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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hallv Knútdr 3III

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallvarðr háreksblesi, Knútsdrápa 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 233.

Hallvarðr háreksblesiKnútsdrápa

Knútr, lézt framm til Fljóta
— frægr leið vǫrðr of ægi
heiptsnarr hildar leiptra —
harðbrynjuð skip dynja.
Ullar lézt við Ellu
ættleifð ok mô reifðir
sverðmans snyrtiherðir
sundviggs flota bundit.

Knútr, lézt harðbrynjuð skip dynja framm til Fljóta; {frægr, heiptsnarr vǫrðr {leiptra hildar}} leið of ægi. {Snyrtiherðir {Ullar {sundviggs}}}, lézt flota bundit við {ættleifð Ellu} ok reifðir {mô {sverðmans}}.

Knútr, you caused your hard-armoured ships to rush forward to Fljót; {the famous, battle-bold guardian {of the lightnings of battle}} [SWORDS > WARRIOR] glided across the sea. {Splendid strengthener {of Ullr’s <god’s> {sea-horse}}} [SHIP > SHIELD > WARRIOR], you had your fleet moored in {the patrimony of Ælla} [= England], and you gladdened {the gull {of the sword-girl}} [VALKYRIE > RAVEN/EAGLE].

Mss: (12), 20dˣ(5r), 873ˣ(6r), 41ˣ(4v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [2] vǫrðr: norðr 41ˣ    [3] leiptra: leiptrar 873ˣ    [5] Ellu: ‘elle’ 41ˣ    [7] ‑mans: so 41ˣ, ‘‑mannz’ all others;    ‑herðir: gerðar all

Editions: Skj AI, 317, Skj BI, 293, Skald I, 149, NN §782; 1741, 12-13, Knýtl 1919-25, 36 (ch. 8), ÍF 35, 103-4 (ch. 8); Frank 1994b, 120, Jesch 2000, 246.

Context: The stanza is quoted in Knýtl in the context of Knútr’s attack on England.

Notes: [1] Fljóta ‘Fljót’: For discussion of this place-name, which is pl. in form, see Townend (1998, 77-9), where it is suggested that it may be an Old Norse name for the River Humber. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC, s. a. 1016, recte 1015) records that when Knútr launched his attack on England in 1015 his fleet touched land at Sandwich in Kent, before heading west along the south coast. However, when Knútr’s father Sveinn Haraldsson launched his earlier attack in 1013 (in the company of his son), the Chronicle (ASC, s. a. 1013) records that Sveinn and Knútr took their ship-based army into the mouth of the Humber, and then up the River Trent to Gainsborough, at which point command of the fleet was placed in Knútr’s hands. If one takes Fljót to refer to the Humber (or indeed if it is simply a common pl. noun ‘rivers’, referring to the Humber and Trent), then these opening stanzas of Hallvarðr’s poem may just as well refer to the attack of 1013 as to that of 1015. — [3] heiptsnarr ‘battle-bold’: As Kock (NN §782) observes, it seems preferable to take heiptsnarr as belonging with the intercalary clause of ll. 2-3, rather than with the main clause of ll. 1 and 4 (as Skj B does). — [4] harðbrynjuð skip ‘hard-armoured ships’: The cpd harðbrynjaðr occurs only here and in Ótt Knútdr 1/6I, where it also describes Knútr’s ships. On account of the likely dates of composition for their Knútsdrápur, it is more likely that Hallvarðr is borrowing from Óttarr than vice versa. See further Jesch (2001a, 157-9), who suggests that the armour concerned is shields along the sides of the ship. — [5-8]: Some emendation is needed in the second helmingr, as the ms. forms do not supply a nom. noun or adj. to be the subject or addressee of the helmingr. The preferred option, adopted by Skj B, Knýtl 1919-25, Skald, and Frank (1994b), and followed here, is to emend snyrti-Gerðar in l. 7 to snyrti-herðir, so producing snyrti-herðir sundviggs Ullar ‘splendid strengthener of the sea-horse [SHIP] of Ullr <god> [SHIELD > WARRIOR]’. The second option, proposed in Fms 12, 247 and adopted by ÍF 35 and Jesch 2000, is to emend Ullar to Ullr in l. 5, so producing Ullr sundviggs ‘the Ullr <god> of the sound-horse [SHIP > SEAFARER]’. While this is paralleled by a comparable phrase, Ullr unnviggs ‘Ullr  <god> of the wave-horse [SHIP > SEAFARER]’, in ÞKolb Gunndr ll. 7, 8V (Gunnl 21), the emendation is problematic as it results in an unmetrical, hypometrical line, or, with the addition of a cliticised ‑u (léztu), it results in an illicit Type E/D4-line with a proclitic prep. in metrical position 4 (see Gade 1995a, 82-5). — [5] Ellu ‘of Ælla’: The allusion is probably to King Ælla of Northumbria, killed by Ívarr inn beinlausi ‘the Boneless’ during the conquest of York in 867. In skaldic verse Ælla seems to become a representative of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy (see further Townend 1997 and Kries 2003). — [5, 7-8] snyrtiherðir Ullar sundviggs ‘splendid strengthener of Ullr’s <god’s> sea-horse [SHIP > SHIELD > WARRIOR]’: According to Skm (SnE 1998, I, 67, 167-8, 194), ‘Ullr’s ship’ is a kenning for ‘shield’, but this kenning remains obscure (see Note to Hfr Hákdr 1/1). Sundviggs ‘of the sea-horse’ functions as the base-word of the shield-kenning, although it is placed here in the prose word order and translation in the position that a determinant normally occupies. — [7] sverðmans ‘of the sword-girl [VALKYRIE]’: In eds where emendation is made to Ullr sundviggs, and hence the ms. reading snyrti-Gerðar is preserved (see Note to ll. 5-8 above), the reading sverðmanns ‘of the sword-man’ must be preferred, giving the kenning mô snyrti-Gerðar sverðmanns ‘the gull of the splendid Gerðr of the sword-man [WARRIOR > VALKYRIE > RAVEN]’. However, it is debatable whether sverðmaðr is an acceptable warrior-kenning and, at any rate, the emendation Ullar > Ullr results in an unmetrical line (see Note to ll. 5-8 above). — [7] snyrti- ‘splendid’: An honorific adj., appearing as the first element in a number of compounds, including those with personal names (see LP: snyrti-).


