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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Svtjúg Lv 1I

[5-6]: These two lines are difficult, and they are lightly emended in this edn as in most others. (a) Kock (NN §§1896B and C, 3396M; Skald, and followed in ÍF 9 and here) emends Njǫrðr (spelt ‘niordr’ in Flat) to norðr ‘to the north’ and reads vestan ‘from the west’ as verstan ‘worst’; verstan is either a minor emendation or a possible interpretation of the spelling vestan (cf. ANG §272.3 for the replacement of <rs> before another consonant by <ss> or <s>). This is an attractive solution: although there is no explicit subject, the resultant sentence fits well with the tenor of the stanza and anecdote as a whole. Under this interpretation the vellstœri ‘gold-increaser’ is probably Hákon, recipient of the níð poem. Stœrir ‘increaser’ is normally found in kennings meaning ‘battle-increaser [WARRIOR]’ (Meissner 304), while words like vell meaning ‘gold, treasure’ are normally found in kennings meaning ‘treasure-destroyer/hurler [GENEROUS MAN]’ (Meissner 314-5). The kenning vellstœrir may therefore be another ironic inversion of convention, portraying Hákon as a hoarder rather than generous giver. (b) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B (following Konráð Gíslason) chooses to emend vestan to víga, to create a warrior-kenning Njǫrðr víga ‘Njǫrðr of battles’, which is also found elsewhere (see LP: Njǫrðr). (c) Emendation can be avoided by reading, with Fms 12, 69, Njǫrðr réð fœra brag vestan virðum vellstœri ‘the man [Þorleifr] has managed to bring the poem from the west to the honoured gold-increaser [GENEROUS MAN = Sveinn]’. However, this assumes that the god’s name Njǫrðr stands alone as a heiti or half-kenning for ‘man’, here Þorleifr, whereas Njǫrðr is extremely common as the base-word of full kennings (Meissner 261-2). There are no certain examples of names of deities being used as half-kennings in early skaldic poetry (Meissner 79), though this would perhaps be conceivable if this stanza were a C12th product (cf. Note to l. 8). Vestan could also be retained with the meaning ‘from the west’, presumably from Norway to Denmark, in which case the brag(r) ‘poem’ could be either the níð poem itself or the poem Þorleifr composed for Sveinn (Þjsk Sveinn).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  7. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  9. ÍF 9 = Eyfirðinga sǫgur. Ed. Jónas Kristjánsson. 1956.
  10. Internal references
  11. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Þorleikr fagri, Flokkr about Sveinn Úlfsson’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 313-22.


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