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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hhárf Snædr 1I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Haraldr hárfagri Hálfdanarson, Snæfríðardrápa 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. 68.

Haraldr hárfagri HálfdanarsonSnæfríðardrápa1

text and translation

Hneggi berk æ ugg
ótta; hlýði mér drótt;
dána vekk dul at mey
drauga á kerlaug.
Drôpu lætk ór Dvalins greip
dynja, meðan framm hrynr
— rekkum býðk Regins drykk
réttan — á bragar stétt.

Berk æ ugg {hneggi ótta}; drótt hlýði mér; vekk dul at mey dána á {kerlaug drauga}; lætk drôpu dynja ór {greip Dvalins}, meðan hrynr framm á {stétt bragar}; býðk rekkum {réttan drykk Regins}.
‘I constantly carry trepidation in the rock of fear [HEART]; let the company hear me; I bring to light a delusion after the maiden’s death in the cup-liquid of the undead [POETRY]; I make the drápa ring out from the grasp of Dvalinn <dwarf> [MOUTH], as it rushes forth on the path of poetry [TONGUE]; I offer men a correct drink of Reginn <dwarf> [POETRY].

notes and context

The stanza is included in the story of Haraldr hárfagri and Snæfríðr as told in Flat; versions also appear in Ágr (ÍF 29, 5-6) and Hkr (ÍF 26, 125-7) without the stanza or reference to it. Haraldr is enticed by one Svási, who according to Flat is a dwarf, into meeting his daughter Snæfríðr; he feels burning desire for her. After their marriage she bears him sons (named in Flat 1860-8, I, 567). So infatuated is he that he never leaves her side so long as she lives. At her death, a sheet or shroud (blæja) called Svásanautr ‘Svási’s gift’ is draped over her. Through its magical properties, her complexion remains unaltered, leading the king to imagine that she might revive. He remains with her for three years, to the neglect of his kingly duties, and will not allow her body to be buried. Haraldr recites a poem about her called Snjófríðardrápa, from which the upphaf ‘beginning’ is cited in Flat. Eventually, a wise counsellor persuades the king to allow the shroud to be removed. When the true, corrupt state of the corpse is revealed, he comes to his senses and allows it to be buried.

[1-4]: These difficult lines have been the subject of a series of emendations, outlined here, but none is wholly persuasive, and the interpretation shown above is a tentative attempt to construe the ms. text as it stands. (a) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) offers the following text: Hneggi berk ok æ ugg | ótta (hlýði) mér (drótt); | dána vekka (dróttins) mey | (drauga á kerlaug) ‘I constantly carry in my heart dread and fear; may people listen to my poem; I cannot rouse the dead woman’. The kenning for ‘poem/poetry’ is tentatively explained as kerlaug dróttins drauga ‘vessel-liquid (lit. vessel-washing) of Óðinn’ in LP: kerlaug. Finnur’s principal conjectures, along with the objections raised against them by subsequent commentators, are the following. Ok ‘and’ has been added in l. 1. In l. 2 the 3rd pers. pl. pres. subj. hlýði ‘let … hear’ is separated syntactically from mér ‘me’ (NN §132; Reichardt 1928, 158). In l. 3 the noun dróttins ‘lord’ is arrived at by emendation of ms. dular/dulat (see Note below) and separated syntactically from mey ‘maiden’ so as to yield a combination dróttins drauga ‘of the lord of the undead’, not paralleled in Óðinn-kennings (Meissner 252-3; Reichardt 1928, 158-9); dróttins is also unmetrical. A further emendation in l. 3 is vekka, from vek ek, with addition of the negative enclitic particle (NN §132). (b) Kock retains Finnur’s ok in l. 1 so as to arrive at ok ugg ótta, i. e. ugg ok ótta ‘fear and terror’ (NN §132, cf. §§1508C, 1827D). Restoring vekk ‘I awake’ and interpreting dular as an adverbial gen. meaning ‘out of slumber, torpor’, Kock (NN §132) proposes that the speaker represents himself as waking the dead maiden. He further emends drauga to dverga ‘of dwarfs’ so as to arrive at a more expected kenning for ‘poem’ (NN §132; subsequently rescinded in NN §§2209, 2985B since it fails to provide hending). (c) Bjarni Einarsson (1961, 34-5) tentatively proposes Ber ek æ ugg (ok?) ótta hneggi ‘I always bear fear (and?) terror in the heart’, with the implication that ok might be unnecessary, but such an asyndeton (omission of an explicit conj.) would be hard to parallel. (d) Further emendations are suggested by Einar Ólafur Sveinsson (1975, 174-8; cf. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson 1976, 148) and Ólafur Halldórsson (1969b and 1990).



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: Haraldr hárfagri, 1. Snæfríðardrápa: AI, 5, BI, 5, Skald I, 3, NN §§132, 133, 1508C, 1806, 1827D, 2209, 2408, 2985B; Flat 1860-8, I, 582; Reichardt 1928, 65, 113, 158-9.


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