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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hfr ErfÓl 20I

Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 20’ 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. 429.

Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ÓttarssonErfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar

text and translation

†Samr† vas ôrr of ævi
oddbragðs, hinns þat sagði,
at lofða gramr lifði,
læstyggs burar Tryggva.
Vesa kveðr ǫld ór éli
Ôleif kominn stála;
menn geta máli sǫnnu
— mjǫks verr an svá — ferri.

{Ôrr {oddbragðs}}, hinns sagði þat, at {gramr lofða} lifði, vas †samr† of ævi {læstyggs burar Tryggva}. Ǫld kveðr Ôleif vesa kominn ór {éli stála}; menn geta ferri sǫnnu máli; mjǫks verr an svá.
‘The envoy of the point-thrust [BATTLE > WARRIOR], who said that the ruler of warriors [= Óláfr] was alive was … about the life of the deceit-shunning son of Tryggvi [= Óláfr]. People say Óláfr escaped the blizzard of steel weapons [BATTLE]; men guess [things] further from the true story; it is much worse than that.

notes and context

All three prose sources cite this stanza after their description of the battle of Svǫlðr, as part of a group of stanzas attributed to Hallfreðr and concerned with the question of whether or not King Óláfr survived the defeat of his force.

[1-4]: The helmingr is syntactically difficult and the unanimously attested samr resists explanation. As none of the proposed interpretations is satisfactory and no alternative ms. readings for samr exist, it has been obelised in the Text. Most previous eds emend samr: (a) to sumr ‘some (envoy …)’ (Jón Þorkelsson 1884, 63); (b) to ‘that (envoy …)’ (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B), though it is unclear to whom this would refer; (c) or most audaciously to the rare adj. svífr ‘unreliable’ (Skald; NN §2757), giving svífr vas ôrr ‘the envoy was unreliable’. Other scholars avoid emendation by ingenious interpretations of samr. (d) ÍF 26 construes samr as an attributive adj., ‘seemly, worthy’ from sama ‘to suit, befit’, qualifying ôrr oddbraks ‘the envoy of the point-clash [BATTLE > WARRIOR]’, and similarly ÍF 29, Hkr 1991, with variants on ‑braks. But such an adj. is not well attested in verse or prose; the single, later skaldic parallel is breks ósamr ‘disinclined to treachery’ GunnLeif Merl I 2/7VIII. (e) Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SHI 3) suggests samr meaning ‘constant’, hence hinn ... var um æfi samr oddflagðs árr ‘that one ... was [his] whole life an envoy of the point-trollwife [AXE > WARRIOR] devoted (to Óláfr)’. (f) Kock, as an alternative to his construal in Skald, also proposes a tmesis, óðbragðssamr vas ôrr ‘the envoy was very deceitful’ (NN §512). — [1] samr vas ôrr of ævi ‘the envoy ... was ... about the life’: The line lacks skothending. Finnur Jónsson’s emendation of Samr to ‘that’ gives a so-called empty rhyme, in which vowels rhyme without the participation of following consonants, here : ævi (Kuhn 1983, 76; Kristján Árnason 1991, 99-102, 107-10; Gade 1995a, 5-6, 32).



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: Hallfrøðr Óttarsson vandræðaskáld, 3. Óláfsdrápa, erfidrápa 22: AI, 164, BI, 155, Skald I, 84, NN §§512, 513, 2757; Fsk 1902-3, 132 (ch. 22), ÍF 29, 161 (ch. 24); Hkr 1893-1901, I, 456, IV, 102, ÍF 26, 368-9, Hkr 1991, 250 (ÓTHkr ch. 112), F 1871, 166; SHI 3, 8-9, ÓT 1958-2000, II, 292-3 (ch. 256).


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