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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ólhelg Lv 4I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Óláfr inn helgi Haraldsson, Lausavísur 4’ 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. 521.

Óláfr inn helgi HaraldssonLausavísur
345

Vandfœrra ‘harder’

vandfœrr (adj.): [harder]

Close

várrar ‘our [my]’

várr (pron.; °f. ór/vár; pl. órir/várir): our

kennings

várrar eyjar varrbliks,
‘our [my] island of the wake-glitter ’
   = WOMAN

the wake-glitter → GOLD
our [my] island of the GOLD → WOMAN
Close

varr ‘of the wake’

1. vǫrr (noun m.; °dat. verri; acc. vǫrru): oar-stroke < varrblik (noun n.)

[2] varr‑: ‘var‑’ Flat

kennings

várrar eyjar varrbliks,
‘our [my] island of the wake-glitter ’
   = WOMAN

the wake-glitter → GOLD
our [my] island of the GOLD → WOMAN

notes

[2, 3] eyjar varrbliks ‘island of the wake-glitter [GOLD > WOMAN]’: (a) Adopted here, following Kock (NN §597), is the minor emendation or normalisation of ms. ‘var’ to varr-, the combination form of vǫrr ‘wake of a ship, oar-stroke’, which is quite common in kennings (see LP: 2. vǫrr). (b) Finnur Jónsson appears to take the word as vǫr ‘landing-place, land’, forming a sea-kenning with aurborðs ‘ship’s plank’ (LP: 1. aurborð, ey, varblik), though this stanza is not cited in LP: 2. vǫr f. ‘landing-place’; see further Note to l. 4. 

Close

varr ‘of the wake’

1. vǫrr (noun m.; °dat. verri; acc. vǫrru): oar-stroke < varrblik (noun n.)

[2] varr‑: ‘var‑’ Flat

kennings

várrar eyjar varrbliks,
‘our [my] island of the wake-glitter ’
   = WOMAN

the wake-glitter → GOLD
our [my] island of the GOLD → WOMAN

notes

[2, 3] eyjar varrbliks ‘island of the wake-glitter [GOLD > WOMAN]’: (a) Adopted here, following Kock (NN §597), is the minor emendation or normalisation of ms. ‘var’ to varr-, the combination form of vǫrr ‘wake of a ship, oar-stroke’, which is quite common in kennings (see LP: 2. vǫrr). (b) Finnur Jónsson appears to take the word as vǫr ‘landing-place, land’, forming a sea-kenning with aurborðs ‘ship’s plank’ (LP: 1. aurborð, ey, varblik), though this stanza is not cited in LP: 2. vǫr f. ‘landing-place’; see further Note to l. 4. 

Close

bliks ‘glitter’

blik (noun n.): gleam < varrblik (noun n.)blik (noun n.): gleam < varblik (noun n.)

kennings

várrar eyjar varrbliks,
‘our [my] island of the wake-glitter ’
   = WOMAN

the wake-glitter → GOLD
our [my] island of the GOLD → WOMAN

notes

[2, 3] eyjar varrbliks ‘island of the wake-glitter [GOLD > WOMAN]’: (a) Adopted here, following Kock (NN §597), is the minor emendation or normalisation of ms. ‘var’ to varr-, the combination form of vǫrr ‘wake of a ship, oar-stroke’, which is quite common in kennings (see LP: 2. vǫrr). (b) Finnur Jónsson appears to take the word as vǫr ‘landing-place, land’, forming a sea-kenning with aurborðs ‘ship’s plank’ (LP: 1. aurborð, ey, varblik), though this stanza is not cited in LP: 2. vǫr f. ‘landing-place’; see further Note to l. 4. 

