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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eyv Lv 4I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Lausavísur 4’ 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. 219.

Eyvindr skáldaspillir FinnssonLausavísur

Baðat valgrindar vinda
veðrheyjandi Skreyju
gumnum hollr né golli
Gefnar sinni stefnu:
‘Ef søkkspenni svinnan,
sigrminnigr, vilt finna,
framm halt, njótr, at nýtum
Norðmanna gram, hranna.’

{{{{Valgrindar} Gefnar} veðr}heyjandi}, hollr gumnum né golli, baðat Skreyju vinda stefnu sinni: ‘Ef, sigrminnigr, vilt finna {svinnan søkkspenni}, halt framm at {nýtum gram Norðmanna}, {njótr hranna}.’

{The enacter {of the storm {of the Gefn <= Freyja> {of the slaughter-gate}}}} [(lit. ‘storm-enacter of the Gefn of the slaughter-gate’) SHIELD > VALKYRIE > BATTLE > WARRIOR = Hákon], loyal to men, not to gold, did not bid [Eyvindr] Skreyja (‘Wretch’) to alter his course: ‘If, mindful of victory, you wish to meet {a wise treasure-grasper} [RULER], keep straight ahead to {the capable king of the Norwegians} [= Hákon], {user of the waves} [SWIMMER = Eyvindr skreyja].’

Mss: (103v), F(18rb) (Hkr); FskBˣ(11r), FskAˣ(53-54) (Fsk)

Readings: [2] Skreyju: ‘skrꝍya’ FskBˣ, ‘skꝍyia’ FskAˣ    [3] né: corrected from at F    [5] søkk‑: svip‑ F, sól FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    ‑spenni: ‑kenni F, spennir FskBˣ, rýri FskAˣ;    svinnan: sunnan FskBˣ, sára FskAˣ    [8] gram: so all others, garm Kˣ;    hranna: þannig F, ranna FskBˣ, FskAˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 72, Skj BI, 63, Skald I, 39, NN §§1057, 1783; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 215, IV, 56-7, ÍF 26, 189, Hkr 1991, I, 121-2 (HákGóð ch. 31), F 1871, 82; Fsk 1902-3, 43-4 (ch. 12), ÍF 29, 90 (ch. 13); Krause 1990, 220-4.

Context: As the two sides engage at Fitjar, Hákon and his opponents exchange taunts. Eyvindr skreyja asks where the king is, wondering if he has hidden or fled, to which Hákon replies loudly, ‘Haltu svá fram stefnunni, ef þú vill finna Norðmanna konung’, ‘Keep coming in this direction, if you want to meet the king of the Norwegians’ (Hkr, cf. the somewhat more elaborate account in Fsk). Eyvindr skáldaspillir’s stanza is cited in corroboration.

