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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ólhelg Lv 2I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Óláfr inn helgi Haraldsson, Lausavísur 2’ 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. 518.

Óláfr inn helgi HaraldssonLausavísur

text and translation

Bǫls, þats lind í landi
landrifs fyr ver handan
golli merkð við galla
grjótǫlnis skal fǫlna.
Þann myndak við vilja
valklifs, meðan lifðak,
— alin erumk bjǫrk at bǫlvi
bands — algrœnan standa.

Bǫls, þats {lind {landrifs}}, merkð golli, skal fǫlna í landi fyr handan ver við {galla {grjótǫlnis}}. Myndak vilja {þann við {valklifs}} standa algrœnan, meðan lifðak; {bjǫrk bands} erumk alin at bǫlvi.
‘It is a misery that the linden-tree of the land-rib [STONE (steinn ‘jewel’) > WOMAN = Steinvǫr], distinguished with gold, must grow pale in a land across the sea with the affliction of the stone-mackerel [SNAKE > WINTER]. I would wish that tree of the falcon-cliff [ARM > WOMAN] to stand fully green as long as I lived; the birch of the headband [WOMAN] is born to bring me misery.

notes and context

In Flat, Óláfr meets some Norwegian merchants in England. He enquires after a woman called Steinvǫr who was said to have been his girlfriend. The merchants report that she is now married to Þorvarðr galli ‘Flaw’, a farmer living north of Staðr (Stad) in Norway. King Óláfr speaks the stanza, and he and the merchants part company. The account in Bb agrees, except that the newly married couple are named Steinunn and Þorvaldr (galli). In LaufE, ll. 5-8 are cited to illustrate the use of masculine-gender tree-names in kennings for ‘woman’. 

The kenning elements in the stanza are capable of more than one analysis, and l. 3 galli is a particular difficulty (see Notes below to ll. 1, 2; 3, 4; 5, 6). A related question is whether the Steinvǫr and Þorvarðr galli of the prose contexts to Lv 2 and 4 are historical and referred to in the stanza or whether they are later, fictitious figures extrapolated from the stanza. A girl named Steinvǫr is also mentioned (in the ofljóst form Grjótvǫr) and located north of Staðr (Stad) in Anon Liðs 9, a stanza associated with Óláfr in ÓHLeg and Flat; but she does not figure elsewhere in Óláfr narratives and may be a mere stereotypical ‘girl back home’. The name in Stein- may be prompted at least in part by the association of women with stones in the Óláfr stanzas (see Notes to ll. 1, 2 and 3, 4). Similarly, Þorvarðr/Þorvaldr galli is not recorded elsewhere and his existence may be inferred from galli ‘affliction’ in the stanza (see Note to ll. 3, 4 below). — [5]: The line closely resembles Bbreið Lv 1/1V (Eb 24).



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.

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