Close

bliks ‘glitter’

blik (noun n.): gleam < varrblik (noun n.)blik (noun n.): gleam < varblik (noun n.)

kennings

várrar eyjar varrbliks,
‘our [my] island of the wake-glitter ’
   = WOMAN

the wake-glitter → GOLD
our [my] island of the GOLD → WOMAN

notes

[2, 3] eyjar varrbliks ‘island of the wake-glitter [GOLD > WOMAN]’: (a) Adopted here, following Kock (NN §597), is the minor emendation or normalisation of ms. ‘var’ to varr-, the combination form of vǫrr ‘wake of a ship, oar-stroke’, which is quite common in kennings (see LP: 2. vǫrr). (b) Finnur Jónsson appears to take the word as vǫr ‘landing-place, land’, forming a sea-kenning with aurborðs ‘ship’s plank’ (LP: 1. aurborð, ey, varblik), though this stanza is not cited in LP: 2. vǫr f. ‘landing-place’; see further Note to l. 4. 

Close

Stað ‘Stad’

3. Staðr (noun m.): [Stad]

notes

[2] Stað ‘Stad’: Presumably Stad, or Stadlandet, a headland in Sogn og Fjordane, Norway, close to a notoriously dangerous passage for ships. The localisation of the girl in this story (Steinvǫr) is not entirely consistent. Anon Liðs 9/8, also preserved in the Styrmir extracts (Flat 1860-8, III, 238), places her to the north of Staðr when she is residing with her father or guardian, whereas Styrmir’s prose narrative has her moving to reside there after her marriage (ibid., 237). Taken in itself, the present stanza dwells on the separation of lovers without specifying the exact geography.

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þreyk ‘I yearn’

þreyja (verb): yearn

notes

[3] þreyk of aldr ‘I yearn through my lifetime’: Utterances similar to this are encountered frequently in skaldic mansǫngr (love-song; cf. the citations by Bjarni Einarsson 1961, 23-37).

Close

of ‘through’

3. of (prep.): around, from; too

notes

[3] þreyk of aldr ‘I yearn through my lifetime’: Utterances similar to this are encountered frequently in skaldic mansǫngr (love-song; cf. the citations by Bjarni Einarsson 1961, 23-37).

Close

aldr ‘my lifetime’

aldr (noun m.; °aldrs, dat. aldri; aldrar): life, age

notes

[3] þreyk of aldr ‘I yearn through my lifetime’: Utterances similar to this are encountered frequently in skaldic mansǫngr (love-song; cf. the citations by Bjarni Einarsson 1961, 23-37).

Close

eyjar ‘island’

1. ey (noun f.; °-jar, dat. -ju/-; -jar): island

kennings

várrar eyjar varrbliks,
‘our [my] island of the wake-glitter ’
   = WOMAN

the wake-glitter → GOLD
our [my] island of the GOLD → WOMAN

notes

[2, 3] eyjar varrbliks ‘island of the wake-glitter [GOLD > WOMAN]’: (a) Adopted here, following Kock (NN §597), is the minor emendation or normalisation of ms. ‘var’ to varr-, the combination form of vǫrr ‘wake of a ship, oar-stroke’, which is quite common in kennings (see LP: 2. vǫrr). (b) Finnur Jónsson appears to take the word as vǫr ‘landing-place, land’, forming a sea-kenning with aurborðs ‘ship’s plank’ (LP: 1. aurborð, ey, varblik), though this stanza is not cited in LP: 2. vǫr f. ‘landing-place’; see further Note to l. 4. 

Close

aur ‘’

aurr (noun m.): sand or gravel bank, ford < aurborð (noun n.): ship-board

notes

[4] aurborðs ‘for the plank [ship]’: Lit. ‘gravel-plank’, apparently the strake of a ship’s hull that ‘rests on the ground when a ship is beached’ (Jesch 2001a, 141, cf. LP: aurborð), hence ‘ship’ by pars pro toto. (a) This is taken here as an adverbial gen. dependent on the comp. adj. vandfœrra ‘harder to pass’ (cf. NS §136-8). It could alternatively be an adverbial gen. of place, ‘on the ship’. (b) Finnur Jónsson takes aurborðs together with eyjar varbliks to obtain ‘island (eyjar) of the glitter (-bliks) of the landing-place (var-) of the ship (aurborðs) [SEA > GOLD > WOMAN]’ (Skj B; LP: 1. aurborð, ey, varblik). This is also possible. Kock’s construal (NN §597) is similar, though since he understands var- as ‘oar-stroke, wake’, aurborðs ‘(ship’s) plank’ is superfluous in the kenning.

