see AEWskáld.

[3] The Codex Wormianus (AM 242 fol, W) of the mid-fourteenth century contains an incomplete text of the poem Rígsþula ‘Rígr’s þula’, while AM 748 I a 4° (A), of c. 1325, contains five of the same poems as the Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda, plus one,Baldrs draumar ‘Baldr’s Dreams’, that is unique to it. Two manuscripts of Snorra Edda contain the poem Grottasǫngr ‘The Song of Grotti [a magical hand-mill]’, while the poem Vǫluspá ‘The Prophecy of the Seeress’ is found in the early fourteenth-century Icelandic compilation known as Hauksbók (Hb) ‘The Book of Haukr [Erlendsson]’. The Gylfaginning section of Snorra Edda contains quotations from several of the Poetic Edda poems, especially VǫluspáGrímnismál ‘The Speech of Grímnir’ and Vafþrúðnismál‘The Speech of Vafþrúðnir’. Snorri also mentions or quotes from some poems of eddic type that have not survived in the written record.

[4] The standard edition of the Poetic Edda is NK, which also has an accompanying dictionary, translated into English and augmented as LT 1992. Edd. Min. includes a number of eddic poems not in the Codex Regius, many from fornaldarsögur. There are also two major German commentaries on the Edda poems, S-G and Kommentar.

[5] However, again conventionally, this edition excludes rímur, even though the earliest ríma, Einarr Gilsson’s Óláfs ríma Haraldssonar, dates from the mid-fourteenth century.

[6] There are some prose links and explanatory prose sections in the Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda, probably added by a commentator, but the manuscript is largely a poetic anthology.

[7] Both versions of Skáldatal ‘Enumeration of Skalds’ (SnE 1848-87, III, 251, 259) claim that Starkaðr inn gamli ‘the Old’ was the first skald whose poetry people knew in the medieval period. Starkaðr is said to have composed for kings of the Danes.

[8] Although there is good evidence to establish the ethnicity of some skalds, there are many who have been assigned an ethnicity (usually Icelandic) by earlier scholars without any hard evidence to support it. In most cases, later researchers have simply accepted Finnur Jónsson’s designation of poets in Skj as either Icelandic or Norwegian, but this edition has adopted a more sceptical stance in cases where there is no evidence to support one or the other. See further Gade (2000, 82-4) and Clunies Ross (2009a), as well as individual poet biographies in this edition.

[9] The volumes are: SkP IPoetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035, ed. Diana Whaley; SkP IIPoetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300, ed. Kari Ellen Gade (2009); SkP IIIPoetry from Treatises on Poetics, ed. Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold; SkP IVPoetry on Icelandic History, ed. Guðrún Nordal; SkP VPoetry in Sagas of Icelanders, ed. Guðrún Nordal and Tarrin Wills; SkP VIRunic Poetry, ed. Edith Marold; SkP VIIPoetry 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.

[10] In Skald, Kock follows Finnur’s dating and attributions of the poetry in the skaldic corpus.

[11] In poetry composed in metres that are not syllable-counting and contain hypermetrical lines, such as málaháttr and ljóðaháttr, these principles do not obtain.

[12] Note that the principles for the normalisation of fourteenth-century poetry are outlined in §9 of the Introduction to SkP VII, and they will not be addressed here. For the normalisation of the language of the runic corpus, see Introduction to SkP VI.

[13] The discussion below does not attempt to be exhaustive; rather, it gives an overview of the most important changes.

[14] Note that this date, as most others, is approximate.

[15] Modified from Sievers (1893). That system is convenient for the classification of Old Norse poetic verses and for showing how skaldic metres developed from the eddic metres, but it does not capture fully the distribution of primary and secondary stresses indróttkvætt and hrynhent, for example (see Gade 1995a). The overview above is simplified and does not attempt to be exhaustive. See also §4.4 below. The Old Norse verse examples cited for metrical purposes here and elsewhere are often incomplete linguistic units. Hence the English translations are literal and often give incomplete sense.

[16] The periphrasis describing fire as ‘the dog of embers’ is not treated as a kenning, since the referent, fire, is already indicated by the determinant glóða ‘of embers’. See further Note to Þjóð Yt 4/11-12I.


  1. Bibliography
  2. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  5. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  6. Gade, Kari Ellen. 2000. ‘Poetry and its Changing Importance in Medieval Icelandic Culture’. In Clunies Ross 2000a, 61-95.
  7. Sievers, Eduard. 1893. Altgermanische Metrik. Sammlung kurzer Grammatiken germanischer Dialekte. Ergänzungsreihe 2, ed. Wilhelm Braune. Halle: Niemeyer.
  8. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. Heidelberg: Winter.
  9. Kommentar = von See, Klaus et al. 1997-. Kommentar zu den Liedern der Edda. 6 vols (continuing). Heidelberg: Winter.
  10. LT = La Farge, Beatrice and John Tucker. 1992. Glossary to the Poetic Edda, based on Hans Kuhn’s Kurzes Wörterbuch. Skandinavistische Arbeiten 15. Heidelberg: Winter.
  11. SkP = Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Turnhout: Brepols.
  12. SkP I = Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Ed. Diana Whaley. 2012.
  13. SkP III = Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Ed. Kari Ellen Gade in collaboration with Edith Marold. 2017.
  14. SkP IV = Poetry on Icelandic History. Ed. Guðrún Nordal. Forthcoming.
  15. SkP V = Poetry in Sagas of Icelanders. Ed. Tarrin Wills, Kari Ellen Gade and Margaret Clunies Ross. Forthcoming.
  16. SkP VI = Runic Poetry. Ed. Edith Marold. Forthcoming.
  17. SkP VII = Poetry on Christian Subjects. Ed. Margaret Clunies Ross. 2007.
  18. Clunies Ross, Margaret. 2009a. ‘Poets and Ethnicity’. In Ney et al. 2009, I, 185-92.
  19. Edd. Min. = Heusler, Andreas and Wilhelm Ranisch, eds. 1903. Eddica Minora: Dichtungen eddischer Art aus den Fornaldarsögur und anderen Prosawerken. Dortmund: Ruhfus. Rpt. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
  20. S-G = Gering, Hugo. 1927-31. Kommentar zu den Liedern der Edda. Nach dem Tode des Verfassers herausgegeben von B. Sijmons. I: Götterlieder. II: Heldenlieder. Halle: Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses.
  21. SkP II = Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Ed. Kari Ellen Gade. 2009.
  22. Clunies Ross, Margaret. 2007. ‘Stylistic and Generic Definers of the Old Norse Skaldic Ekphrasis’. Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 3, 161-85.
  23. Internal references
  24. Not published: do not cite (EGilsIV)
  25. Not published: do not cite (GylfIII)
  26. Not published: do not cite (RunVI)
  27. Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Ynglingatal 4’ 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. 14.
  28. Not published: do not cite (HemII)
  29. Not published: do not cite ()
  30. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Hauksbók (Hb)’ 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. clxvi.

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