Notes: [All]: Direct speech within a skaldic stanza is rare, and Eyvindr may here be building upon memories of an actual exchange of taunts in the battle (cf. Note to Lv 1 [All]). The wording of the speech in the stanza and the prose narrative (Context above) is closely similar: see Fidjestøl (1993c, 89-90) for discussion. — [2] Skreyju ‘[Eyvindr] Skreyja (“Wretch”)’: See Note to Lv 3/4. — [5] søkkspenni ‘treasure-grasper [RULER]’: The multiplicity of variants has left room for widely varying construals of the kenning, and the sense of -spenni is disputed given that kennings more often denote men as ‘treasure-destroyers’ (i.e. extravagant givers) than as treasure-graspers. (a) Adopted in this edn is Kock’s interpretation of the reading of as søkkspenni (NN §§1057, 1783, followed in ÍF 26, Hkr 1991). On the word søkk, see Note to Eyv Hál 1/10. (b) In Hkr 1893-1901, IV, Finnur Jónsson read svipkenni Njóts (emended from mss njótr) and interpreted it as ‘trier of the uproar of Njótr <= Óðinn> [BATTLE > WARRIOR]’. (c) Subsequently (Skj B) Finnur opted for the reading sólspenni and combined it with ranna and Njóts to obtain a kenning which in Skj B he merely translates kriger ‘warrior’, but which he explains in LP, taking Njótr as a name of Óðinn, his rǫnn ‘halls’ as ‘shields’, their sól ‘sun’ as ‘sword’ and its spennir ‘encircler, grasper’ as ‘warrior’ (LP: njótr 2, rann, sólspennir). (d) Reichardt (1928, 32-3) rejected both of these interpretations, adopting ‘sꜹckspenni’, the (diplomatic) reading of , and construing it as a kenning sǫkspennir ‘encompasser of battle’, i.e. ‘warrior’. He also rejected the emendation of njótr (see Note to ll. 7-8 below). However, the spelling implies <kk>, not <k>. (e) Bjarni Einarsson (ÍF 29), evidently attempting to account for the Fsk readings as they stand, opts for sólspenni ‘sun-destroyer’ and assumes that the other determinants of the kenning have been effaced in transmission. Kock’s solution is preferable to all these, in terms of conformity to recognised kenning types and ability to account for both the spelling with geminated consonant in and the full range of variants in other mss. — [5] -spenni ‘-grasper’: In order to explain this agentive (NN §1057B; ÍF 26; LP: auðspennir), eds have assumed a sense of ‘destroy’ for the verb spenna. But occurrences in the senses of ‘consume, use up, waste’ (hence possibly ‘destroy’) are restricted to a few late attestations in homiletic contexts (Fritzner: II. spenna 2) and appear to represent a development from OE (ā)spendan ‘spend, consume, exhaust’ or other WGmc derivatives of Lat. expendere ‘to spend’ (cf. AEW: spenna 4). Meanwhile, spenna as used in skaldic kennings is most probably from an entirely different etymon (< Gmc *spannian), with a sense of ‘cause to span, embrace, encompass’. From the large mass of attestations it is clear that the semantic range of this spenna covers the concepts ‘clasp, span, enclose, embrace, grasp, catch, gain’ (CVC: spenna; Fritzner: I. spenna; AEW: spenna 2). The basis for the kenning is therefore probably that the successful warlord and his following grasp or seize valuable items, e.g. weapons, from the opposing forces as plunder (cf. Gsind Hákdr 4/3, Anon Liðs 3/7, Sigv Nesv 10/1-4; Price 2000a). — [5] svinnan ‘wise’: Kock (NN §§16, 1057C) suggests ‘swift, intrepid, bold’ (snabb, rask, käck) as the sense of this word.  — [6] sigrminnigr ‘mindful of victory’: This adj. applies to Eyvindr skreyja and appears, in the light of Lv 3/1, 3 (see Note) and of the Context above, to represent a further irony, where Eyvindr skreyja lacks victories of which to be mindful (Olsen 1962a, 18). For traditions concerning Eyvindr skreyja’s defeats in combat, see Note to Lv 4/7-8. Skj B translates kampvillig ‘desiring conflict’ and Kock similarly betänkt på strider (NN §1057), but this would be more appropriate to the rare sig n. ‘battle’ than sigr m. ‘victory’. — [7, 8] njótr hranna ‘user of the waves [SWIMMER = Eyvindr skreyja]’: Another kenning that has caused difficulty. (a) In this edn it is interpreted literally, since the poet may be alluding to the event described in Egill Lv 10V (Eg 15), where Eyvindr skreyja, worsted in battle, leaps from his ship to swim to safety. (Ranna in all Fsk mss would be a Norw. form of hranna.) Given the likelihood that Hákon had conducted a previous naval campaign in Danish waters (Schreiner 1927-9e, 526; Bagge 2004, 189-90), some familiarity with Eyvindr skreyja on the part of the king’s Norwegian supporters would not be surprising. For the poet’s aspersions on the other Danish military leader at Fitjar, see Note to Lv 5/2. For a possible parallel to (or echo of) this kenning, see Note to Bjbp Jóms 13/6, and Poole (1988, 176). (b) For Finnur Jónsson’s interpretations, see Note to l. 5, søkkspennir. (c) Reichardt (1928, 33, cf. NN §1057A; ÍF 26; ÍF 29; Hkr 1991) treated njótr hranna as a kenning for ‘seafarer, steerer of the ship’, taking it as a vocative with imp. halt(u) ‘keep’. But hranna needs to be complemented with a base-word equivalent in function to ‘timber’ or ‘horse’ if it is to yield a standard ship-kenning. — [8] gram Norðmanna ‘king of the Norwegians [= Hákon]’: In reality Hákon’s powers seem to have been largely limited to western Norway (Bagge 2004, 194).


  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. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  6. 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.
  7. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  8. Fidjestøl, Bjarne. 1993c. ‘Skaldenstrophen in der Sagaprosa: Bemerkungen zum Verhältnis zwischen Prosa und Poesie in der Heimskringla’. In Wolf 1993, 77-98.
  9. 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.
  10. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  11. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  13. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  14. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  15. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  16. Reichardt, Konstantin. 1928. Studien zu den Skalden des 9. und 10. Jahrhunderts. Palaestra 159. Leipzig: Mayer & Müller.
  17. Olsen, Magnus. 1962a. Edda- og Skaldekvad. Forarbeider til kommentar. VI. Eyvindr Skáldaspillir, Glúmr Geirason, Einarr Skálaglamm. Avhandlingar utgitt av Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi i Oslo II. Hist.-filos. kl. new ser. 4. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
  18. Poole, Russell. 1988. ‘The Cooperative Principle in Medieval Interpretations of Skaldic Verse: Snorri Sturluson, Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, and Eyvindr Skáldaspillir’. JEGP 87, 159-78.
  19. Krause, Arnulf, ed. 1990. Die Dichtung des Eyvindr skáldaspillir: Edition-Kommentar-Untersuchungen. Altnordische Bibliothek 10. Leverkusen: Literaturverlag Norden Mark Reinhardt.
  20. Bagge, Sverre. 2004. ‘A Hero Between Paganism and Christianity: Håkon the Good in Memory and History’. In Hoff et al. 2004, 185-210.
  21. Price, Neil. 2000a. ‘“Laid Waste, Plundered, and Burned”: Vikings in Frankia’. In Fitzhugh et al. 2000, 116-26.
  22. Schreiner, Johan. 1927-9e. ‘Slaget på Fitjar’. HT(N) 28 (5 ser. 7), 526.
  23. Internal references
  24. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ 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].
  25. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Fagrskinna (Fsk)’ 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, pp. clix-clxi.
  26. Not published: do not cite (HákGóðII)
  27. Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 13’ 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. 970.
  28. Not published: do not cite (Egill Lv 10V (Eg 15))
  29. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Háleygjatal 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. 197.
  30. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Guthormr sindri, Hákonardrápa 4’ 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. 162.
  31. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Poems, Liðsmannaflokkr 3’ 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. 1019.
  32. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 10’ 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. 571.

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