  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. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  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. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  8. Jesch, Judith. 2000. ‘Knútr in Poetry and History’. In Dallapiazza et al. 2000, 243-56.
  9. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  10. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  11. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  12. ASC [Anglo-Saxon Chronicle] = Plummer, Charles and John Earle, eds. 1892-9. Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1952.
  13. 1741 = Jón Ólafsson, ed. 1741. Æfi dana-konunga eda Knytlinga saga: Historia Cnutidarum regum Daniæ. Copenhagen: [n. p.].
  14. Townend, Matthew. 1998. English Place-Names in Skaldic Verse. English Place-Name Society extra ser. 1. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society.
  15. Townend, Matthew. 1997. ‘Ella: An Old English Name in Old Norse Poetry’. Nomina 20, 23-35.
  16. Knýtl 1919-25 = Petersens, Carl af and Emil Olsen, eds. 1919-25. Sǫgur danakonunga. 1: Sǫgubrot af fornkonungum. 2: Knýtlinga saga. SUGNL 66. Copenhagen: SUGNL.
  17. Frank, Roberta. 1994b. ‘King Cnut in the Verse of his Skalds’. In Rumble 1994, 106-24.
  18. Kries, Susanne. 2003. ‘“Westward I Came Across the Sea”: Anglo-Scandinavian History through Scandinavian Eyes’. Leeds Studies in English new ser. 34, 47-76.
  19. Internal references
  20. (forthcoming), ‘ Unattributed, Knýtlinga saga’ 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, p. . <> (accessed 5 August 2021)
  21. (forthcoming), ‘ Snorri Sturluson, Skáldskaparmál’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <> (accessed 5 August 2021)
  22. Diana Whaley (forthcoming), ‘ Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Gunnlaugsdrápa ormstungu’ in Tarrin Wills, Kari Ellen Gade and Margaret Clunies Ross (eds), Poetry in Sagas of Icelanders. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 5. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <> (accessed 5 August 2021)
  23. Kate Heslop (ed.) 2017, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Hákonardrápa 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. 215.
  24. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 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. 769.
  25. Not published: do not cite (ÞKolb Gunndr 1V (Gunnl 21))

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