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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Krm 12VIII

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Krákumál 12’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 740.

Anonymous PoemsKrákumál

text and translation

Hjuggu vér með hjörvi.
Hrunði dögg af sverðum
brún í Barðafirði
bleika* ná- fyrir -hauka.
Umði álmr, þá er oddar
allhratt slitu skyrtur
at slíðrloga sennu
Svölnis hamri þæfðar.
Rendi ormr til unda
eitrhvass drifinn sveita.

Hjuggu vér með hjörvi. Brún dögg hrunði af sverðum fyrir {bleika* náhauka} í Barðafirði. Álmr umði, þá er oddar slitu allhratt {hamri þæfðar skyrtur Svölnis} at {sennu {slíðrloga}}. Eitrhvass ormr, drifinn sveita, rendi til unda.
‘We hewed with the sword. Brown dew <blood> splashed down from swords before pale corpse-hawks [RAVENS/EAGLES] in Barðafjǫrðr. The bow twanged when arrow-points tore very swiftly the hammer-struck shirts of Svǫlnir <= Óðinn> [MAIL-COATS] in the quarrel of sheath-flames [SWORDS > BATTLE]. The poison-sharp serpent <spear>, soaked in blood, forced its way into wounds.

notes and context

[1-4]: These lines cannot be convincingly construed without some emendation. (a) The present edn (with Wisén 1886-9, Finnur Jónsson 1893b, 1905, Skj B and Skald) emends ‘bryn’ in most mss (l. 3) to brún f. nom. sg. agreeing with dögg (l. 2), hence ‘brown dew’. This is plausible as a heiti for ‘blood’, particularly when found in such close proximity to sverðum ‘swords’ (l. 2), recalling such blood-kennings as sverðdǫgg, hjǫrdǫgg ‘sword-dew’ and vápndǫgg ‘weapon-dew’, as Kock (NN §1276) notes. - ‘corpse’ and ‑hauka ‘hawks’, both in l. 4, are taken as a cpd kenning for ‘ravens/eagles’, separated by tmesis. Bleikan m. acc. sg. ‘pale’ (l. 4) in the mss is emended to bleika m. acc. pl. to qualify hauka. The adj. occurs with raven- or eagle-kennings elsewhere (Sigv Erlfl 1/2, 4I and ESk Geisl 43/3, 4VII). Principal variants on this solution (or parts of it) are as follows. (b) Ms. ‘bryn’ is emended to brýn by Rafn (1826), Pfeiffer (1860), the eds of CPB and Valdimar Ásmundarson (Krm 1891), who apparently take it as f. nom. sg. of adj. brýnn in the sense of ‘prompt, sudden, precipitate, gushing’, referring to dögg, evidently understood as dögg (benja) ‘dew (of wounds), blood’ (so Pfeiffer 1860, 221). (c) Finnur Jónsson (1893b; 1905; Skj B) shows by punctuation that he takes in l. 4 together with dögg in l. 2 by tmesis, giving the kenning nádögg ‘corpse-dew [BLOOD]’. (d) Kock (NN §1276) emends to nás, gen. sg. of nár ‘corpse’, hence ‘hawks of the corpse [RAVENS]’. (e) The mss’ bleikan is retained by Rafn (1826), Pfeiffer (1860), the eds of CPB, Wisén (1886-9) and Valdimar Ásmundarson (Krm 1891), all reading bleikan ná m. acc. sg. ‘a pale corpse’. Wisén takes this as the object of hjuggu ‘hewed’ in l. 1; and Pfeiffer’s and Valdimar’s punctuation may suggest that they do also. Wisén’s interpretation entails taking ll. 1 and 4 as a syntactic unit with the meaning, ‘We hewed with the sword a pale corpse for hawks’, and taking ll. 2-3 as a further parenthetic unit. However, it would be exceptional in Krm for l. 1, constituting the poem’s refrain, not to be syntactically independent. Rafn (and seemingly the eds of CPB) take bleikan ná as the object of an unexpressed phrase such as feldum vér ‘we felled, put to death’. — [5]: This line contains three alliterating staves. It is possible that one of the alliterating words, e.g. oddar ‘arrow-points’, replaced a synonym such as broddar, but the variant readings do not help here. — [5-6]: Alone among previous eds, Finnur Jónsson (1893b; 1905; Skj B), chooses the reading allstrítt ‘with great force, very swiftly’, in preference to allhratt ‘very swiftly’ in l. 6, and construes it as modifying the main verb umði ‘twanged’ in l. 5. Furthermore, while following previous eds in reading slitu ‘tore’ in l. 6 in 1893b, Finnur Jónsson (1905; Skj B) adopts here the reading bitu ‘bit’. This edn follows Kock (NN §1277, 2155) in finding slitu ‘tore’ more appropriate than bitu ‘bit’ in the present context, where the base-word in the kenning forming the object of the verb is skyrtur ‘shirts’, and in seeing the adv. allhratt ‘most swiftly’ in l. 6 as most likely to qualify slitu in the same line, given the relatively uncomplicated syntax of Krm. — [9-10]: Ormr ‘snake, serpent’ is here taken as a weapon-heiti (cf. Rafn 1826; Pfeiffer 1860; Wisén 1886-9, II, 220; LP: ormr 2). Finnur Jónsson’s translation in Skj B: det edderhvasse sværd trængte (guld)prydet ind til blodet ‘the poison-sharp sword, decked (with gold), forced its way into the blood’ tries to avoid a half-kenning ormr ‘sword’ with a complicated and apparently unique interpretation of these lines, which is criticised by Kock (NN §1277). It involves taking ormr and unda, separated by the prep. til in l. 9, as forming together a kenning ormr unda ‘snake of wounds [SWORD]’; the p. p. drifinn ‘soaked, steeped’, as meaning ‘decked (with gold)’; and the prep. til in l. 9 as governing sveita, gen. sg. of sveiti ‘blood’, in l. 10. Kock’s evident understanding of the lines (he does not give a translation) is clearly to be preferred, and is followed here. That Finnur Jónsson subsequently abandoned the Skj B reading of these lines seems clear from LP: ormr 2 and drífa 6.



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: Anonyme digte og vers [XII], H. Krákumál 12: AI, 644, BI, 651-2, Skald I, 318, NN §§1276, 1277, 2155; Rafn 1826, 10-11, 117-21, Pfeiffer 1860, 125, CPB II, 342, Wisén 1886-9, I, 63-4, Krm 1891, 226, Finnur Jónsson 1893b, 88, Finnur Jónsson 1905, 154, Ragn 1906-8, 187.


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