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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Refr Frag 1III

Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, Fragments 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 259.

Hofgarða-Refr GestssonFragments


This helmingr (Refr Frag 1) is preserved in Skm (SnE) (mss R (main ms.), , W, U, A, C) and in LaufE (2368ˣ), and it apparently deals with the amorous adventures of a young man. Finnur Jónsson’s (LH I, 600) suggestion that the stanza refers to Vagn Ákason of Jómsvíkinga saga and his love affair with Ingibjǫrg, the daughter of his opponent Þorkell leira ‘Clay’, lacks textual basis. Equally implausible are Faulkes’s (SnE 1998, I, 193) speculations that the helmingr might have a symbolic meaning: ‘The phrase gekk í meyjar sæing [‘went into the bed of the woman’] may be metaphorical if the woman concerned is symbolic (e.g. of death (= Hel) or battle (= Hildr …)’.

text and translation

Gekk í golli stokkna
gjǫfrífr Hôars drífu
askr — viðr œrinn þroska
ǫs-Freyr — sæing meyjar.

{Gjǫfrífr askr {drífu Hôars}} gekk í golli stokkna sæing meyjar; {ǫs-Freyr} viðr œrinn þroska.
‘The gift-rash ash-tree of the snow-storm of Hárr <= Óðinn> [BATTLE > WARRIOR] went into the gold-adorned bed of the woman; the tumult-Freyr <god> [WARRIOR] performs plenty of manly deeds.

notes and context

The helmingr is cited in Skm (SnE) and LaufE exemplifying the use of tree-names as base-words in kennings for ‘man’.

Skj B takes as-Freyr ‘the tumult-Freyr’ (on the choice of as- as the first element of the cpd, see Note to l. 4 below) as the subject of the main clause and askr drífu Hars ‘ash-tree of the snow-storm of Hárr’ as the subject of the intercalary clause. There is no reason to change the straightforward word order of the stanza, however, in which ǫs-Freyr ‘the tumult-Freyr’ appears as the subject of the intercalary clause.



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: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, 5. Af ubestemmelige digte el. vers 1: AI, 321, BI, 297, Skald I, 151, NN §§1128, 1853A, 2988H; SnE 1848-87, I, 414-15, II, 325, 436-7, 585, III, 76, SnE 1931, 148, SnE 1998, I, 65; LaufE 1979, 373.


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