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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bragi Frag 5III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Fragments 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 61.

Bragi inn gamli BoddasonFragments


Snorri Sturluson quotes these two helmingar (Bragi Frag 5 and 6), which he attributes to Bragi, within the long section of Skm dealing with kennings for ‘gold’ (SnE 1998, I, 40-5). The first is cited immediately after his narrative of why gold can be called ‘Ægir’s fire’, the second illustrates the practice of calling gold ‘the words of giants’. Both fragments praise the generosity of an unnamed person towards the poet. In the first the donor is called a ruler (stillir) and prince (jǫfurr), in the second a friend (vinr); in Frag 5 the ruler’s generosity is a reward for a poem, in Frag 6 the reason for the friend’s kindness is not specified. It is likely that these fragments belonged to a poem or poems similar to Bragi Rdr, and even possible that the first of them is from Rdr. Whether they are from the same or different poems is also unknown. The first helmingr is extant in mss R, and W of SnE while the second is in those three mss plus U. Ms. R is the main ms. for both fragments.

text and translation

Eld of þák af jǫfri
ǫlna bekks við drykkju
(þat gaf) Fjǫlnis fjalla
(með fulli mér stillir).

Of þák {eld {bekks ǫlna}} af jǫfri við {drykkju {Fjǫlnis fjalla}}; stillir gaf mér þat með fulli.
‘I received from the prince fire of the bench of mackerels [SEA > GOLD] for the drink of the Fjǫlnir <= Óðinn> of the mountains [GIANT = Suttungr > POETRY]; the ruler gave me that with a toast.

notes and context

See Introduction above. As mentioned, Frag 5 illustrates Snorri’s account of why gold may be called ‘fire of the sea’ in skaldic poetry. The narrative also serves to explain how skalds can vary the basic terms of the kenning type by extension of the semantic field of either or both the base-word and determinant. Snorri approves of this practice, which he calls here nýgerving (lit. ‘new creation’) as long as it is in accordance with verisimilitude (líkindi) and what is natural (eðli). As it is in the only stanza quoted to illustrate this practice, Bragi’s gold-kenning here (see Notes below) must be interpreted in the light of it. In the prose Snorri claims such semantic extension was a development sanctioned by the chief skalds (hence the appropriateness of his citing Bragi here) and carried further by more recent poets. The stanza is introduced by svá kvað Bragi skáld ‘the poet Bragi said thus’.



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: Bragi enn gamli, 2. Ubestemmelige vers 3: AI, 4, BI, 4-5, Skald I, 3, NN §221; SnE 1848-87, I, 338-41, III, 55, SnE 1931, 121, SnE 1998, I, 41.


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