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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Knútdr 7I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 7’ 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. 775.

Óttarr svartiKnútsdrápa
678

Fjǫrlausa ‘lifeless’

fjǫrlauss (adj.): [lifeless]

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hykk ‘I believe’

2. hyggja (verb): think, consider

[1] hykk: hyr 20dˣ

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Frísi ‘the Frisians’

fríss (noun m.; °; -ir): Frisian

notes

[1] Frísi ‘the Frisians’: Either Frísir is here being used as a somewhat loose, alliteratively driven term for the English, or else this may be a reference to the Frisian population in late Anglo-Saxon London, caught up in the fighting (see Poole 1987, 274).

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frið ‘Peace’

friðr (noun m.): peace < friðskerðir (noun m.): peace-diminisher

kennings

Friðskerðir randa,
‘Peace-breaker of shields, ’
   = WARRIOR

Peace-breaker of shields, → WARRIOR

notes

[2, 4] friðskerðir randa ‘peace-breaker of shields [WARRIOR]’: I. e. ‘destroyer of the well-being of shields’. This is also assumed by previous eds; cf. other kennings referring to a man as a destroyer or damager of shields (Meissner 311). LP: friðskerðir offers the parallel friðskerðir hjǫrva ‘peace-breaker of swords’ in Hfr Lv 12/7, 8V (Hallfr 15; see also Meissner 301), though only one ms. reads frið- there while the majority form is fúr- ‘fire’. (b) A more straightforward kenning friðskerðir ‘peace-breaker’ and a syntactic arrangement into couplets as seen elsewhere in the poem are obtained if randa ‘of shields’ is emended to an instr. dat. sg. rǫndu (cf. ANG §416.2) meaning ‘by/with the shield’ and comparable with sverði ‘by/with the sword’ in st. 9/6. The parallel und skildi ‘under the shield’ in st. 9/1 indicates that Óttarr invokes shields metonymically to indicate aggressive action, not simply defensive. Under either interpretation, the density of allusions to shields in this poem is likely to be a play on Knútr’s dynastic status as a Skjǫldungr: see further Frank (1994b, 111-12).

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skerðir ‘breaker’

skerðir (noun m.): diminisher < friðskerðir (noun m.): peace-diminisher

kennings

Friðskerðir randa,
‘Peace-breaker of shields, ’
   = WARRIOR

Peace-breaker of shields, → WARRIOR

notes

[2, 4] friðskerðir randa ‘peace-breaker of shields [WARRIOR]’: I. e. ‘destroyer of the well-being of shields’. This is also assumed by previous eds; cf. other kennings referring to a man as a destroyer or damager of shields (Meissner 311). LP: friðskerðir offers the parallel friðskerðir hjǫrva ‘peace-breaker of swords’ in Hfr Lv 12/7, 8V (Hallfr 15; see also Meissner 301), though only one ms. reads frið- there while the majority form is fúr- ‘fire’. (b) A more straightforward kenning friðskerðir ‘peace-breaker’ and a syntactic arrangement into couplets as seen elsewhere in the poem are obtained if randa ‘of shields’ is emended to an instr. dat. sg. rǫndu (cf. ANG §416.2) meaning ‘by/with the shield’ and comparable with sverði ‘by/with the sword’ in st. 9/6. The parallel und skildi ‘under the shield’ in st. 9/1 indicates that Óttarr invokes shields metonymically to indicate aggressive action, not simply defensive. Under either interpretation, the density of allusions to shields in this poem is likely to be a play on Knútr’s dynastic status as a Skjǫldungr: see further Frank (1994b, 111-12).

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þik ‘you’

þú (pron.; °gen. þín, dat. þér, acc. þik): you

[2] þik: þeir with þér in margin JÓ, 873ˣ, þeir 20dˣ, 41ˣ

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Brandfurðu ‘Brentford’

Brandfurða (noun f.): [Brentford]

notes

[4] Brandfurðu ‘Brentford’: In Middlesex (OE Bregentford), scene of a major battle in 1016 (see ASC s. a.).

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þar ‘there’

þar (adv.): there

[4] þar: þér with þeir in margin JÓ, 873ˣ, þér 20dˣ, 41ˣ

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randa ‘of shields’

rǫnd (noun f.; °dat. -/-u; rendr/randir): shield, shield-rim

kennings

Friðskerðir randa,
‘Peace-breaker of shields, ’
   = WARRIOR

Peace-breaker of shields, → WARRIOR

notes

[2, 4] friðskerðir randa ‘peace-breaker of shields [WARRIOR]’: I. e. ‘destroyer of the well-being of shields’. This is also assumed by previous eds; cf. other kennings referring to a man as a destroyer or damager of shields (Meissner 311). LP: friðskerðir offers the parallel friðskerðir hjǫrva ‘peace-breaker of swords’ in Hfr Lv 12/7, 8V (Hallfr 15; see also Meissner 301), though only one ms. reads frið- there while the majority form is fúr- ‘fire’. (b) A more straightforward kenning friðskerðir ‘peace-breaker’ and a syntactic arrangement into couplets as seen elsewhere in the poem are obtained if randa ‘of shields’ is emended to an instr. dat. sg. rǫndu (cf. ANG §416.2) meaning ‘by/with the shield’ and comparable with sverði ‘by/with the sword’ in st. 9/6. The parallel und skildi ‘under the shield’ in st. 9/1 indicates that Óttarr invokes shields metonymically to indicate aggressive action, not simply defensive. Under either interpretation, the density of allusions to shields in this poem is likely to be a play on Knútr’s dynastic status as a Skjǫldungr: see further Frank (1994b, 111-12).

