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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

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.

Mss: 1824b(80r), 147(108r), 6ˣ(88r-v) (Ragn); R702ˣ(30r), LR(209-210), R693ˣ(10r)

Readings: [1] Hjuggu vér með hjörvi: abbrev. as ‘Hiug ver m. h᷎.’ 1824b, ‘[…]’ 147, Hjuggum vér með hjörvi 6ˣ, LR, R693ˣ, H v. m. h: R702ˣ    [2] Hrunði dögg af sverðum: ‘[…]’ 147    [3] brún í Barðafirði: ‘bryn j barda firde’ 1824b, 6ˣ, LR, R693ˣ, ‘[…]’ 147, ‘i Brim barda firde’ with ‘Bryn i barda firdi’ written above the line R702ˣ    [4] bleika* fyrir hauka: bleikan ná fyrir hauka 1824b, 6ˣ, R702ˣ, LR, R693ˣ, ‘[…]’ 147    [5] Umði: ‘[…]’ 147;    álmr: ‘[…]’ 147, ‘almu’ 6ˣ;    þá er: ‘[…]’ 147, þar 6ˣ, LR, R693ˣ, þar er R702ˣ;    oddar: ‘[…]’ 147    [6] allhratt slitu (‘allhrat slitu’): ‘[…]’ 147, allhratt skutu with ‘slitu’ corrected from skutu in left margin and ‘allstritt bitu W fors. allhart Val allsärt’ in right margin 6ˣ, ‘allstritt bitu’ R702ˣ, LR, R693ˣ;    skyrtur: ‘[…]y[…]tur’ 147, skyrtur Óðins R693ˣ    [7] at slíðrloga sennu: ‘at […]lid […] (loga sen)[…]’(?) 147    [8] Svölnis hamri þæfðar (‘svelnís hamre þefdar’): ‘[…] þ[…]f(d)[…]’(?) 147, ‘Svelnis hanye þęfdar’ with ‘Svolnis hatti þæfdar W.’ in margin 6ˣ, ‘svolniz hatti þofdar’ R702ˣ, ‘svolnis hatte thoefdar’ LR, ‘Suolnis hatte þæfdar’ R693ˣ    [9] Rendi: ‘[…]di’ 147;    ormr: ‘[…]’ 147, ormr with almr in margin 6ˣ, almr R702ˣ, LR, R693ˣ    [10] eitrhvass: ‘[…]’ 147;    drifinn: ‘dri[…]’ 147, ‘drifium’ LR;    sveita: ‘[…]’ 147

Editions: Skj AI, 644, Skj 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.

Notes: [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’. — [3] í Barðafirði ‘in Barðafjǫrðr’: This place has not been identified with certainty, though several suggestions have been made. (a) Rafn (1826, 118) refers to Johnstone’s (1782, 99) suggestion that Barðafjǫrðr here is Perth, situated on the banks of the river Tay, which flows into the Firth of Tay in eastern Scotland, just south of Dundee. The name may originate in a P-Celtic (possibly Pictish) word cognate with Welsh perth ‘wood, copse’ (Johnston 1934, 272; Nicolaisen 1976, 164), while -fjǫrðr would refer to the Firth of Tay. The identification with Perth would be consistent with the claim in Krm 24/9-10 that the speaker of the poem was active in Scotland’s fjords (though see the second Note to st. 24/10, below). (b) Langenfelt (1920, 84 n. 1) suggested an identification with the English village of Bardney on the river Witham, some nine miles east of Lincoln. In the Anglo-Saxon period Bardney (OE Bardanege, Bardan ea ‘Bearda’s island’; Ekwall 1960, 25) was ‘effectively an island’ in the fens overlooking the river (Leahy 2007, 122). That the Old Norse name for a place situated some thirty-five miles inland should end in ‑fjǫrðr is not so surprising given that the word can refer to an inland lake with a watercourse opening out into it (see Fritzner: fjörðr; cf. Olsen 1939b, 52 n. 61). (c) Less convincing, given that in this part of the poem (sts 11-21) most of the places mentioned seem to be in the British Isles, is the suggestion from Rafn (1826, 118, following Suhm et al. 1782-1828, I, 556), that the place in question is the Barð(a)fjǫrðr twice mentioned as the site of major events in Hák (Hák 1977-82, 26, 163). The place has not been certainly identified, but both contexts indicate that it was in Halland, then part of Denmark but now a province of south-western Sweden, just north of Skåne. — [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. — [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. — [6, 8] hamri þæfðar skyrtur Svölnis ‘the hammer-struck shirts of Svǫlnir <= Óðinn> [MAIL-COATS]’: The parallel phrase hamri þœfðar ‘hammer-struck’ lit. ‘beaten with a hammer’ occurs in Hfr ErfÓl 9/9-10I, where it qualifies the kenning skyrtur hrings ‘shirts of the ring [MAIL-SHIRTS]’, while the kenning skyrtur Svölnis is paralleled in Hfr Hákdr 2/3III, where the kenning skyrtur Hamðis ‘Hamðir’s <legendary hero’s> shirts [MAIL-SHIRTS]’ occurs; cf. de Vries (1964-7, II, 40 n. 68). On the legendary figure of Hamðir, see Note to st. 17/9 below. — [7] slíðrloga ‘of sheath-flames [SWORDS]’: This kenning is paralleled in RvHbreiðm Hl 18/5III tunga slíðra ‘tongue of scabbards [SWORD]’, and in RvHbreiðm Hl 71/2III bryggjur slíðra ‘bridges of scabbards [SWORDS]’, as well as in st. 17/6 below. — [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.


