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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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HSt Rst 26I

Rolf Stavnem (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallar-Steinn, Rekstefja 26’ 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. 928.


Valstafns vætki rofna,
viti menn, at frák tvenna
haus manns hringi ljósum
hirðmeðr konungs veðja.
Hermart (hjǫrva snyrtir
hvárr lézk grams í hamri)
styrremðr stillir framði
stœrra (ǫðrum fœrri).

Viti menn, at frák tvenna hirðmeðr konungs, vætki rofna {valstafns}, veðja haus manns ljósum hringi. {Hvárr snyrtir hjǫrva} grams lézk fœrri ǫðrum í hamri; styrremðr stillir framði hermart stœrra.

May people know that I have heard that two retainers of the king, not giving way {in the falcon-stem} [ARM], bet a man’s head [and] a shining ring. {Each polisher of swords} [WARRIOR] of the prince claimed he was more agile than the other on the crag; the battle-mighty ruler [Óláfr] performed very much [that was] greater.

Mss: Bb(112rb); 61(64ra), 53(61rb), 54(58va), Bb(94rb), Flat(62ra) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Valstafns: vark jafns 61, 53, 54, Bb(94rb), var jafn Flat;    vætki: so all others, ‘vatki’ Bb(112rb);    rofna: rofnat 61, 53, 54, Bb(94rb), rofnaðr Flat    [2] frák (‘ek fra’): so all others, ek sá Bb(112rb)    [3] ljósum: lausum 54, Bb(94rb)    [4] hirð‑: hríð‑ Flat;    veðja: at veðja 54, Bb(94rb)    [6] lézk: ‘bet(z)’(?) Bb(94rb);    grams: gramr 54, Bb(94rb)    [7] styrremðr: so 61, Bb(94rb), Flat, styr réð Bb(112rb), styrr eðr 53, ‘styremdr’ 54    [8] fœrri: ferri 53

Editions: Skj AI, 550, Skj BI, 531-2, Skald I, 258, NN §§1183-4; ÓT 1958-2000, II, 229 (ch. 237), Flat 1860-8, I, 465; SHI 3, 262-3, CPB II, 299, Wisén 1886-9, I, 49, Finnur Jónsson 1893b, 164, Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 270-1.


This and the following two stanzas illustrate a narrative about a rock-climbing incident. Two of Óláfr’s retainers bet on who will be the fastest to climb a high and precipitous crag. One wagers his head, the other a gold ring.

Notes: [1] valstafns ‘in the falcon-stem [ARM]’: Another kenning referring to ‘arm’ as the perch of a hunting bird is found in st. 8/1, 4. Valstafn also occurs in Anon Gyð 6/4VII. — [1] vætki rofna valstafns ‘not giving way in the falcon-stem [ARM]’: (a) The line is problematic, but the present interpretation (which matches that of SHI 3 and Konráð Gíslason 1895-7) gives reasonable sense by taking rofna as the adjectival m. acc. pl. p. p. from rjúfa ‘to break’, hence, with the negative vætki, ‘not at all broken, not giving way or failing’. This is taken with the arm-kenning valstafns, hence ‘not giving way in the arm’ (cf. NS §137 for adj. + gen. constructions), and it qualifies hirðmeðr ‘retainers’ (l. 4), characterizing them as powerful warriors (and perhaps, in the context, climbers). (b) The reading of the ÓT mss, vask jafns rofnat, is still more difficult to construe. Finnur Jónsson’s solution (Skj B) involves emendation to (rofna) vizku ‘(deprived of) their wits’, as well as a complex word order. (c) This is rejected by Kock (NN §1183), whose interpretation involves postulating a verb *rafna ‘perform’ (cf. OE ræfnian ‘perform, carry out’). — [2] frák ‘I have heard’: This, the reading of the ÓT mss, is preferable to sák ‘I saw’ in Bb(112rb), since Hallar-Steinn could not claim to be an eye-witness. — [3, 4] veðja haus manns ljósum hringi ‘bet a man’s head [and] a shining ring’: Veðja ‘to bet, wager’ takes a dat. object, as seen in ljósum hringi ‘a shining ring’. Haus (manns) seems to be used in an equivalent way to denote the other part of the reciprocal wager, and it is taken as such by the ÓT compiler, but dat. hausi (manns) ‘(a man’s) head’ would be expected; haus must therefore be taken as an endingless dat. — [5] hermart ‘very much’: The form mart rather than margt is indicated by the hending with snyrtir; cf. also st. 34/1. Syntactically, Kock (NN §1184) takes the word with lézk ‘declared’ (l. 6) rather than with framði ‘performed’ (l. 7), producing a simpler word order but less good sense.


  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. 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.
  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. NS = Nygaard, Marius. 1906. Norrøn syntax. Kristiania (Oslo): Aschehoug. Rpt. 1966.
  10. Konráð Gíslason. 1895-7. Efterladte skrifter. 2 vols. I: Forelæsninger over oldnordiske skjaldekvad. II: Forelæsninger og videnskablige afhandlinger. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  11. ÓT 1958-2000 = Ólafur Halldórsson, ed. 1958-2000. Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar en mesta. 3 vols. EA A 1-3. Copenhagen: Munksgaard (Reitzel).
  12. 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.
  13. Internal references
  14. 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.
  15. Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Gyðingsvísur 6’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 522-3.

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