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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bjbp Jóms 11I

Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 11’ 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. 968.

Bjarni byskup KolbeinssonJómsvíkingadrápa

Enn vildu þá einkum
ǫldurmenn, at skyldu
— slíkt eru yrkisefni —
ágæta sér leita.
Ok haukligar hefja
heitstrengingar gátu;
eigi segik, at ýta
ǫlteiti var lítil.

Enn vildu ǫldurmenn þá einkum, at skyldu leita sér ágæta; slíkt eru yrkisefni. Ok gátu hefja haukligar heitstrengingar; eigi segik, at ǫlteiti ýta var lítil.

Further, the leaders then wished especially that they should seek fame for themselves; such matters are material for a poem. And they made hawk-like vows; I do not say that the ale-cheer of men was meagre.

Mss: R(53v); 61(18vb-19ra), 54(14vb), Bb(25rb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] einkum: ǫngu 54, øngva Bb    [2] skyldu: skuldum 54, Bb    [4] ágæta: ágætis all others    [5] ‑ligar: ‑ligast 61, ‑liga 54, Bb    [6] gátu: so all others, tóku R    [7] segik: frá ek all others;    at: œðri 61

Editions: Skj AII, 3, Skj BII, 3, Skald II, 2, NN §1279; Fms 11, 165-6, Fms 12, 242-3, Jvs 1879, 108-9; Fms 1, 162, Fms 12, 40, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 179 (ch. 86), Ólafur Halldórsson 2000, 22, 76.

Context: The Jómsvíkingar are plied with a great quantity of strong drink at King Sveinn’s feast. Sveinn swears a vow to take his army to England to kill King Aðalráðr (Æthelred) or else drive him from the land; he then calls on the renowned Jómsvíkingar to find a way to increase their fame. The Jómsvíkingar say they will not let the entertainment that the king has initiated lapse.

Notes: [1] einkum ‘especially’: This is taken in Skj B with the intercalary clause in l. 3. It is difficult or impossible to make grammatical sense of the variants in 54 and Bb, forms of the negative adj. or pron. øngr ‘no, no-one, nothing’ (CVC: eingi A). — [2] ǫldurmenn ‘the leaders’: The three instances of this word in skaldic poetry are all C12th or later. The word is an adoption either from OE (so LP: ǫldurmaðr) or from MLG (so AEW: ǫldurmaðr). — [2] at skyldu ‘that they should’: This could conceivably be taken as a prepositional phrase meaning ‘according to [their] duty’ (so Fms 12, 40, 242-3). The variant skuldum in 54 and Bb is probably dat. pl. of the noun skuld f. ‘duty, due’ rather than the 1st pers. pl. pret. form of the verb skulu ‘shall’. — [3] yrkisefni ‘material for a poem’: Only otherwise found in Arn Hryn 14/1II. — [4] ágæta ‘fame’: This is the gen. pl. form of the n. noun ágæti and the object of leita ‘seek’; the variant ágætis in the ÓT mss is the gen. sg. form. — [5, 6] haukligar heitstrengingar ‘hawk-like vows’: On ‘hawk’ imagery see Note to st. 8/8. The 61 variant is the sup. ‘most hawk-like’, while haukliga in 54, Bb could be adverbial, ‘in a hawk-like way’. — [5, 6] gátu hefja ‘made’: The ÓT reading gátu, lit. ‘got, succeeded in’ is metrically more correct than R’s tóku, lit. ‘proceeded to’, as it provides the skothending needed for l. 6. Both verbs can function as auxiliaries to an inf., here hefja ‘begin, make’. — [7] segik ‘I say’: The variant frák ‘I have heard’ in the ÓT mss also gives good sense, and better metre, since segik presupposes non-standard resolution on the second lift.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  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. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  9. ÓT 1958-2000 = Ólafur Halldórsson, ed. 1958-2000. Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar en mesta. 3 vols. EA A 1-3. Copenhagen: Munksgaard (Reitzel).
  10. Jvs 1879 = Petersens, Carl af, ed. 1879. Jómsvíkinga saga (efter Cod. AM. 510, 4:to) samt Jómsvíkinga drápa. Lund: Gleerup.
  11. Ólafur Halldórsson. 2000. Danish Kings and the Jomsvikings in the Greatest Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason. London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  12. Internal references
  13. (forthcoming), ‘ Unattributed, Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta’ 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. . <> (accessed 27 September 2021)
  14. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 14’ 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. 200-1.

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