  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. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  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. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  7. Vries, Jan de. 1964-7. Altnordische Literaturgeschichte. 2 vols. 2nd edn. Grundriss der germanischen Philologie 15-16. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  8. Wisén, Theodor, ed. 1886-9. Carmina Norrœnæ: Ex reliquiis vetustioris norrœnæ poësis selecta, recognita, commentariis et glossario instructa. 2 vols. Lund: Ohlsson.
  9. Finnur Jónsson. 1893b. Carmina Norrœna: Rettet Tekst. Copenhagen: Nielsen & Lydiche.
  10. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  11. Hák 1977-82 = Mundt, Marina, ed. 1977. Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar etter Sth. 8 fol., AM 325VIII, 4° og AM 304, 4°. Oslo: Forlagsentralen. Suppl. by James E. Knirk, Rettelser til Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar etter Sth. 8 fol., AM 325VIII, 4° og AM 304, 4°. Norrøne tekster 2. Oslo: Norsk historisk kjeldeskrift-institutt, 1982.
  12. Pfeiffer, Friedrich. 1860. Altnordisches Lesebuch. Leipzig: T. O. Weigel.
  13. Ragn 1906-8 = Olsen 1906-8, 111-222.
  14. Finnur Jónsson. 1905. ‘Krákumál’. Oversigt over det Kgl. Danske videnskabernes selskabs forhandlinger 1905, 151-83.
  15. Krm 1891 = 2nd edn (pp. 225-8) of Krm as ed. in Valdimar Ásmundarson 1885-9, I.
  16. Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1826. Krakas Maal eller Kvad om Kong Ragnar Lodbroks Krigsbedrifter og Heltedød efter en gammel Skindbog og flere hidtil ubenyttede Haandskrifter med dansk, latinsk og fransk oversættelse, forskjellige Læsemaader, samt kritiske og philologiske Anmærkninger. Copenhagen: Jens Hostrup Schultz; London: John and Arthur Arch.
  17. Langenfelt, Gösta. 1920. Toponymics or Derivations from Local Names in English: Studies in Word-formation and Contributions to English Lexicography. Inaugural Dissertation. Uppsala: Appleberg.
  18. Ekwall, Eilert. 1960. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. 4th edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  19. Johnston, James B. 1934. Place-names of Scotland. London: John Murray.
  20. Leahy, Kevin. 2007. The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Lindsey. Stroud: Tempus.
  21. Nicolaisen, W. F. H. 1976. Scottish Place-Names: Their Study and Significance. London: Batsford.
  22. Suhm, P. F. et al. 1782-1828. Historie af Danmark. 14 vols. Copenhagen: Berling.
  23. Olsen, Magnus. 1939b. ‘Norge’. In Olsen 1939a, 5-52.
  24. Internal references
  25. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  26. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Krákumál 24’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 765.
  27. Rory McTurk 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Krákumál’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 706.
  28. Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1001.
  29. Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 43’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 42-3.
  30. Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson 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. 631.

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