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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Arn Hryn 4II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 4’ 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. 187-9.

Arnórr jarlaskáld ÞórðarsonHrynhenda, Magnússdrápa

Herskip vannt af harða stinnum
hlunni geyst í Salt it Eystra;
skjǫldungr, stétt á skǫrum hvéldan
skeiðar húf með girzku reiði.
Vafðir lítt, en vendir bifðusk;
varta hrǫkk, en niðr nam søkkva;
geystisk hlýr, en hristi* bára,
hrími stokkin, búnar grímur.

Vannt herskip geyst af harða stinnum hlunni í it Eystra Salt; skjǫldungr, stétt á húf skeiðar, hvéldan skǫrum, með girzku reiði. Vafðir lítt, en vendir bifðusk; varta hrǫkk, en nam søkkva niðr; hlýr geystisk, en bára, stokkin hrími, hristi* búnar grímur.

You made warships surge [lit. surged, propelled] from the most firm launcher into the Baltic; king, you boarded the warship’s hull, curved by its jointed planks, [and] with Russian tackle. You wavered little, but masts shuddered; the prow jolted, and started to plunge; the bow surged on, and the billow, flecked with rime, shook the adorned figure-heads.

Mss: Hr(3vb) (H-Hr)

Readings: [4] reiði: skrúði Hr    [6] varta: ‘verda’ or ‘virda’ Hr    [7] hristi*: ‘hristiz’ Hr    [8] grímur: ‘grimr’ Hr

Editions: Skj AI, 333, Skj BI, 306-7, Skald I, 155-6, NN §811; Fms 6, 23 (Mgóð ch. 10), Fms 12, 127; Whaley 1998, 148-52.

Context: This is one of a sequence of sts cited to authenticate Magnús Óláfsson’s journey westwards from Russia into the Baltic and then to Sweden.

