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skaldic

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Knútdr 8I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 8’ 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. 777.

Óttarr svartiKnútsdrápa
789

gekkt ‘you went’

2. ganga (verb; geng, gekk, gengu, genginn): walk, go

[1] gekkt: gekk all

notes

[1] gekkt ‘you went’: The mss again present 3rd pers. narration, but here there is no noun to function as the subject of a 3rd pers. gekk, and (more importantly) there is a switch from 3rd to 2nd pers. within the same line. The 2nd pers. unnuð ‘you fought’ must be original, rather than a 3rd pers. vann, as it supplies both alliteration and the correct number of syllables for the line. Emendation to gekkt results in a fluctuation between 2nd pers. sg. and pl. verbs (gekktunnuð), but this is paralleled in this poem, and in Ótt Hfl. Skj B, Skald and Knýtl 1919-25 all emend to 2nd pers. gek(k)t; ÍF 35 alone retains 3rd pers. gekk.

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þars ‘where’

þars (conj.): where

[1] þars (‘þar er’): ‘þar e’ 41ˣ

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við ‘against’

2. við (prep.): with, against

notes

[2] við malma ‘against metal weapons’: This could either be construed with unnuð ‘you fought’ (so Skj B, Skald, and here) or with gall ‘cried’ (so Knýtl 1919-25). ÍF 35 takes a wholly different view, interpreting við malma as ‘tree of metal weapons [WARRIOR]’, and as the direct object of unnuð, hence ‘you fought the warrior’.

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malma ‘metal weapons’

malmr (noun m.; °-s, dat. -i; -ar): metal

notes

[2] við malma ‘against metal weapons’: This could either be construed with unnuð ‘you fought’ (so Skj B, Skald, and here) or with gall ‘cried’ (so Knýtl 1919-25). ÍF 35 takes a wholly different view, interpreting við malma as ‘tree of metal weapons [WARRIOR]’, and as the direct object of unnuð, hence ‘you fought the warrior’.

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knôttut ‘did not’

knega (verb): to know, understand, be able to

notes

[3, 4] sverð knôttut verða slæ ‘swords did not become blunt’: These words have been variously interpreted. (a) The reading of ÍF 35, ‘swords did not become blunt’ seems best and is adopted here since it avoids any form of emendation. That swords were not blunted could be a comment on the excellence of the swords – presumably Danish ones. (b) Skj B and Skald both emend verða to verja. See Note to [All] above for the construal in Skj B, while that in Skald gives ‘blunt swords could not defend the stronghold where you attacked’. This compromises the aðalhending (NN §2781), and may have been designed to avoid a tripartite l. 4, though this is acceptable: see Gade (1995a, 215-16). (c) Knýtl 1919-25 removes the suffixed negative -t from knôttu, to produce lit. ‘swords did become blunt’. If this refers to Danish swords, it could mean that they were blunted through vigorous use.

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slæ ‘blunt’

slær (adj.): [weak, blunt]

[3] slæ: sæ 20dˣ

notes

[3, 4] sverð knôttut verða slæ ‘swords did not become blunt’: These words have been variously interpreted. (a) The reading of ÍF 35, ‘swords did not become blunt’ seems best and is adopted here since it avoids any form of emendation. That swords were not blunted could be a comment on the excellence of the swords – presumably Danish ones. (b) Skj B and Skald both emend verða to verja. See Note to [All] above for the construal in Skj B, while that in Skald gives ‘blunt swords could not defend the stronghold where you attacked’. This compromises the aðalhending (NN §2781), and may have been designed to avoid a tripartite l. 4, though this is acceptable: see Gade (1995a, 215-16). (c) Knýtl 1919-25 removes the suffixed negative -t from knôttu, to produce lit. ‘swords did become blunt’. If this refers to Danish swords, it could mean that they were blunted through vigorous use.

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þars ‘where’

þars (conj.): where

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sóttuð ‘you attacked’

sœkja (verb): seek, attack

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sverð ‘swords’

sverð (noun n.; °-s; -): sword

notes

[3, 4] sverð knôttut verða slæ ‘swords did not become blunt’: These words have been variously interpreted. (a) The reading of ÍF 35, ‘swords did not become blunt’ seems best and is adopted here since it avoids any form of emendation. That swords were not blunted could be a comment on the excellence of the swords – presumably Danish ones. (b) Skj B and Skald both emend verða to verja. See Note to [All] above for the construal in Skj B, while that in Skald gives ‘blunt swords could not defend the stronghold where you attacked’. This compromises the aðalhending (NN §2781), and may have been designed to avoid a tripartite l. 4, though this is acceptable: see Gade (1995a, 215-16). (c) Knýtl 1919-25 removes the suffixed negative -t from knôttu, to produce lit. ‘swords did become blunt’. If this refers to Danish swords, it could mean that they were blunted through vigorous use.

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kastala ‘the fortification’

kastali (noun m.; °-a; -ar): castle

notes

[4] kastala ‘the fortification’: This is the earliest extant occurrence of this word in skaldic verse, by over a hundred years. Since kastali is a weak m. noun in ON, kastala here could be either sg. or pl. (acc. direct object of sóttuð ‘attacked’). The origins and meaning of the word are unclear. The traditional view is that Lat. castellum was twice borrowed into OE, firstly (directly) as castel n. ‘village, settlement’ in the late C10th, and secondly (via French castel) as castel m. ‘stronghold, castle’ in the mid C11th (see OED; see also Parsons and Styles 2000, 145-8). However, it is clear that in C11th Anglo-Lat., castellum (pl. castella) could refer to fortifications or fortified towns (see Norton 2004, 208 n. 2). It is thus likely that Óttarr’s kastala refers to the old Roman city walls of London (within which urban development occurred in the late Anglo-Saxon period: see Vince 1990). Since the word is more likely to have entered Óttarr’s lexicon via OE than Lat., this suggests that OE castel (presumably n.) possessed an unrecorded sense of ‘fortification, fortified settlement’. Later occurrences of the word in ON are probably re-borrowings, with the French-derived sense of ‘stronghold, castle’.

