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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hfr ErfÓl 15I

Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 15’ 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. 421.

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ÓttarssonErfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar

Gótt es gǫrva at frétta
— gunnr óx fyr haf sunnan —
— sverð bitu feigra fyrða
fjǫrrǫnn — at því mǫnnum:
hvern rakkligast rekka
randláðs viðir kvôðu
— Surts ættar vinnk sléttan
sylg — Ôleifi fylgja.

Gótt es mǫnnum at frétta gǫrva at því — gunnr óx fyr sunnan haf; sverð bitu {fjǫrrǫnn} feigra fyrða —: hvern rekka {viðir {randláðs}} kvôðu fylgja Ôleifi rakkligast; vinnk {sléttan sylg {ættar Surts}}.

It is good for people to ask searchingly about this — battle swelled south of the sea; swords bit {life-halls} [BREASTS] of fated men —: which of the champions did {trees {of the rim-land}} [SHIELD > WARRIORS] say supported Óláfr most bravely; I make {the smooth drink {of the family of Surtr <giant>}} [GIANTS > POETRY].

Mss: 61(69rb), 53(65va), 54(66vb), Bb(102va), Flat(65vb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] gǫrva at: corrected from at gǫrva in a later hand 53    [2] gunnr: gunn 53, 54, Bb, Flat    [3] fyrða: so 53, 54, Bb, Flat, added above the line 61    [4] ‑rǫnn: runn Flat    [5] rakkligast: ‘reckligazst’ Bb    [6] randláðs viðir kvôðu: om. Flat;    rand‑: vand‑ Bb    [7] Surts ættar vinnk: satt mun ítr um Flat;    vinnk (‘vinn ek’): mun ek 54, Bb;    sléttan: sléttar 54, ‘sleittar’ Bb

Editions: Skj AI, 162, Skj BI, 153, Skald I, 83, NN §1957; SHI 3, 2-3, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 288 (ch. 256), Flat 1860-8, I, 493.

Context: After describing the battle of Svǫlðr, ÓT reports the different accounts of its last moments, and observes that the bravery of Óláfr’s men will be long remembered. Hallfreðr’s stanza is introduced as a witness that Þorkell nefja ‘Nose’ gave outstanding support to his brother Óláfr.

Notes: [1]: The final a of gǫrva and initial a of at must be elided to make the line regular (Gade 1995a, 66), and so es cannot be cliticised to yield Gótts (cf. Note to st. 12/7 ek). The line resembles st. 18/7: hætts til hans at frétta ‘it’s risky to enquire about him’, i.e. about Óláfr’s fate. — [2] gunnr ‘battle’: So only 61. The majority reading gunn is difficult to explain, as none of the inflectional forms of gunnr f. lack an ending. — [7] sléttan ‘smooth’: Sléttan, m. acc. sg. agreeing with the poetry-kenning based on sylg ‘drink’, is here taken as the adj. used attributively. It could otherwise be taken as predicative, hence ‘make (the poetry) smooth’, or else as the p. p. of slétta ‘to smoothe’, cf. slétta óð ‘smoothe a poem’, ESk Geisl 50/3VII. This is the earliest surviving example in the skaldic corpus of sléttr ‘smooth, smoothed’ applied to poetry, a very common metaphor in C12th and later, especially Christian, poetry. — [7-8] sylg ættar Surts ‘drink of the family of Surtr <giant> [GIANTS > POETRY]’: The giant Gillingr and his family are prominent in the complex myth of the mead of poetry, and the mead is in the possession of Gillingr’s son Suttungr until gained by Óðinn (see SnE 1998, I, 3-5, and on the myth see Introduction to SkP III). The fire-giant Surtr seems to be used merely as a representative giant here, so that his ætt are giants, though for a suggestion that Surtr himself figured in the myth of the mead of poetry, see Note to Eyv Hál 1/7.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  5. 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.
  6. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  7. ÓT 1958-2000 = Ólafur Halldórsson, ed. 1958-2000. Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar en mesta. 3 vols. EA A 1-3. Copenhagen: Munksgaard (Reitzel).
  8. 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.
  9. SkP III = Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Ed. Kari Ellen Gade in collaboration with Edith Marold. 2017.
  10. Internal references
  11. 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.
  12. Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 50’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 48.
  13. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Háleygjatal 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. 197.

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