Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur’ 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. 163-76.
A small group of Þjóðólfr’s sts (ÞjóðA Lv 1-11) preserved mainly in Mork, Flat and H-Hr can be regarded with confidence as lvv. With the exception of Lv 5-6 and to some extent 7-8 they do not form distinct groupings, and are therefore introduced collectively here.
Lv 1 expresses grief at the death of Magnús (1047): the skald’s own, and that of the followers who carried the king to the grave; since Magnfl is clearly addressed to Magnús during his lifetime this st. cannot belong there. It is preserved only in TGT (W, A).
Lv 2-6 are preserved in H-Hr (H, Hr), Mork (Mork) and Flat (Flat). Lv 2-3 are additionally in Fsk (FskAˣ, FskBˣ), Lv 2 in Hkr (Kˣ, 39, F, J2ˣ, E) and Lv 3 in F. Lv 5-6 are in Snegl (593bˣ), as are Lv 7 (Mork, Flat, 563aˣ) and Lv 8 (Flat, 563aˣ). Priority has been given in each case to the ms. which has the best text, supported by the other mss: Kˣ, F, FskBˣ, Mork, Flat. These five lvv. are all presented in their prose sources as lvv., and specifically as extemporisations which Þjóðólfr produces on an order or a poetic cue from Haraldr Sigurðarson (see Contexts). Lv 2 has a strongly anticipatory feel, employing the verb skal ‘shall’ and the phrase segik eina sp ‘I speak a prophecy’. It is indeed a ‘genuine-seeming improvisatory verse’ (Poole 1991, 68). Lv 3, embedded in a conversation between king and poet and introduced with phrases such as svaraði ‘replied’, Þá segir ‘then says’ and Þjóðólfr tók þegar undir ok sagði ‘Þjóðólfr at once picked this up and said’, deplores a breach of trust by a ruler to the south, praising the one to the north—weighty enough matters to inhabit a formal encomium, but the perfect tense hefr logit ‘has betrayed’ and the demonstrative þós sjá ‘and yet this’ are compatible with a lv. The two helmingar of Lv 4 offer a pair of retrospective battle descriptions, but the contrastive þat vas skǫmmu and þat vas lǫngu ‘that was a short / long time ago’ establishes the speaker’s present as the standpoint, and echoes other contributions to a lively verse exchange (see Context); it clearly had the status of a lv. in the minds of the saga compilers. Lv 5-6, mock-heroic accounts of the quarrel between a tanner and smith are unequivocally treated as lvv. in Mork, Flat and H-Hr. They are introduced Þjóðólfr kvað vísu ‘Þjóðólfr spoke a verse’, and although the 3rd-pers. narration in pret. tense would be compatible with an extended poem, the witty and unusual content is more suggestive of lvv. Lv 5-6 clearly belong together, but whether there were more forming a larger group we cannot know. Lv 7-8, on Halli’s porridge-guzzling and womanising, are similarly given a graphic context in Snegl. Lv 7 is alternatively attributed to Sneglu-Halli, and Lv 8 acts as a delayed rejoinder to SnH Lv 8.
Lv 9-11 concern serious military matters, and are preserved in Hkr (Kˣ, 39, F, J2ˣ, E, with 39 lacking 10), H-Hr (H, Hr), Mork (Mork), and Flat (Flat); there are also texts of Lv 10-11 in Fsk and of Lv 11 in Hb and SnE (see the ms. listing for the individual sts for details). Lv 9 is an account of an expedition which the prose sources plausibly identify as Haraldr’s expedition to Västergötland (Gautland), narrated in the 3rd pers. pret. (the perfect es gefin helju ‘has been handed over to death’s realm’ representing an enduring situation). As such it is conceivable that it had a place in an extended poem, and indeed it is included in Sex in CPB (II, 206). However, it does not seem that any other part of the poem as it survives relates to this episode, and the st. is introduced with the Þá kvað ‘Then spoke’ formula in all sources. It is therefore best treated as a lv., though the possibility that it is a fragment of an extended poem cannot be excluded.
Lv 10-11 name Haraldr and have a tremendous immediacy: skalka frá ‘I shall not desert’, gengr sem goð vill ‘it will go as God wills’ (10); vér ’róm allir í vǫndum stað ‘we are all in a difficult position’ (11). They are treated as lvv. in the sagas, embedded with rather elaborate introductions into accounts of the king’s fatal battle at Stamford Bridge (see Contexts). The exact circumstances of composition may be tradition rather than historical fact, but the status of the sts as lvv. can be safely maintained.
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The final section, ‘sources’ is a list of the manuscripts that contain the prose work, as well as manuscripts and prose works linked to stanzas and sections of a text.