Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bárðr Lv 1I

Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Bárðr á Upplǫndum, 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. 442.

Bárðr á UpplǫndumLausavísa1

Hugðak hitt, at hefðak
harðhendit þat stundum,
at skalpgrana skozkum
skyldak einn of halda.

Hugðak hitt, at hefðak harðhendit þat stundum, at skyldak einn of halda skozkum skalpgrana.

I would have thought that I’d manhandled such a thing [lit. that] at times, so that I ought to be able to hang on to a nimble sheath-mouth by myself.

Mss: 61(50ra), 53(45rb), 54(40va), Bb(73va), 325VIII 2 a(3ra), 62(39va), Flat(50va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Hugðak (‘Hugða ek’): ‘[...]ugða ek’ 325VIII 2 a;    hefðak (‘ek hefða’): hefða Bb    [2] harðhendit þat stundum: ‘[…]’ 325VIII 2 a;    ‑hendit: ‘‑endit’ 53, ‑hendr Flat;    þat: verit Flat    [3] at: at ek 61, 53, 54, Bb, 62, Flat, ‘[...]t ek’ 325VIII 2 a;    skalp‑: skalf‑ Flat;    ‑grana: ‑granna Bb, ‘g[...]na’ 325VIII 2 a;    skozkum: skozkan 53, stundum 62, skelkinn Flat    [4] skyldak einn of halda (‘skyllda ek einn of hallda’): ‘sk[...]’ 325VIII 2 a;    einn: enn 54, en Bb

Editions: Skj AI, 153, Skj BI, 145, Skald I, 79, NN §166; ÍF 9, 122-3, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 97 (ch. 201), Flat 1860-8, I, 381 (ÞorvT).


Bárðr refuses to visit King Óláfr Tryggvason in Niðaróss (Trondheim) or accept the Christian faith, and neither of the parties sent by Óláfr to fetch him has returned. The Icelander Þorvaldr tasaldi and his companion Sigurðr offer to go to meet him. Bárðr, sitting on his high-seat, is a formidable figure. He responds to their threats of forcible removal with this half-stanza.

Notes: [2] harðhendit ‘manhandled’: (a) This seems to be p. p. of a weak verb harðhenda (so also Skj B; LP: harðhendinn), which is otherwise unknown, though cf. the adj. harðhendr ‘strong-, hard-handed’, and verbs such as tvíhenda ‘to catch with two hands’, áhenda ‘to lay hands on, seize’. As Kock (NN §166) points out, the p. p. ending -it (n. nom. sg. of -hendinn) is characteristic of a strong, not a weak verb. The regular weak form would be harðhent (n. nom. sg. of -hendr), but this spoils both the syllable-count and the rhyme with stundum. Weak verbs of the henda type did not begin to form their participles in -inn before c. 1300 (Stefán Karlsson 2004, 27), so the stanza is probably later than the þáttr suggests. (b) Flat reads harðhendr verit ‘been hard-handed’ in place of harðhendit þat, with harðhendr as an adj. rather than a p. p. Skald prefers this more grammatically conventional variant but it is rejected here as it is the lectio facilior and only preserved in Flat. — [3] skalpgrana ‘to a sheath-mouth’: Grani is otherwise unknown, except as the name of the hero Sigurðr’s horse, but may be from grǫn f. ‘moustache, lips’, here translated ‘mouth’. Skalp- here may be either of two words: (a) Skalpr m. ‘sheath (of a sword)’. The cpd Skalp-Grani appears in the C14th Króka-Refs saga as the name of a showy womanizer who is also referred to in coded word-play as Sverðhúss-Grani ‘Sword-house Grani’ (ÍF 14, 153, cf. 151 n. 2). The use elsewhere of sverð as a synonym for ‘penis’ (e.g. Grett Lv 33/1V (Gr 65)), suggests that sexual innuendo based on the ‘sheath’ meaning may be present in Króka-Refs saga (cf. Lat. vagina ‘sheath, scabbard’). In the present context, Þorvaldr is probably being likened to the receptive partner in anal intercourse in the usual níð fashion. (b) Previous eds (including the ed. of Króka-Refs saga in ÍF 14, cf. above) have preferred skalp n. ‘chatter’. Skalpgrani would then mean ‘chatterbox’ (NN §166) or even ‘boaster’ (Skj B; ÍF 9). — [3] skozkum ‘nimble’: This word, which despite Kock’s objections (NN §166) is most plausibly related to skot n. ‘shot, shooting’ and skjóta ‘to shoot’ (ÍO: skoskur, skozkr 1), is otherwise unattested in ON but known in ModIcel. (Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4: skoskur 2). Although skozkr normally means ‘Scottish’ (LP: 1. skozkr) there is nothing to favour this here. The variant readings are inferior: skozkan is acc. sg. rather than dat. as would be expected with halda; 62’s stundum is repeated from the preceding line; and Flat’s skelkinn ‘mocking’ (also acc. sg.) is probably a scribal attempt to rectify a reading in its exemplar.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. 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.
  6. Sigfús Blöndal. 1920-4. Islandsk-dansk ordbog / Íslensk-dönsk orðabók. Reykjavík, Copenhagen and Kristiania (Oslo): Verslun Þórarins B. Þorlákssonar / Aschehoug.
  7. Stefán Karlsson. 2004. The Icelandic Language. Trans. Rory McTurk. London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  8. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  9. ÍO = Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon. 1989. Íslensk orðsifjabók. Reykjavík: Orðabók Háskólans.
  10. ÍF 9 = Eyfirðinga sǫgur. Ed. Jónas Kristjánsson. 1956.
  11. ÓT 1958-2000 = Ólafur Halldórsson, ed. 1958-2000. Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar en mesta. 3 vols. EA A 1-3. Copenhagen: Munksgaard (Reitzel).
  12. ÍF 14 = Kjalnesinga saga. Ed. Jóhannes Halldórsson. 1959.
  13. Internal references
  14. Not published: do not cite (KrókV)
  15. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Biography of) Óláfr Tryggvason’ 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. 383.
  16. Not published: do not cite (ÞorvTI)
  17. Not published: do not cite (Grett Lv 33V (Gr 65))

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