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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Knútdr 9I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 9’ 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. 778.

Óttarr svartiKnútsdrápa

Bjóðr, vannt brynjur rauðar,
blíðr stórgjafa, síðan
— lætr ǫnd, áðr þrek þrjóti
þinn — fyr Norðvík innan.

{Blíðr bjóðr stórgjafa}, vannt síðan brynjur rauðar fyr innan Norðvík; lætr ǫnd, áðr þrek þinn þrjóti.

{Gracious giver of great gifts} [GENEROUS MAN], you afterwards made mail-shirts red inland from Norwich; you will give up your spirit [die] before your strength fails.

Mss: (22), 20dˣ(8v), 873ˣ(10v), 41ˣ(8r-v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [1] Bjóðr: bjóð 20dˣ    [2] blíðr: blíð 20dˣ    [3] ǫnd: corrected from ‘ǫndr’ 20dˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 298, Skj BI, 274, Skald I, 140; Fms 11, 195, Fms 12, 249, SHI 11, 184, Knýtl 1919-25, 44, ÍF 35, 113 (ch. 12).

Context: This helmingr follows a brief account of a battle which Knútr had at Norðvík (Norwich).

Notes: [All]: It is at least a possibility that this stanza comes from an otherwise lost poem in honour of Knútr’s father, Sveinn tjúguskegg (for earlier discussion of this issue see A. Campbell 1971, 13; Poole 1987, 276-80). According to the English sources we possess (primarily the ASC and the Encomium Emmae Reginae), Knútr did not fight a battle at Norwich in the course of his 1016 campaign in England; but his father Sveinn did fight a major battle there in 1004, which is the only conflict at Norwich recorded in English sources for the late Viking Age (ASC (‘E’) s. a. 1004). Moreover, in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267) Óttarr is listed as having composed for Sveinn as well as Knútr. Nonetheless, Poole (1987, 278) has argued that Knýtl’s attribution of this stanza to Óttarr’s Knútdr can still be salvaged. Although Knútr is not remembered in English sources as having fought a battle at Norwich, ASC (s. a. 1016) does record that after fighting in London (and before the battle of Ashingdon) Knútr and his army went by ship into the river Orwell, and then inland into Mercia. This would provide opportunity for some sort of action at or near Norwich, which Óttarr may then have wished to emphasise in order to draw a parallel between Knútr and his illustrious father. For the sequencing of sts 8-10 in this edn, see further Introduction. — [3] þrek ‘strength’: Þrek is grammatically (m. acc.) sg., as is the impersonal verb þrjóti. Þrekr most often means ‘innate, tenacious strength’, but the reference may possibly be to action (cf. LP: þrekr, which gives heltebedrift ‘heroic action’ as one meaning).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  3. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  6. Campbell, Alistair. 1971. Skaldic Verse and Anglo-Saxon History: The Dorothea Coke Memorial Lecture in Northern Studies delivered 17 March 1970 at University College London. London: Lewis.
  7. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  8. Poole, Russell. 1987. ‘Skaldic Verse and Anglo-Saxon History: Some Aspects of the Period 1009-1016’. Speculum 62, 265-98.
  9. ASC [Anglo-Saxon Chronicle] = Plummer, Charles and John Earle, eds. 1892-9. Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1952.
  10. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  11. Knýtl 1919-25 = Petersens, Carl af and Emil Olsen, eds. 1919-25. Sǫgur danakonunga. 1: Sǫgubrot af fornkonungum. 2: Knýtlinga saga. SUGNL 66. Copenhagen: SUGNL.
  12. Internal references
  13. Not published: do not cite (RunVI)
  14. Not published: do not cite ()

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