Notes: [All]: Hr cites the st. from Arnórr ‘i hrunhendu’. — [1] herskip ‘warships’: About half of the skaldic instances of this word are in the works of Arnórr (Jesch 2001a, 123). — [2] hlunni ‘launcher’: Hlunnr is a roller or, more usually, as a collective term, the slipway of hardwood rollers used to launch ships or drag them ashore (see Jesch 2001a, 170). — [2] it Eystra Salt ‘the Baltic’: Lit. ‘the Eastern Salt’. The details of Magnús’s journey are discussed in Schreiner 1927-9. — [3] skjǫldungr ‘king’: Lit. ‘descendant of Skjǫldr’. A son of Óðinn and mythical ruler of Jylland (Jutland; SnE 2005, 6). Arnórr uses the heiti five times, always in reference to Magnús. He may have intended the Dan. associations of the word to flatter Magnús as the rightful ruler of Denmark, especially since the term was also much favoured by the skalds of Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great, Frank 1994, 194). — [3] hvéldan ‘curved’: Hvéldr (or hveldr), here applied to húfr ‘hull’, is not otherwise known in ON. Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4 contains two ModIcel. citations, though both are from Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s translations of Homer, and in one of them the adj. qualifies skipa ‘ships’. Hvéldr is apparently related to hvél ‘wheel’, and although an ON verb *hvéla ‘shape like a wheel’ is not recorded, cf. modern kvela (New Norw.) and, possibly, kvelva (Vest-Agder dialect) ‘arch’ (Heggstad 1930: hvéldr; Torp 1963 on the other hand derives kvelva from ON hvelfa ‘overturn’). The length of the vowel in hvél/hvel is discussed, with references, in Fritzner IV: hvel. — [4] húf ‘hull’: Húfr denotes the hull of a ship (as in Arn Magndr 2) or the central body of the ship as distinct from the bow and stern (as in the phrase húfr ok halsar ‘hull and stems’), but it may already in OIcel. have developed a particular reference to the strakes at the level of the water-line and, internally, of the decking. This latter sense works especially well in the present context of stepping onboard (Jesch 2001a, 144). — [4] girzku reiði ‘Russian tackle’: The adj. girzkr can mean ‘Greek, Byzantine’, but it also occurs as a doublet of gerzkr with the sense ‘Russian, from Garðar’, as, probably, in st. 9/8, where Hr reads ‘girzkum’ and Flat ‘gerzskum’ (see also Fritzner: girzkr). ‘Russian’ may be more appropriate here since Magnús is sailing from Russia. Ms. skrúði ‘ornamentation’ would add a supernumary member to the alliterative sequence on sk- and would fail to produce aðalhending with skeiðar. Emendation to the synonymous reiði seems justifiable especially since st. 9/1 affords a definite instance of the scribe of Hr (or its archetype) displacing the original rhyme-word by a synonym. The emendation was first proposed by Konráð Gíslason (1877, 54). Reiði can refer either to the whole of a ship’s equipment or else specifically to the rigging; see Fritzner: reiði and Jesch 2001a, 165. Jesch (2001a, 165) points out that, while it may be that Russian tackle was special, the Norwegians who fetched Magnús from Russia (Garðar) may simply have needed to re-rig their ship for the return voyage. — [5] vafðir lítt ‘you wavered little’: (a) So too Skj B (du betænkte dig ikke). The verb vefja commonly has the meaning ‘fold, wrap (material etc.)’. When used, as here, of human subjects the sense is usually ‘become embroiled’ (in some difficult affair). From this it is not far to the sense ‘hesitate, waver’, and this is supported by SnSt Ht 64/1III. Under this interpretation the st. contrasts the immovable courage of Magnús with the turbulence of the sea. (b) Foote suggests that vefja ‘wrap’ here has the specific nautical sense ‘take in sail, reef’, which is attractive and contextually plausible but not supported by usage elsewhere (Foote 1978, 63 and n. 26; followed by Jesch 2001a, 174, who points out that the references in the st. to tackle and masts, and the fact that the noun vefr can mean ‘sail’ ‘mak[es] a connection with “sail” … almost inevitable’). (c) A further possibility is the 2nd pers. sg. pret. indic. of váfa ‘swing, hang’, for which a figurative use ‘waver, be uncertain’ is attested (LP: váfa 3), though not with a personal subject. — [6] varta ‘prow’: Ms. ‘vda’ with superscript ‘r’ above the ‘v’ could be expanded to normalised verða or virða, but the known senses of these do not fit the context. The syntax seems to demand a nom. sg. noun. Varta is the most widely accepted suggestion (first made in CPB II, 592). Varta occurs in Þul Skipa 8/6III (with variant vortr) among heiti for parts of a ship. It occupies the same metrical l. there as brandar ‘(decorated) prows’, and Falk (1912, 45) held that varta too meant ‘prow’. This conjecture yields good sense in the present context, and it is perhaps supported by the occurrence of ON varta ‘wart’ and geirvarta ‘nipple (of a man)’. A word meaning ‘wart, nipple’ could, because of its reference to a projection, have developed the metaphorical sense ‘prow’, and other anatomical terms have nautical applications, e.g. hals ‘neck, part of the forecastle’, hlýr ‘cheek, bows’, or brjóst ‘breast’, which means ‘prow’ in Refr Ferðv 3/4III. See further Whaley 1998, 151 n. 6. — [7] hristi* ‘shook’: Ms. ‘hristiz bara’, normalised hristizk bára ‘the billow shook’ (intransitive) is an adequate reading, but it leaves búnar grímur ‘adorned figure-heads’ (l. 8) outside the syntax of the helmingr. The simplest solution, adopted here, is to emend to hristi, transitive ‘shook’, so that bára is the subject, and búnar grímur object, to the verb (as proposed in Nj 1875-8, II 159). The ‑z in ms. hristiz may be an error influenced by the preceding reflexives, ms. ‘bífduzst’ (l. 5) and ‘geystiz’ (l. 7); or it may represent an attempt to make the syntax of the l. complete, regardless of the syntax of the helmingr. This would be characteristic of the compiler of H-Hr (Louis-Jensen 1977, 152). — [7-8] bára, stokkin hrími ‘the billow, flecked with rime’: The alternative construction, with stokkin hrími ‘flecked with rime’ qualifying varta ‘prow’ (l. 6), is adopted in Skj B but rejected by Kock, NN §811. — [8] grímur ‘figure-heads’: Ms. ‘grimr’; the form grímur is established by both sense and metre, and is probably to be regarded as an emendation, since Hr does not normally use desyllabified spellings in <ur> that would allow <r> to be read as a back-spelling for <ur>.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Nj 1875-89 = Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson. 1875-89. Njála: Udgivet efter gamle håndskrifter. Íslendingasögur udgivne efter gamle haandskrifter af Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskrift-selskab 4. Copenhagen: Thiele.
  5. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  7. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  9. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  10. Sigfús Blöndal. 1920-4. Islandsk-dansk ordbog / Íslensk-dönsk orðabók. Reykjavík, Copenhagen and Kristiania (Oslo): Verslun Þórarins B. Þorlákssonar / Aschehoug.
  11. Whaley, Diana, ed. and trans. 1998. The Poetry of Arnórr jarlaskáld: An Edition and Study. Westfield Publications in Medieval Studies 8. Turnhout: Brepols.
  12. Falk, Hjalmar. 1912. Altnordisches Seewesen. Wörter und Sachen 4. Heidelberg: Winter.
  13. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  14. Konráð Gíslason. 1877. Om helrim i förste og tredje linie af regelmæssigt ‘dróttkvætt’ og ‘hrynhenda’. Indbydelsesskrift til Kjøbenhavns universitets aarsfest til erindring om kirkens reformation. Copenhagen: Schultz.
  15. Louis-Jensen, Jonna. 1977. Kongesagastudier: Kompilationen Hulda-Hrokkinskinna. BA 32. Copenhagen: Reitzel.
  16. Foote, Peter G. 1978. ‘Wrecks and Rhymes’. In Andersson et al. 1978, 57-66. Rpt in Foote 1984a, 222-35.
  17. Fritzner IV = Hødnebø, Finn. 1972. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog af Dr. Johan Fritzner: Rettelser og tillegg. Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø: Universitetsforlaget.
  18. Frank, Roberta. 1994a. ‘When Poets Address Princes’. In Gísli Sigurðsson et al. 1994, 189-95.
  19. Heggstad, Leiv. 1930. Gamalnorsk ordbog med nynorsk tyding. Oslo: Det norske samlaget.
  20. Schreiner, Johan. 1927-9a. ‘Magnus Olavssons hjemkomst fra Gardarike’. HT(N) 28 (5 ser. 7), 519-24.
  21. Torp, Alf. 1963. Nynorsk etymologisk ordbok. Oslo: Aschehoug.
  22. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  23. Schreiner, Johan. 1927. ‘Studier til Olav den helliges historie’. HT(N) 27 (5 ser. 6), 403-57.
  24. Internal references
  25. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Hulda and Hrokkinskinna (H-Hr)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  26. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Skipa heiti 8’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 873.
  27. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Magnússdrápa 2’ 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. 209-10.
  28. Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, Ferðavísur 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 246.
  29. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Snorri Sturluson, Háttatal 64’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1176.

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