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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Heil 22VII

Kirsten Wolf (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Heilagra manna drápa 22’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 887-8.

Anonymous PoemsHeilagra manna drápa

text and translation

Hallvarð píndu ýtar illir
austr í Vík á litlu flaustri;
fljóði vildi forða dauða
frægðarmaðr, er vándir rægðu.
Lýðir ofan af landi síðan
ljótir þegar af boganum skjóta;
þilju brá hann við þeiri pílu;
þegninn flýgur örin í gegnum.

Illir ýtar píndu Hallvarð austr í Vík á litlu flaustri; frægðarmaðr vildi forða fljóði dauða, er vándir rægðu. Síðan skjóta ljótir lýðir þegar af boganum ofan af landi; hann brá þilju við þeiri pílu; örin flýgur í gegnum þegninn.
‘Wicked men tormented Hallvarðr east in Viken on a little ship; the famous man wanted to save a woman, whom evil people maligned, from death. Then wicked people immediately shoot with a bow down from the land; he held the thwart against that arrow; the arrow flies through the man.

notes and context

Sts 22-3 celebrate S. Hallvarðr (Norw. Hallvard) of Viken, a Norw. saint, who was probably venerated in Iceland, although the evidence for a cult there is equivocal. Hallvarðr Vébjörnsson from Lier near Drammen was supposed to have been related to S. Óláfr on his mother’s side; aside from this, little of his life is known apart from the manner of his death. He was about to cross Drammensfjorden in a boat when a woman, who had been falsely accused of stealing, appealed to him to save her. Hallvarðr took her aboard, but was attacked by the woman’s pursuers, who called on him to give her up. When Hallvarðr refused, they shot at both him and the woman with bow and arrows, killing them both. Hallvarðr was regarded as a martyr because he had died in defence of innocence. His name is found in Icel. calendars and there is a fragment of a prose saga in an Icel. ms. from 1380, as well as a later fragment (Unger 1877, I, 396-9; Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 313). There is some evidence suggesting his cult was stronger c. 1200 than in c. 1330-50 (quoted in Cormack 1994, 60 n. 60, 121, 144), so, as a late medieval poem, Heil would seem to be running against an Icel. trend. Nevertheless, an Icel. ms. from C15th contains a sequence in honour of Hallvarðr and there was an image of him at Munkaþverá as late as 1525 (Gjerløw and Magnús Már Lárusson 1961). See further Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 30-3.


Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: [Anonyme digte og vers XIV], [B. 10]. Af et digt om hellige mænd 22: AII, 515-16, BII, 568, Skald II, 311; Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 79 (l. 1 only); Kahle 1898, 95, 113.


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