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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hjǫrtr Lv 1II

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Hjǫrtr, Lausavísur 1’ 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, pp. 344-6.

HjǫrtrLausavísur
12

Þrøngvir ‘gathers’

þrøngva (verb): press, throng

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gramr ‘The ruler’

1. gramr (noun m.): ruler

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veitir ‘gives away’

2. veita (verb): grant, give

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Sýrar ‘Sýr’s’

Sýrr (noun m.; °-s/-ar/-, dat. -): sow

[3] Sýrar: ‘[…]’ 326bˣ

kennings

sonr Sýrar
‘Sýr’s son ’
   = Haraldr

Sýr’s son → Haraldr

notes

[3] Sýrar ‘Sýr’s’: This word is conjectural, but it makes sense both in terms of metre and context (Sigurðr sýr ‘Sow’ was Haraldr’s father), and cf. geitarson ‘a goat’s son’ in st. 2/7 below as well as SnH Lv 11. The word was first suggested by Gudbrand Vigfusson (1887-94, I, 368).

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sonr ‘son’

sonr (noun m.; °-ar, dat. syni; synir, acc. sonu, syni): son

kennings

sonr Sýrar
‘Sýr’s son ’
   = Haraldr

Sýr’s son → Haraldr
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fáskonar ‘little’

notes

[4] fáskonar ‘little’: Lit. ‘in few ways’. The gen. of konr lit. ‘descendant, son’ used adverbially with the meaning ‘manner, way, kind’. This adv. could be compounded with proclitic adjectives or pronouns in the gen. (here fás ‘of few’).

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laf ‘Laf’

notes

[6] laf-Hamðir ‘(“Slouch-Hamðir”)’: The meaning of this epithet is not immediately transparent, but it must be a derogatory term either for Haraldr (so Hb 1892-6, 331 n. a) or for Tostig (so LP: laf-Hamðir). Laf- is derived from the verb lafa ‘hang, dangle, slouch’ (see lafhræddr ‘terror-stricken’ in Lv 3/6 below), and Hamðir is a legendary hero (see Ghv; Hamð). Skj B suggests the translation den bukkeskæggede(?) ‘the one with a goat-beard(?)’, and in Hb (1892-6) Finnur proposes tentatively that the word could be a scribal error for lofðungr ‘ruler’. That is unlikely because of the internal rhyme (-af- : -af-). In the present edn, the epithet is taken to refer to Haraldr (see the discussion of hafa ‘get’ (l. 6 below)). In keeping with the adj. lafhræddr in Lv 3/6, it may refer to his lack of initiative. For Tostig’s mission to Haraldr’s court, see Gade 2004.

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Hamðir ‘Hamðir’

Hamðir (noun m.): Hamðir < lafhamðir (noun m.)

notes

[6] laf-Hamðir ‘(“Slouch-Hamðir”)’: The meaning of this epithet is not immediately transparent, but it must be a derogatory term either for Haraldr (so Hb 1892-6, 331 n. a) or for Tostig (so LP: laf-Hamðir). Laf- is derived from the verb lafa ‘hang, dangle, slouch’ (see lafhræddr ‘terror-stricken’ in Lv 3/6 below), and Hamðir is a legendary hero (see Ghv; Hamð). Skj B suggests the translation den bukkeskæggede(?) ‘the one with a goat-beard(?)’, and in Hb (1892-6) Finnur proposes tentatively that the word could be a scribal error for lofðungr ‘ruler’. That is unlikely because of the internal rhyme (-af- : -af-). In the present edn, the epithet is taken to refer to Haraldr (see the discussion of hafa ‘get’ (l. 6 below)). In keeping with the adj. lafhræddr in Lv 3/6, it may refer to his lack of initiative. For Tostig’s mission to Haraldr’s court, see Gade 2004.

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hafa ‘get’

hafa (verb): have

notes

[6] hafa ‘get’: The identity of laf-Hamðir ‘Slouch-Hamðir’ (l. 6) hinges on the meaning of the verb hafa ‘get, obtain’ or ‘possess’ (see Fritzner: hafa 6 and 8). Tostig arrives at Haraldr’s court and promises him the sovereignty in England if Haraldr will agree to embark on the expedition to the west. If their campaign is successful, Tostig and his brothers will hold England as a fief and pay tribute to Haraldr (see the similar offer made to Sveinn Úlfsson of Denmark; Fellows Jensen 1962, 35). If Hjǫrtr wishes that Tostig will only offer Haraldr a small part of England (lítit land ‘little land’ (l. 5), then laf-Hamðir is Haraldr. But if hafa is taken in the meaning ‘possess’, the poet hopes that Tostig (= laf-Hamðir) will only have a small country to barter with, so that Haraldr will lose interest in the conversation and pay attention to his men. The prose of Hem, which is similar in the Hr and Hb versions, settles that issue. According to the þáttr, the following verbal exchange ensues between Haraldr and Hjǫrtr after Hjǫrtr has recited the st. (Hb 1892-6, 332): hversu litið segir konvngr. eigi meira segir Hiortr en þu mættir liggia a ‘“how little”, says the king. “Not more,” says Hjǫrtr, “than you can lie on”’. Not only does Hjǫrtr specify that Haraldr is the one who should get little land (see also andvani alls Englands ‘bereft of all England’ in Lv 3/7-8 below), but his answer echoes Harold Godwineson’s offer to Haraldr at the fatal battle of Stamford Bridge (ÍF 28, 187): Sagt hefir hann þar nǫkkut frá, hvers hann mun honum unna af Englandi: sjau fóta rúm eða því lengra sem hann er hæri enn aðrir menn ‘He has said something about how much of England he will grant him: an area of seven feet or so much more as he is taller than other men’.

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hauldum ‘the men’

hǫlðr (noun m.; °-s; -ar): man

notes

[7] hauldum ‘the men’: Lit. ‘the freeholders’. For this word, see Note to Anon Nkt 15/2.

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Haraldr ‘Haraldr’

Haraldr (noun m.): Haraldr

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svara ‘answer’

svara (verb): answer

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Interactive view: tap on words in the text for notes and glosses

Upon their return from Russia, Hjǫrtr and his fellow travellers go before King Haraldr and greet him, but the king is too busy talking to Tostig Godwineson (Tósti) to pay any attention to them. Hjǫrtr then recites this st. to comment on the situation.

[5-6]: Although syntactically transparent, the sense of these two ll. is obscure. The identity of ‘laf-Hamðir’ is not clear, and the interpretation depends on the meaning of the verb hafa ‘get, possess’. See the discussion below.

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