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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hrafnsmál — Sturl HrafnII

Sturla Þórðarson

Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Sturla Þórðarson, Hrafnsmál’ 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. 727-45.

 

Hrafnsmál ‘Raven’s Speech’ (Sturl Hrafn) consists of twenty sts in Haðarlag metre ‘Hǫðr’s metre’ (see SnSt Ht 79III; SnE 1999, 33, 160), and it is interspersed with the prose in Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák). The name is given in Flat (Flat 1860-8, III, 218, 222, 224, 226), F (F 1871, 570, 573, 575) and in 8 and 304ˣ (Hák 1977-82, 195-6, 200, 204). Hrafnsmál is also one of the names of Þorbjǫrn hornklofi’s panegyric to Haraldr hárfagri (Þhorn HarkvI) and of Þormóðr Trefilsson’s poetic account of slayings and battles that took place in Iceland in the late C10th and early C11th (ÞTref HrafnV; see also Eyrbyggja saga, ÍF 4, 67, 102, 124, 156, 168). The latter poem is in Haðarlag as well, and Sturla seems to have modelled his encomium on Þormóðr’s poem. Þhorn HarkvI, a poem mostly in málaháttr metre whose main topic is the battle of Hafrsfjorden, is framed as a conversation between a valkyrie and ravens, but it is not clear what the name Hrafnsmál signifies in the other two instances (see LH 1894-1901, I, 480 n. 7). Because all three poems with this title chronicle battles and killings, however, it is likely that Hrafnsmál ‘Raven’s Speech’ alludes to birds of prey taking pleasure in the carnage. ÞTrefil Hrafn mentions ravens or eagles feasting on carrion in three out of four sts, and Sturl Hrafn contains the same imagery in sts 9, 10 and 18. Furthermore, mál ‘speech’ can also mean ‘meal’, and the subject matter of these poems certainly encompasses both meanings of that word (‘raven’s speech, speech about the raven’, ‘raven’s meal’; cf. ÞTref 5/8V þar fekk hrafn væri ‘there the raven got food’). Hrafn must have been composed after Hákon’s death in 1264, and it is cited in Hák to illustrate events that took place during his campaign to the Northern and Western Isles in 1263 (for a detailed overview of this campaign based on the extant versions of Hák and other sources, see Anderson 1922, II, 607-42). The order of the sts is chronological and unproblematic, and all extant sts are preserved in F (the main ms. for the present edn) and Flat. Stanzas 1-2, 7-11 and 18-20 are also found in 8, sts 12-17 in 304ˣ, and 325X has sts 7/7-8, 8-11, 15 and 16/1. Because of restrictions imposed by the metre, the poem contains a wealth of nominal compounds, many of which are hap. leg. and some of which are very awkward. The metrical restrictions also seem to have forced Sturla to use many inverted kennings and kennings that are hyperdetermined, such as glymstæri glyggs geira ‘the din-increaser of the storm of swords’ (st. 1/3-4; see also sts 9/6, 16/3, 4), as well as nominal circumlocutions that are not kennings, such as virðar hrings ‘men of the sword’ (st. 18/2, 4; further sts 11/6, 8, 13/7, 8 and 17/2-3). For this poem, see also Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 90-104.

References

  1. Bibliography
  2. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  3. ÍF 4 = Eyrbyggja saga. Ed. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson and Matthías Þórðarson. 1935.
  4. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  5. Anderson, Alan Orr. 1922. Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286. 2 vols. Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd.
  6. SnE 1999 = Snorri Sturluson. 1999. Edda: Háttatal. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. Rpt. with addenda and corrigenda. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  7. Hák 1977-82 = Mundt, Marina, ed. 1977. Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar etter Sth. 8 fol., AM 325VIII, 4° og AM 304, 4°. Oslo: Forlagsentralen. Suppl. by James E. Knirk, Rettelser til Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar etter Sth. 8 fol., AM 325VIII, 4° og AM 304, 4°. Norrøne tekster 2. Oslo: Norsk historisk kjeldeskrift-institutt, 1982.
  8. Konráð Gíslason. 1895-7. Efterladte skrifter. 2 vols. I: Forelæsninger over oldnordiske skjaldekvad. II: Forelæsninger og videnskablige afhandlinger. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  9. LH 1894-1901 = Finnur Jónsson. 1894-1901. Den oldnorske og oldislandske litteraturs historie. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Gad.
  10. Internal references
  11. Not published: do not cite (EbV)
  12. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  13. Not published: do not cite (HrafnIV)
  14. Not published: do not cite (ÞTrefV)
  15. R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Biography of) Þorbjǫrn hornklofi’ 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. 73.
  16. Not published: do not cite (ÞTref HrafnV (Eb))
  17. R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál)’ 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. 91.
  18. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Snorri Sturluson, Háttatal 79’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1190.
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