Close

borðs ‘for the plank [ship]’

borð (noun n.; °-s; -): side, plank, board; table < aurborð (noun n.): ship-board

notes

[4] aurborðs ‘for the plank [ship]’: Lit. ‘gravel-plank’, apparently the strake of a ship’s hull that ‘rests on the ground when a ship is beached’ (Jesch 2001a, 141, cf. LP: aurborð), hence ‘ship’ by pars pro toto. (a) This is taken here as an adverbial gen. dependent on the comp. adj. vandfœrra ‘harder to pass’ (cf. NS §136-8). It could alternatively be an adverbial gen. of place, ‘on the ship’. (b) Finnur Jónsson takes aurborðs together with eyjar varbliks to obtain ‘island (eyjar) of the glitter (-bliks) of the landing-place (var-) of the ship (aurborðs) [SEA > GOLD > WOMAN]’ (Skj B; LP: 1. aurborð, ey, varblik). This is also possible. Kock’s construal (NN §597) is similar, though since he understands var- as ‘oar-stroke, wake’, aurborðs ‘(ship’s) plank’ is superfluous in the kenning.

Close

Nús ‘Now’

nú (adv.): now

Close

þás ‘when’

þás (conj.): when

Close

hlyn* ‘the maple’

hlynr (noun m.; °-s): maple

[6] hlyn*: hlunn Flat

kennings

hlyn* sævar,
‘the maple of the sea, ’
   = SHIP

the maple of the sea, → SHIP

notes

[6] hlyn* sævar ‘the maple of the sea [SHIP]’: Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s emendation of ms. hlunn (LP (1860): hlunr), to yield a kenning for ‘ship’, has been adopted by all subsequent eds.

Close

sævar ‘of the sea’

sjór (noun m.): sea

kennings

hlyn* sævar,
‘the maple of the sea, ’
   = SHIP

the maple of the sea, → SHIP

notes

[6] hlyn* sævar ‘the maple of the sea [SHIP]’: Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s emendation of ms. hlunn (LP (1860): hlunr), to yield a kenning for ‘ship’, has been adopted by all subsequent eds.

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Gunnr ‘Gunnr’

gunnr (noun f.): battle

[7] Gunnr: gunn‑ Flat

kennings

Gunnr hvítinga.
‘Gunnr of drinking-horns. ’
   = WOMAN

Gunnr of drinking-horns. → WOMAN

notes

[7] Gunnr hvítinga ‘Gunnr <valkyrie> of drinking-horns [WOMAN]’: Interpretation has been hampered by the wide variety of possible meanings for the heiti hvítingr. (a) Sveinbjörn Egilsson retains the Flat reading ‘gunn huítínga’ (where the line break falls after ‘gunn’), taking Gunn hvítinga as ‘valkyrie of swords’. He explains the r-less nom. Gunn as an apocopated form (LP (1860): gunnhvítínga); see also LP (1860): hvítíngr 3, 7. (b) In this edn, gunn is emended to gunnr (i.e. the proper name Gunnr) and construed as vocative in a standard poetic address to a woman, here no doubt the inaccessible beloved. In view of the use of a valkyrie-heiti for a woman, rather than the more usual heiti for an ordinary female deity, one might be tempted by Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s interpretation of hvítinga as ‘swords’. But valkyrie-names do occur in kennings for ordinary women (Meissner 406) and the most straightforward interpretation of hvítinga in context is as ‘drinking-horns’ (cf. LP: hvítingr 2). This would evoke the traditional reception of the returning warrior by a woman bearing a horn, perhaps ironically here, since the lover is in fact being prevented from making his return and receiving a welcome. (c) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B emends to gný-hvítinga ‘clamour-fish’, which he combines with geirþorps boði (emended from boða) to obtain geirþorps hvítinga gný-boði ‘messenger of the fish of the clamour of the spear-settlement [(lit. ‘clamour-messenger of the fish of the spear-settlement’) SHIELD > SWORDS > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’, construed as a vocative (see LP: 2. boði, geirþorp, gnýhvítingr). (d) Kock (NN §1110; cf. Bjarni Einarsson 1961, 25) interprets gunnhvítinga as gen. pl. ‘of swords’, apparently governing grjóti ‘rock’, but does not explain the meaning of this phrase.

