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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorm Lv 24I

R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 24’ 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. 840.

Þormóðr KolbrúnarskáldLausavísur

text and translation

Emka rjóðr, en rauðum
ræðr grǫnn Skǫgul manni
hauka setrs in hvíta;
hyggr fár of mik sáran.
Hitt veldr mér, at meldrar
morðvenjanda Fenju
djúp ok danskra vápna
Dags hríðar spor svíða.

Emka rjóðr, en {grǫnn Skǫgul in hvíta {setrs hauka}} ræðr rauðum manni; fár hyggr of mik sáran. Hitt veldr mér, at {djúp spor {hríðar Dags ok danskra vápna} svíða {morðvenjanda {meldrar Fenju}}.
‘I am not ruddy, but the slender, white Skǫgul <valkyrie> of the seat of hawks [ARM > WOMAN] gives orders to a red [blood-stained] man; few think about me, wounded. This is the cause to me [of my pallor], that the deep tracks of the blizzard of Dagr <legendary king> and of Danish weapons [BATTLE > WOUNDS] cause pain to the killing-accustomed one of the flour of Fenja <giantess> [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = Þormóðr].

notes and context

In ÓH, excluding Flat, and Hkr, an unidentified person attending to the wounded from the battle at Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) asks Þormóðr why he is so pale, and why he does not have his wounds bound, and he replies. In Flat, Þormóðr has just pulled an arrow from his heart, its barbs covered with particoloured flesh. In ÓHLeg, a woman (see Context to Lv 25) asks simply what sort of wound he has. In Fbr, the woman asks questions like those in ÓH.

An alternate version of this vísa appears in Hb, and in the list of eds above, those from Hb 1892-6 to ÍS are based on the Hb version. Papp4ˣ also (it appears not to have been recognized) has a text of the stanza, which in one place gives a better reading than Hb and thus supports an emendation to Hb suggested by earlier eds. Hb, however, remains all in all the better text, and so it is the basis for the following edn:

Emka rauðr, né rauðum
ræðr grǫnn kona manni;
járn stendr fast it forna
fenstígi mér benja.
Þat veldr mér, in mæra
marglóðar nú tróða,
Draupnis dýrra vápna
Dags hríðar spor svíða.

Readings: [1] rauðum: rjóðum papp4ˣ [3] fast: so papp4ˣ, farst Hb [4] -stígi: -stíga papp4ˣ [5] Þat: Þó papp4ˣ; mæra: meira papp4ˣ [7] Draupnis: ‘drepnis’ papp4ˣ [8] svíða: om. papp4ˣ. Prose order: Emka rauðr, né ræðr grǫnn kona rauðum manni; it forna járn stendr fast benja fenstígi mér. Þat veldr mér nú, in mæra tróða marglóðar Draupnis: spor dýrra vápna hríðar Dags svíða. Translation: ‘I am not red, nor does the slender woman give orders to a ruddy man; the ancient iron [arrow] sticks fast in my path of the fen of wounds [(lit. fen-path of wounds) BLOOD > HEART]; this is the cause to me now, glorious staff of the ocean-ember of Draupnir <ring> [GOLD > WOMAN]: the tracks of valued weapons of the blizzard of Dagr <legendary king> [BATTLE > WOUNDS] are painful.’ Notes: This alternate version of the stanza seems to be a copyist’s attempt to improve a corrupt stanza, and the translation offered here is not to be regarded as asserting that the stanza makes sense. Draupnis (l. 7), the name of a mythical gold ring from which further rings drip (cf. Þorm Lv 2/2V (Fbr 9)), adds nothing to the kenning to which it is attached, since marglóðar ‘ocean-ember’ by itself means ‘gold’, and similarly hríðar Dags ‘of the blizzard of Dagr’ = ‘of battle’ is superfluous. — [1-4]: This and the following Notes relate to the main text above. The obscurities of this helmingr, especially the two references to ‘red’ (rjóðr ... rauðum) and the variants en/ in l. 1, have given rise to various interpretations by scribes and eds, and much depends on which ms. readings are adopted. (a) In the interpretation offered here, the text of ÓH is adopted, including the conj. en ‘but’. Rauðum ‘red’ is assumed to mean that the poet is blood-stained. Such a usage is admittedly unparalleled (though roðinn ‘reddened’ is often used this way: see LP: rjóða 2), but this analysis provides the contrast implied by en (I am not ruddy, but I am nonetheless ‘red’), and it helps make sense of hitt in l. 5, which is emphatic. It seems likeliest that the stanza known to both Snorri and the author of Fbr collocated rjóðr ‘ruddy’, rather than rauðr ‘red’, with emka ‘I am not’, since in both the stanza is a response to the question why the poet is so pale. (b) Skj B, by contrast, adopts ‘and not’, and interprets the first three lines to mean ‘I am not red; neither does the white, slender woman have a red-cheeked man’, and this is the reading also of Skald. (c) A further possibility is to take the ‘red man’ in the second clause as a rueful reference to someone other than the speaker, probably a man who is ‘red’ in complexion, healthy and uninjured (so ÍF 6). Reference to a red-haired man, by contrast with the black-haired Þormóðr (Lv 8V (Fbr 26)), is suggested by Finnur Jónsson (Hb 1892-6; Finnur Jónsson 1932-3), but judging from the prose contexts none of the saga authors perceived a reference to a red-haired man here. — [4] fár hyggr of mik sáran ‘few think about me, wounded’: The line may possibly be understood as a gloss on rauðum ‘red’, the import being ‘(I am red because) I am wounded, though some may not have noticed’.



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 24: AI, 288, BI, 266, Skald I, 137, NN §§714, 1991 anm. 2; Fms 5, 91-2, Fms 12, 103, ÓH 1941, I, 584 (ch. 234), Flat 1860-8, II, 366; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 376, VI, 115, Hkr 1868, 497-8 (ÓHHkr ch. 247), Hkr 1893-1901, I, 502, IV, 172, ÍF 6, 276, ÍF 27, 391, Hkr 1991, II, 538 (ÓHHkr ch. 234); ÓHLeg 1849, 73, 120, ÓHLeg 1922, 88, ÓHLeg 1982, 202-5; Hb 1892-6, 416, Fbr 1852, 112, Fbr 1925-7, 215-16, ÍF 6, 275 (ch. 24), Loth 1960a, li-lii, 158 (ch. 17), ÍS II, 843, 850-1 (ch. 24); Gaertner 1907, 312, 348-9, Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 77-8.


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