Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gísl Magnkv 16II

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Gísl Illugason, Erfikvæði about Magnús berfœttr 16’ 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. 427-8.

Gísl IllugasonErfikvæði about Magnús berfœttr

Blár ægir skaut        búnum svíra;
gjalfr hljóp í gin        gollnu hǫfði.
Skein af hausum        sem himins eisa
dǫglings dreka        djúps valfasti.

Blár ægir skaut búnum svíra; gjalfr hljóp í gin gollnu hǫfði. {{Valfasti} djúps} skein sem {eisa himins} af hausum dreka dǫglings.

The dark ocean struck against the adorned neck; the surge leaped into the jaws of the golden head. {{The corpse-flame} [SWORD (brandr ‘fire’)] of the deep} [GOLD] shone like {the cinder of heaven} [SUN] from the skulls of the ruler’s dragon.

Mss: Mork(23v) (Mork); H(90r), Hr(62ra) (H-Hr); F(58vb)

Readings: [5] hausum: hǫfðum H    [8] djúps val‑: djúpr sal‑ F

Editions: Skj AI, 443, Skj BI, 412, Skald I, 203, NN §2534; Mork 1867, 147, Mork 1928-32, 322, Andersson and Gade 2000, 302, 486 (Mberf); Fms 7, 51 (Mberf ch. 25); F 1871, 272 (Mberf).

Context: As sts 14-15 above.

Notes: [1] blár ægir ‘the dark ocean’: See Notes to sts 1/8 and 15/8. — [7] dreka ‘dragon’: See Note to st. 15/5. — [8] valfasti ‘the corpse-flame [SWORD (brandr ‘fire’)]’: A kenning for ‘sword’. It seems that we are dealing with an ofljóst (‘too transparent’) construction, i.e. a play on the word brandr, which can mean both ‘sword’ (valfasti) and ‘fire’. Another alternative would be to adopt the F variant salfasti ‘hall-fire’ and read salfasti djúps ‘the hall-fire of the deep’, i.e. ‘the hall-fire of the sea’. The god Ægir was the personification of the sea (see Note to st. 15/8), and, according to the prose introduction to Lok (see NK 96), his hall was lit by white gold (lýsigull) (see also NN §2534 and the detailed discussion in Clunies Ross 1987, 138-50). Kock (NN §2534) emends to djúps svalfasti ‘the cool fire of the deep’ i.e. ‘gold’ while Finnur Jónsson (LP: valfasti 2) merely notes that the cpd in this particular instance means ‘fire’.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  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. Andersson, Theodore M. and Kari Ellen Gade, trans. 2000. Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030-1157). Islandica 51. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  7. Clunies Ross, Margaret. 1987. Skáldskaparmál: Snorri Sturluson’s ars poetica and Medieval Theories of Language. VC 4. [Odense]: Odense University Press.
  8. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. Heidelberg: Winter.
  9. Mork 1928-32 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1928-32. Morkinskinna. SUGNL 53. Copenhagen: Jørgensen.
  10. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  11. Mork 1867 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1867. Morkinskinna: Pergamentsbog fra første halvdel af det trettende aarhundrede. Indeholdende en af de ældste optegnelser af norske kongesagaer. Oslo: Bentzen.
  12. Internal references
  13. Not published: do not cite (MberfII)
  14. Not published: do not cite ()

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