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hvítinga ‘of drinking-horns’

hvítingr (noun m.; °; -ar): drinking horn < gunnhvítingr (noun m.): battle-drinking-horn

kennings

Gunnr hvítinga.
‘Gunnr of drinking-horns. ’
   = WOMAN

Gunnr of drinking-horns. → WOMAN

notes

[7] Gunnr hvítinga ‘Gunnr <valkyrie> of drinking-horns [WOMAN]’: Interpretation has been hampered by the wide variety of possible meanings for the heiti hvítingr. (a) Sveinbjörn Egilsson retains the Flat reading ‘gunn huítínga’ (where the line break falls after ‘gunn’), taking Gunn hvítinga as ‘valkyrie of swords’. He explains the r-less nom. Gunn as an apocopated form (LP (1860): gunnhvítínga); see also LP (1860): hvítíngr 3, 7. (b) In this edn, gunn is emended to gunnr (i.e. the proper name Gunnr) and construed as vocative in a standard poetic address to a woman, here no doubt the inaccessible beloved. In view of the use of a valkyrie-heiti for a woman, rather than the more usual heiti for an ordinary female deity, one might be tempted by Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s interpretation of hvítinga as ‘swords’. But valkyrie-names do occur in kennings for ordinary women (Meissner 406) and the most straightforward interpretation of hvítinga in context is as ‘drinking-horns’ (cf. LP: hvítingr 2). This would evoke the traditional reception of the returning warrior by a woman bearing a horn, perhaps ironically here, since the lover is in fact being prevented from making his return and receiving a welcome. (c) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B emends to gný-hvítinga ‘clamour-fish’, which he combines with geirþorps boði (emended from boða) to obtain geirþorps hvítinga gný-boði ‘messenger of the fish of the clamour of the spear-settlement [(lit. ‘clamour-messenger of the fish of the spear-settlement’) SHIELD > SWORDS > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’, construed as a vocative (see LP: 2. boði, geirþorp, gnýhvítingr). (d) Kock (NN §1110; cf. Bjarni Einarsson 1961, 25) interprets gunnhvítinga as gen. pl. ‘of swords’, apparently governing grjóti ‘rock’, but does not explain the meaning of this phrase.

Close

grjóti ‘rock’

grjót (noun n.): rock, stone

notes

[7] grjóti ‘rock’: This mention of stones that have blocked off the harbour may indirectly allude to Steinvǫr’s name (‘stone landing-place’ (?), and see Note to Lv 2 [All]), or alternatively her name may have been inferred from this and related motifs. The idea of blocked access may also have sexual connotations.