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Játmundar ‘of Eadmund’

Játmundr (noun m.): Edmund, Eadmund

kennings

Gǫfugr ættniðr Játmundar
‘The noble descendant of Eadmund ’
   = Edmund Ironside

The noble descendant of Eadmund → Edmund Ironside

notes

[6-7] ættniðr Játmundar ‘the descendant of Eadmund [= Eadmund Ironside]’: The person referred to by the kenning as a whole is (somewhat confusingly) Eadmund Ironside, though English sources do not record Eadmund as suffering wounds in a battle near Brentford (if the two helmingar refer to the same event). But there are two candidates for the Eadmund who is his ancestor, and determinant of the kenning: the king of East Anglia martyred by vikings in 869, and the king of England from 939-46. Both are plausible: Knútr’s devotion to the cult of S. Eadmund (see Lawson 1993, 142-3) might suggest it is the saint who is being invoked, while Óttarr’s allusion to Eadgar in st. 3/6 indicates that he was familiar with the royal house of Wessex. Eadmund Ironside was indeed the descendant of the tenth-century king, but not of the ninth-century martyr; however, kinship need not be literal in honorific locutions such as this. The same kenning occurs in Ótt Hfl 13/6, 8 as niðja Játmundar ‘kinsman of Eadmund’, but there refers to Æthelred.

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hlaut ‘received’

hljóta (verb): alot, gain

[5] hlaut: laut all

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ættniðr ‘descendant’

ættniðr (noun m.): [descendant]

kennings

Gǫfugr ættniðr Játmundar
‘The noble descendant of Eadmund ’
   = Edmund Ironside

The noble descendant of Eadmund → Edmund Ironside

notes

[6-7] ættniðr Játmundar ‘the descendant of Eadmund [= Eadmund Ironside]’: The person referred to by the kenning as a whole is (somewhat confusingly) Eadmund Ironside, though English sources do not record Eadmund as suffering wounds in a battle near Brentford (if the two helmingar refer to the same event). But there are two candidates for the Eadmund who is his ancestor, and determinant of the kenning: the king of East Anglia martyred by vikings in 869, and the king of England from 939-46. Both are plausible: Knútr’s devotion to the cult of S. Eadmund (see Lawson 1993, 142-3) might suggest it is the saint who is being invoked, while Óttarr’s allusion to Eadgar in st. 3/6 indicates that he was familiar with the royal house of Wessex. Eadmund Ironside was indeed the descendant of the tenth-century king, but not of the ninth-century martyr; however, kinship need not be literal in honorific locutions such as this. The same kenning occurs in Ótt Hfl 13/6, 8 as niðja Játmundar ‘kinsman of Eadmund’, but there refers to Æthelred.

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gǫfugr ‘The noble’

gǫfugr (adj.; °gǫfgan/gǫfugan; compar. gǫfgari/gǫfugri, superl. gǫfgastr/gǫfugstr/gǫfugastr): noble, glorious

kennings

Gǫfugr ættniðr Játmundar
‘The noble descendant of Eadmund ’
   = Edmund Ironside

The noble descendant of Eadmund → Edmund Ironside
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hættar ‘dangerous’

hættr (adj.; °compar. -ari/-ri, superl. -astr): dangerous

[6] hættar: hættir all

notes

[6] hættar ‘dangerous’: Emendation seems necessary to make the adj. agree grammatically with undir (f. acc. pl.) ‘wounds’ and is adopted in all eds.

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danskr ‘the Danish’

danskr (adj.): Danish

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skaut ‘pierced’

skjóta (verb): shoot

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dǫrrum ‘spears’

dǫrr (noun m.): spear

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drótt ‘the host’

1. drótt (noun f.): troop

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es ‘when’

2. er (conj.): who, which, when

[8] es: enn 41ˣ

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rakt ‘pursued’

2. reka (verb): drive, force

[8] rakt: ‘rakzt’ 873ˣ

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

The stanza is quoted after a brief account of Knútr’s attack on Brandfurða (Brentford).

[1-4]: Some emendation is necessary here. The ms. reading þeir in l. 2 suggests that scribes interpreted gerðu as a pret. pl., whereas modern eds instead take it as a past inf. All eds emend þeir in l. 2 and þér in l. 4 to þar ‘there’ and þik ‘you’, but differ as to which should be which. Skj B and Skald prefer to emend þeir to þar and þér to þik, while Knýtl 1919-25 and ÍF 35 emend þeir to þik and þér to þar. The latter seems preferable on account of a more compact syntax, and is adopted here, though þar may seem a little redundant alongside Brandfurðu.

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