Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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HSt Rst 23I

Rolf Stavnem (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja 23’ 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. 924.


Hvasst skaut — hlífar brustu —
hildingr ór lyptingu
síðan (seint mun eyðask)
sóknstrangr (Drekinn langi).
Unnelds yppirunnum
engi kann enn * lengi
heg*ju hilmis seg*ja.
Hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu.

Síðan skaut sóknstrangr hildingr hvasst ór lyptingu; hlífar brustu; seint mun Drekinn langi eyðask. Engi kann enn * lengi seg*ja {yppirunnum {unnelds}} heg*ju hilmis. Hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu …

Then the attack-strong ruler [Óláfr] shot fiercely from the raised deck; shields shattered; late will Drekinn langi (‘the Long Serpent’) be cleared [of men]. No one can still for a long time tell {the lifting trees {of wave-fire}} [GOLD > MEN] about the condition of the ruler. Faithful and foremost in all things …

Mss: Bb(112ra); 61(68vb), 53(65ra), 54(66rb), Bb(101vb), Flat(65va) (ÓT, ll. 1-4)

Readings: [3] seint mun: sýnt nam 61, 53, Flat    [4] Drekinn: so 61, Flat, Ormr inn Bb(112ra), 53, 54, ‘o⸜r⸝nnr hin’ Bb(101vb)    [6] *: svá Bb(112ra)    [7] heg*ju: heggju Bb(112ra);    seg*ja: seggja Bb(112ra)    [8] Hollr ok fremstr at ǫllu: abbrev. as ‘hol(lr) ok f[…]o’ (?) Bb(112ra)

Editions: Skj AI, 549, Skj BI, 531, Skald I, 258; ÓT 1958-2000, II, 284-5 (ch. 255), Flat 1860-8, I, 491; SHI 3, 260-1, CPB II, 298, Wisén 1886-9, I, 49, Finnur Jónsson 1893b, 164, Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 262-4.

Context: Only the first helmingr is in ÓT, and it follows a description of the battle that now rages on Ormr inn langi, with Óláfr hurling spears from the raised deck. 

Notes: [3] seint mun ‘late will’: I.e. it takes a long time for Óláfr’s enemy to clear his ship. The ÓT reading sýnt nam is logical, giving síðan Drekinn langi nam sýnt eyðask ‘once Drekinn langi (“the Long Serpent”) visibly began to be cleared’. The use of pres. tense (historic pres.) in the Bb(112ra) reading mun ‘will’, by contrast, is striking: it is rare or unparalleled in the narrative of Rst and rare in skaldic poetry generally. The usage is reminiscent of mun in a somewhat similar context involving Ormr in Hfr ErfÓl 10/5, and in reference to Óláfr’s uncertain fate in ErfÓl 18/6, and it may be due to the general influence of that poem (see Introduction). Whatever the case, the effect of retaining mun in Rst, which does not depict the death of Óláfr, and only obliquely refers to his defeat (st. 22/5-7), is to leave a lasting image of a heroic, unvanquished defence, and it is possible that this was the intention. — [4] Drekinn langi ‘Drekinn langi (“the Long Serpent”)’: Dreki ‘serpent, dragon’, is a play on the ship-name Ormr inn langi (cf. the use of Linni ‘Serpent’, st. 18/2 and Note). This variant is attested in mss 61 and Flat, representing two classes of the ÓT stemma. The other mss read Ormr, but this would be the lectio facilior, and the line would be metrically irregular since, although it would fit Sievers’ Type A2l (Sievers 1893, 103), the rhyme in such lines does not fall on the secondarily stressed syllable, as it does here (-strangr : langi). — [6] *: Svá ‘thus, so’ in the ms. produces a supernumerary syllable, which is omitted here, as also in Skj B and Skald. — [6] lengi ‘for a long time’: The ms. reading is retained here although it does not make ideal sense. The context would suggest ‘anything further’, i.e. nothing more is known, and this seems to be the understanding of Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), who emends to (en) lengri and translates udover dette ‘beyond this’; but if this is the sense one would expect either the adv. lengr ‘longer’ (in time) or the n. comp. adj. lengra ‘(something) longer’, while lengri would be the comp. adj. ‘longer’ agreeing with f. acc. sg. hegju ‘condition, life’, hence perhaps ‘No-one can tell a still longer [story of] the life of …’. — [7] seg*ja ... heg*ju hilmis ‘tell ... about the condition of the ruler’: The ms. reads heggju hilmis seggja, which does not make sense and fails to provide an inf. to complete the construction with the auxiliary kann ‘can, know how to’. This edn follows previous eds in emending to hegju ‘life, condition’ or ‘events’ (as in Arn Þorfdr 19/4II) and segja ‘tell’. — [8]: This is the final appearance of the split refrain, on which see Note to st. 9/8. The line is abbreviated in the ms., but the full version is supplied from st. 11/8.


  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. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  5. Sievers, Eduard. 1893. Altgermanische Metrik. Sammlung kurzer Grammatiken germanischer Dialekte. Ergänzungsreihe 2, ed. Wilhelm Braune. Halle: Niemeyer.
  6. Wisén, Theodor, ed. 1886-9. Carmina Norrœnæ: Ex reliquiis vetustioris norrœnæ poësis selecta, recognita, commentariis et glossario instructa. 2 vols. Lund: Ohlsson.
  7. Finnur Jónsson. 1893b. Carmina Norrœna: Rettet Tekst. Copenhagen: Nielsen & Lydiche.
  8. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  9. Konráð Gíslason. 1895-7. Efterladte skrifter. 2 vols. I: Forelæsninger over oldnordiske skjaldekvad. II: Forelæsninger og videnskablige afhandlinger. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  10. ÓT 1958-2000 = Ólafur Halldórsson, ed. 1958-2000. Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar en mesta. 3 vols. EA A 1-3. Copenhagen: Munksgaard (Reitzel).
  11. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  12. Internal references
  13. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Greatest Saga of Óláfr Tryggvason / Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar in mesta (ÓT)’ 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. clxiii-clxvi.
  14. Rolf Stavnem 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja’ 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. 893.
  15. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 19’ 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. 251-2.
  16. Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 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. 415.

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