Close

geir ‘of the spear’

geirr (noun m.): spear < geirþorp (noun n.): [spear-settlement]

kennings

boða geirþorps,
‘against the messenger of the spear-settlement, ’
   = WARRIOR = Óláfr

the spear-settlement, → SHIELD
against the messenger of the SHIELD → WARRIOR = Óláfr

notes

[8] boða geirþorps ‘the messenger of the spear-settlement [SHIELD > WARRIOR]’: Cf. NN §1110, and see Note to l. 7 Gunnr hvítinga for Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation. The selection of boði as base-word of the warrior-kenning, rather than the usual ôrr ‘envoy, messenger’ (Meissner 272-3), together with the overall setting and context of the stanza, may suggest paronomasia on boði ‘breaker, wave breaking at shore-line’.

Close

geir ‘of the spear’

geirr (noun m.): spear < geirþorp (noun n.): [spear-settlement]

kennings

boða geirþorps,
‘against the messenger of the spear-settlement, ’
   = WARRIOR = Óláfr

the spear-settlement, → SHIELD
against the messenger of the SHIELD → WARRIOR = Óláfr

notes

[8] boða geirþorps ‘the messenger of the spear-settlement [SHIELD > WARRIOR]’: Cf. NN §1110, and see Note to l. 7 Gunnr hvítinga for Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation. The selection of boði as base-word of the warrior-kenning, rather than the usual ôrr ‘envoy, messenger’ (Meissner 272-3), together with the overall setting and context of the stanza, may suggest paronomasia on boði ‘breaker, wave breaking at shore-line’.

Close

þorps ‘settlement’

þorp (noun n.; °-s; -): village < geirþorp (noun n.): [spear-settlement]

kennings

boða geirþorps,
‘against the messenger of the spear-settlement, ’
   = WARRIOR = Óláfr

the spear-settlement, → SHIELD
against the messenger of the SHIELD → WARRIOR = Óláfr

notes

[8] boða geirþorps ‘the messenger of the spear-settlement [SHIELD > WARRIOR]’: Cf. NN §1110, and see Note to l. 7 Gunnr hvítinga for Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation. The selection of boði as base-word of the warrior-kenning, rather than the usual ôrr ‘envoy, messenger’ (Meissner 272-3), together with the overall setting and context of the stanza, may suggest paronomasia on boði ‘breaker, wave breaking at shore-line’.

Close

þorps ‘settlement’

þorp (noun n.; °-s; -): village < geirþorp (noun n.): [spear-settlement]

kennings

boða geirþorps,
‘against the messenger of the spear-settlement, ’
   = WARRIOR = Óláfr

the spear-settlement, → SHIELD
against the messenger of the SHIELD → WARRIOR = Óláfr

notes

[8] boða geirþorps ‘the messenger of the spear-settlement [SHIELD > WARRIOR]’: Cf. NN §1110, and see Note to l. 7 Gunnr hvítinga for Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation. The selection of boði as base-word of the warrior-kenning, rather than the usual ôrr ‘envoy, messenger’ (Meissner 272-3), together with the overall setting and context of the stanza, may suggest paronomasia on boði ‘breaker, wave breaking at shore-line’.

Close

boða ‘against the messenger’

boði (noun m.; °-a; -ar): messenger, breaker

kennings

boða geirþorps,
‘against the messenger of the spear-settlement, ’
   = WARRIOR = Óláfr

the spear-settlement, → SHIELD
against the messenger of the SHIELD → WARRIOR = Óláfr

notes

[8] boða geirþorps ‘the messenger of the spear-settlement [SHIELD > WARRIOR]’: Cf. NN §1110, and see Note to l. 7 Gunnr hvítinga for Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation. The selection of boði as base-word of the warrior-kenning, rather than the usual ôrr ‘envoy, messenger’ (Meissner 272-3), together with the overall setting and context of the stanza, may suggest paronomasia on boði ‘breaker, wave breaking at shore-line’.

Close

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

This stanza occurs as a sequel to Óláfr’s meeting with the merchants (see Context to Lv 2). During a voyage along the Norwegian coast north of Staðr (Stad), Óláfr passes the estate of Þorvarðr galli. His men ask if he wishes to land and meet Steinvǫr, his former beloved. The king replies with this stanza.

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