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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Svtjúg Lv 1I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sveinn tjúguskegg Haraldsson, Lausavísa 1’ 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. 379.

Sveinn tjúguskegg HaraldssonLausavísa1

text and translation

Grenndi Þórleifr Þrœnda
þengils hróðr fyr drengjum;
hafa ólítit ýtar
Jarlsníð borit víða.
N*orðr réð verstan virðum
vellstœri brag fœra,
brot lands ok galt gæti
gráliga léons bôru.

Þórleifr grenndi hróðr {þengils Þrœnda} fyr drengjum; ýtar hafa borit víða ólítit Jarlsníð. Réð fœra n*orðr {virðum vellstœri} verstan brag ok galt {gæti lands} gráliga brot {léons bôru}.
‘Þorleifr diminished the praise of the ruler of the Þrœndir [NORWEGIAN RULER = Hákon] before the warriors; men have carried widely the not small Jarlsníð (‘Níð against the jarl’). He brought north to the honoured gold-increaser [GENEROUS MAN = Hákon] the worst poem and repaid the guardian of the land [RULER = Hákon] bitterly for the destruction of the lion of the wave [SHIP].

notes and context

King Sveinn bestows a nickname on Þorleifr (see Introduction), then speaks this stanza.

[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).



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 [X], Tillæg [3]. Sveinn tjúguskegg: AI, 186, BI, 175-6, Skald I, 93, NN §§1896, 3396M; Flat 1860-8, I, 213, ÍF 9, 224, ÞorlJ 1987, 89 (ÞorlJ).


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