Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Knútdr 11I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 11’ 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. 781.

Óttarr svartiKnútsdrápa

text and translation

Svíum hnekkðir þú, søkkva
siklingr ǫrr, en mikla
ylgr, þars Ô in helga,
ulfs beitu fekk, heitir.
Helt, þars hrafn né svalta,
(hvatráðr est þú) láði,
ógnar stafr, fyr jǫfrum,
ýgr, tveimr (við kyn beima).

Siklingr ǫrr søkkva, þú hnekkðir Svíum, en ylgr fekk {mikla beitu ulfs}, þars heitir Ô in helga. {Ýgr stafr ógnar}, helt láði fyr tveimr jǫfrum, þars hrafn né svalta; þú est hvatráðr við kyn beima.
‘Sovereign generous with treasures, you checked the Swedes, and the she-wolf received much wolf’s food [CORPSES], at the place which is called Helgeå. Fierce staff of battle [WARRIOR], you held the territory against two princes, where the raven did not at all go hungry; you are bold-minded against the race of men.

notes and context

In ÓH and Hkr, the stanza is quoted after Snorri’s lengthy account of the battle of Á in helga (Helgeå), and in ÓHLeg and Fsk the context is the same battle. In SnE, ll. 5-8 are quoted first to exemplify the use of stafr ‘staff, stave’ in man-kennings and then to illustrate láð as a heiti for ‘earth, land’.

The stanza is introduced in ÓH and Hkr (ÍF 27, 280), Óttarr svarti rœðir um fund þenna í þeiri drápu, er hann orti um Knút inn ríkaÓttarr svarti tells of this encounter in the drápa which he composed about Cnut the Great’. In ÓHLeg (1982, 146), it is introduced with Þessar orrostu mintizt Ottar, er hann orte um Knut konong ‘Óttarr commemorated this battle, when he composed about King Knútr’; virtually identical wording occurs in Fsk. There are thus no grounds for doubting that the stanza is from a poem by Óttarr in honour of Knútr (see further Townend 2001, 159-61), yet there must be some uncertainty as to whether it belongs with the rest of the poem. Unlike sts 1-10, this stanza is not preserved in Knýtl, but rather in ÓH and Hkr, ÓHLeg, Fsk (ll. 1-4 only), and SnE (ll. 5-8), and such a wide distribution may indicate a substantially different transmission from sts 1-10. Its subject matter is markedly different too, though the phrase þrøngvir Svía ‘oppressor of the Swedes’ in st. 5/8 suggests that the other stanzas were also composed post-1026, and so the observed difference in subject matter might disappear if we possessed other stanzas from the poem. In addition, it is notable that the syntax of the stanza does not observe the ‘couplet’ form found in many of the preceding stanzas. — [1-4]: In terms of syntax, Skj B gives the first helmingr as hnekkðir … þars … ‘checked … at the place which’, while Kock (NN §620; Skald) prefers fekk … þars ... ‘received … at the place which’. But it may be that one does not have to choose: the two activities (hnekkðir and fekk) are occurring in the same place. — [2]: The best mss of ÓH read f. acc. sg. mikla ‘much, great’, agreeing with beitu ‘food, bait’, and this lectio difficilior is thus presumably the original reading and is retained here. This line, however, clearly prompted a number of scribes or other transmitters of the poem to re-interpretation (see Readings). Some of the variants may have arisen from the instinctive temptation to read the whole line as a single, nom.-case noun phrase *siklingr ǫrr inn mikli ‘the generous great king’, which also produces a division of the first helmingr into two couplets. 



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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