Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorm Lv 21I

R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 21’ 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. 834.

Þormóðr KolbrúnarskáldLausavísur

text and translation

Á sér, at vér vôrum
vígreifr með Ôleifi;
sár fekk’k, Hildr, at hvôru,
hvítings, ok frið lítinn.
Skínn á skildi mínum;
skald fekk hríð til kalda;
nær hafa eskiaskar
ǫrvendan mik gǫrvan.

Á sér, at vér vôrum, vígreifr, með Ôleifi; {Hildr hvítings}, fekk’k at hvôru sár ok lítinn frið. Skínn á skildi mínum; skald fekk til kalda hríð; {eskiaskar} hafa gǫrvan mik nær ǫrvendan.
‘It can be seen that we were [I was], war-happy, with Óláfr; Hildr <valkyrie> of the bright drinking-horn [WOMAN], I got, at all events, a wound and little peace. It shines on my shield; the skald got too cold a blizzard; spear-ash-trees [WARRIORS] have made me nearly left-handed.

notes and context

After the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad), a woman binding wounds asks Þormóðr whether he is of the king’s party or the farmers’, and he replies.

[7, 8] nær ǫrvendan ‘nearly left-handed’: No very satisfactory explanation has been devised for this expression. (a) Lines 7-8 seem to say that Þormóðr’s opponents in battle have nearly made him left-handed, this being the usual interpretation of ǫrvendr (e.g. LP), though according to Fbr (as confirmed by Þorm Lv 5V (Fbr 23)) he has been left-handed ever since his encounter with Kolbakr (see Þorm Lv 1V (Fbr 8), Context). Finnur Jónsson (Hb 1892-6, 414; Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 75) suggests that the meaning may be that the poet’s other (left) arm has been so wounded that it also has been rendered useless, though this is not how the author of Fbr understood it, since, as noted above, he says that Þormóðr was unwounded before the arrow struck him. A further possibility is that he means they have forced him to fight nearly as well with his left hand as if he had been born left-handed. There is, at all events, an odd degree of logic perceptible in this: Þormóðr’s complaint in the preceding clause is that his shield shows how hard he was pressed, and thus we can imagine the weariness of his right hand, in which he would have held the shield, since he has been forced since his encounter with Kolbakr to wield his sword with the left. The derivation of ǫrv- is disputed (see ÍO: örvhendur), but certainly it did not originally mean ‘left’, and probably the cpd instead simply denoted using the less dominant, weaker, or merely ‘other’ hand. If used in such an original sense here, the word is both appropriate (since Þormóðr’s favoured hand has for long been his left) and witty, referring to the opposite of the hand it usually refers to. (b) Sveinbjörn Egilsson in LP (1860): örvendr, followed by Gaertner (1907, 346), takes the clause to mean ‘they have nearly killed me’ (cf. CVC: örendr ‘dead, having breathed one’s last’).



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: Þórmóðr Bersason Kolbrúnarskáld, 2. Lausavísur 21: AI, 287, BI, 265, Skald I, 136, NN §712; Hb 1892-6, 414, Fbr 1852, 110, Flat 1860-8, II, 363-4, Fbr 1925-7, 211-12, ÍF 6, 270 (ch. 24), Loth 1960a, 156 (ch. 17), ÍS II, 841-2, 848 (ch. 24); ÓHLeg 1849, 72, 120, ÓHLeg 1922, 87, ÓHLeg 1982, 200-1; Gaertner 1907, 312, 345-6, Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 74-5.


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