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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Mark Eirdr 23II

Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2009, ‘Markús Skeggjason, Eiríksdrápa 23’ 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. 452-3.

Markús SkeggjasonEiríksdrápa

Víða setti vísdóms grœðir
virki skrýddar hǫfuðkirkjur;
gørva lét þar hollvinr herjar
hrein musteri fimm af steini.
Vôru þau með tryggðar tíri
tíða flaust, es gramr lét smíða
bǫðvar snjallr ok beztr at ǫllu,
borði merkð, fyr Saxland norðan.

{Grœðir vísdóms} setti víða hǫfuðkirkjur skrýddar virki; {hollvinr herjar} lét gørva fimm hrein musteri af steini þar. {Þau flaust tíða}, es gramr, snjallr bǫðvar ok beztr at ǫllu, lét smíða með tíri tryggðar fyr norðan Saxland, vôru merkð borði.

{The nourisher of wisdom} [JUST RULER] established far and wide principal churches adorned with artwork; {the loyal friend of the people} [JUST RULER] had five shining minsters built from stone there. {Those ships of services} [CHURCHES], which the king, skilled in warfare and best in everything, caused to be crafted with the fame of security north of Saxony, were adorned with wood.

Mss: (162), 873ˣ(54r), 20b I(9v), 180b(31r) (Knýtl)

Readings: [1] ‑dóms: ‘‑dams’ 20b I, ‑dóm 180b    [2] skrýddar: ‘skrydd at’ 20b I    [3] gørva: ‘giora’ 180b;    lét: leit 180b;    holl‑: hollr 180b;    herjar: ‘hierud’ 180b    [4] hrein musteri fimm af steini: ok musteri af steini hreinum 180b;    af: ór 20b I    [5] tryggðar: ‘treygdar’ 180b    [6] flaust: flaustr 180b;    lét: leit 180b;    smíða: síðan 180b    [7] at: om. 20b I    [8] merkð: merkðr 20b I, 180b;    Saxland: Saxlands 20b I, Saxa 180b;    norðan: ‘nor[…]an’ 20b I

Editions: Skj AI, 449, Skj BI, 418, Skald I, 207; 1741, 162-3,  ÍF 35, 231-2 (ch. 78).

Context: Eiríkr built five churches at his own expense.

Notes: [All]: Nothing else is known about these churches, but Saxo (2005, II, 12, 7, 4, pp. 80-1) mentions that Eiríkr founded a church in Slangerup, Sjælland (his place of birth). — [1] grœðir vísdóms ‘the nourisher of wisdom [JUST RULER]’: This is an unexpected kenning in a relatively early secular panegyric, because such kennings usually occur in later ecclesiastical poetry denoting men of the church (see Meissner 389-90). Vísdóm ‘wisdom’ could, as in Sjórs Lv 2/2 (see Note), refer specifically to clerical knowledge here, meaning that Eiríkr made possible the circumstances in which Christian observance could flourish. — [2] skrýddar virki ‘adorned with artwork’: The translation of virki ‘with artwork’ is conjectural. Skj B gives med “virke” (kunstige prydelser?) ‘with “virke” (artful decorations?)’, and ÍF 35 explains skrýddar smíði, fagurlega skreyttar ‘adorned with craft, beautifully decorated’. LP: virki has ‘kunstnerisk udførte genstande’, som helgenbilleder og lign. ‘“artfully executed objects,” such as saints’ images and the like’. Virki otherwise means ‘stronghold, rampart’ or ‘work, deed’. The word could be used here with a double meaning: the saints’ images (virki) serving as a fortress of security (virki). See Note to l. 5 below. — [5] með tíri tryggðar ‘with the fame of security’: This could refer to the solidity of the buildings themselves or, perhaps more likely, to the churches as hallowed sanctuaries. LP: tírr translates the phrase as med soliditetens ry ‘with the fame of solidity’ and Skj B provides med holdbarhetens berömmelighed ‘with the fame of durability’. Both translations then take tryggð to refer to the churches’ structural durability. However, the most common meaning of tryggð is ‘safety, security, fidelity’ usually obtained through promises of safety and safe-conduct. See also Note to st. 26/8. — [6] flaust tíða ‘ships of services’: Again, an early and unexpected kenning, for ‘church’. For similar kennings in much later religious poetry, see Árni Gdr 4/4IV (knörr Pétrs ‘Peter’s merchantship’), 26/5IV (bátr Pétrs ‘Peter’s boat’) and Meissner 432. — [7] beztr at ǫllu ‘best in everything’: So all mss. Skj B (and Skald) emend to bǫzt at ǫllu, which is construed with flaust tíða ‘ships of services’ (l. 6). — [8] merkð borði ‘adorned with wood’: Lit. ‘marked with wood’. LP: merkja 1 translates this as mærkede ved tømmer, opførte af tømmer ‘marked by timber, constructed from timber’, which makes little sense because the churches were made of stone. The wood (or timber) could refer to the materials from which the holy images were carved (see Notes to ll. 2 and 5 above). But if the churches referred to in the second helmingr were different from the five of the first helmingr, ‘constructed from timber’ could be possible.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  5. 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.
  6. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  7. 1741 = Jón Ólafsson, ed. 1741. Æfi dana-konunga eda Knytlinga saga: Historia Cnutidarum regum Daniæ. Copenhagen: [n. p.].
  8. Internal references
  9. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigurðr jórsalafari Magnússon, Lausavísur 2’ 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. 467-8.

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