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verða ‘become’

1. verða (verb): become, be

notes

[3, 4] sverð knôttut verða slæ ‘swords did not become blunt’: These words have been variously interpreted. (a) The reading of ÍF 35, ‘swords did not become blunt’ seems best and is adopted here since it avoids any form of emendation. That swords were not blunted could be a comment on the excellence of the swords – presumably Danish ones. (b) Skj B and Skald both emend verða to verja. See Note to [All] above for the construal in Skj B, while that in Skald gives ‘blunt swords could not defend the stronghold where you attacked’. This compromises the aðalhending (NN §2781), and may have been designed to avoid a tripartite l. 4, though this is acceptable: see Gade (1995a, 215-16). (c) Knýtl 1919-25 removes the suffixed negative -t from knôttu, to produce lit. ‘swords did become blunt’. If this refers to Danish swords, it could mean that they were blunted through vigorous use.

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ulfs ‘the wolf’s’

1. ulfr (noun m.; °-s, dat. -i; -ar): wolf

[6] ulfs: ulf 20dˣ

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gómr ‘gums’

gómr (noun m.): gum, gums

notes

[6] gómr ‘gums’: Lit. ‘gum’ (m. nom. sg.), the roof or floor of the mouth, here referring to the wolf’s mouth as a whole.

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rómu ‘a battle’

róma (noun f.): battle

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hnekkir ‘Restrainer’

hnekkir (noun m.): subduer

[7] hnekkir: ‘heckir’ 20dˣ

kennings

Hnekkir hleypiblakka hlunns,
‘Restrainer of the leaping steeds of the roller, ’
   = SEAFARER

the leaping steeds of the roller, → SHIPS
Restrainer of SHIPS → SEAFARER
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hleypi ‘of the leaping’

hleypa (verb): impell, make run < hleypiblakkr (noun m.)

kennings

Hnekkir hleypiblakka hlunns,
‘Restrainer of the leaping steeds of the roller, ’
   = SEAFARER

the leaping steeds of the roller, → SHIPS
Restrainer of SHIPS → SEAFARER
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hleypi ‘of the leaping’

hleypa (verb): impell, make run < hleypiblakkr (noun m.)

kennings

Hnekkir hleypiblakka hlunns,
‘Restrainer of the leaping steeds of the roller, ’
   = SEAFARER

the leaping steeds of the roller, → SHIPS
Restrainer of SHIPS → SEAFARER
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blakka ‘steeds’

1. blakkr (noun m.): horse < hleypiblakkr (noun m.)

[7] ‑blakka: bakka 41ˣ

kennings

Hnekkir hleypiblakka hlunns,
‘Restrainer of the leaping steeds of the roller, ’
   = SEAFARER

the leaping steeds of the roller, → SHIPS
Restrainer of SHIPS → SEAFARER
Close

blakka ‘steeds’

1. blakkr (noun m.): horse < hleypiblakkr (noun m.)

[7] ‑blakka: bakka 41ˣ

kennings

Hnekkir hleypiblakka hlunns,
‘Restrainer of the leaping steeds of the roller, ’
   = SEAFARER

the leaping steeds of the roller, → SHIPS
Restrainer of SHIPS → SEAFARER
Close

hlunns ‘of the roller’

hlunnr (noun m.; °-s, dat. -i; -ar): roller

kennings

Hnekkir hleypiblakka hlunns,
‘Restrainer of the leaping steeds of the roller, ’
   = SEAFARER

the leaping steeds of the roller, → SHIPS
Restrainer of SHIPS → SEAFARER
Close

hlunns ‘of the roller’

hlunnr (noun m.; °-s, dat. -i; -ar): roller

kennings

Hnekkir hleypiblakka hlunns,
‘Restrainer of the leaping steeds of the roller, ’
   = SEAFARER

the leaping steeds of the roller, → SHIPS
Restrainer of SHIPS → SEAFARER
Close

Tempsar ‘of the Thames’

Temps (noun f.): [Thames]

notes

[8] Tempsar ‘of the Thames’: Most eds (Skj B; Knýtl 1919-25; ÍF 35) take final -ar as the gen. sg. inflexion of a f. river-name Temps. JÓ and 20dˣ have the spelling -ár, which may indicate a cpd form of the name, with the second element the gen. sg. of the noun á ‘river’, and Kock (NN §1992; Skald) takes it as such. However, the form at this date would be uncontracted Tempsáar, which produces a superfluous syllable. The p. n. also occurs in Anon Liðs 5/8, and for further discussion of the form, including the intrusive <p>, see Townend (1998, 81-4).

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

This stanza is quoted in the course of Knýtl’s account of Knútr’s attack on London.

For the sequencing of sts 8-10 in this edn, see the Introduction. — [1-4]: Assuming the first helmingr to refer to the same events as the second, these lines record Knútr’s attack on London in mid 1016. London did not fall to Knútr in the siege described here (see ASC s. a. 1016); the helmingr therefore praises Knútr as warmly as possible without committing an actual untruth. The syntax again poses problems. (a) The four lines are divided here into two self-contained couplets (so also NN §739). (b) Skj B prefers a complex structure, with the main sentence, in prose order Gek(k)t enn framm, þars unnuð sverð slæ við malma ‘Still you went forward, where you made the swords blunt against metal weapons’, extending through the whole helmingr and punctuated by two intercalary sentences, one containing a subordinate clause.

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