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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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RvHbreiðm Hl 28III

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill 28’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1036.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr ÞórarinssonHáttalykill

Frægr stillir
fekk þengill sér gengi drengi;
… †nner† gunni kunni
grið lestusk þá …
Auðveitir drap ýta nýta;
almr sparn … malma hjalma;
at stǫddusk þá oddar broddar;
ítrar sprungu rítar hvítar.

Frægr stillir … þengill fekk sér gengi, drengi; … †nner† kunni gunni; þá lestusk grið … Auðveitir drap nýta ýta; almr sparn malma … hjalma; þá stǫddusk oddar, broddar at; ítrar hvítar rítar sprungu.

The famous ruler … the lord got himself support, men; … … knew battle; then truces were broken … The wealth-giver killed capable people; the elm-bow kicked arrows … of helmets; then spear-points, arrow-heads were placed against each other; precious white shields burst.

Mss: papp25ˣ(43r), R683ˣ(128r)

Readings: [1] stillir: ‘stil …’ papp25ˣ, R683ˣ    [4] lestusk: létusk R683ˣ    [7] at stǫddusk: á stǫddusk R683ˣ    [8] ítrar: ‘…’ papp25ˣ, R683ˣ;    rítar hvítar: rítir hvítir R683ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 517, Skj BI, 493-4, Skald I, 242, NN §2072; Hl 1941, 35, 63-4.

Context: As st. 27 above.

Notes: [1, 2]: Jón Helgason (Hl 1941) offers the following reading of l. 1: frægr stillir lét falla snjalla ‘the famous ruler let brave fall’ (with drengi (m. acc. pl.) ‘men’ from l. 2 as the object of falla ‘fall’). — [1] stillir ‘ruler’: So Skj B, Skald and Hl 1941. The word is incomplete, but can be restored with relative certainty. — [2] drengi (m. acc. pl. or dat. sg.) ‘men’: This noun can either be be taken as the object of fekk ‘got’, ‘the lord got himself support, men’, or be the object of a missing verb contained in l. 1 (so Hl 1941). — [3-4]: The lines cannot be reconstructed. (a) Following Jón Sigurðsson, Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) supplies the reading [grendi hi]nn er gunni kunni | grið létusk þá [viðnis niðja], i.e. hinn, er kunni gunni, grendi niðja viðnis; grið létusk þá ‘that one, who knew battle, fed the wolf’s relatives, truces were broken then’. (b) As Kock (NN §2072) points out, viðnis niðja ‘the wolf’s relatives’ violates the rule that the last two words in a couplet should have identical endings, and he tentatively suggests Iðja niðja ‘Iði’s (giant’s) relatives’ without making further speculations about the interpretation of the lines. (c) Jón Helgason (Hl 1941) reconstructs the lines as follows: [galdra ke]nnir kunni gunni | grið lestusk þá [Iðja niðja], i.e. kennir galdra niðja Iðja kunni gunni; grið lestusk þá ‘the tester of the incantation of Iði’s <giant’s> relatives [GIANTS > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] knew battle; truces were broken then’. — [6] almr sparn malma … hjalma ‘the elm-bow kicked arrows … of helmets’: This line is difficult to reconstruct. (a) The phrase almr sparn ‘the elm-bow kicked’ also occurs in sts 40/7 and 64/7 and in both instances sparn ‘kicked’ (inf. sperna) is construed with a prepositional phrase (st. 40/7 til unda ‘towards wounds’; st. 64/7 til hjalma ‘towards helmets’) and an instr. dat., but the verb occurs with an acc. object rather than with an instr. dat. in Bjbp Jóms 27/3I almr sparn af sér odda lit. ‘the elm-bow kicked away from itself arrow points’. Hl also abounds with rhymes on alm- : malm- : hjalm- (see sts 9-10/20, 24/6, 40/2, 41/2, 54/4, 58/2, 76/8, 77/8; see also Anon Krm 8/10VIII, 9/6VIII), and quite often malmr refers to a sword or an arrow causing damage to a helmet (hjalmr; see, e.g. sts 24/6, 40/2, 76/8). In the present line, however, both malma and hjalma can be construed as either acc. pl. or gen. pl. (the endings are ensured by the rhyme), and malma could conceivably be taken as the acc. object of sparn (almr sparn malma ‘the elm-bow kicked arrows’; cf. Bjbp Jóms 27/3I cited above), but that leaves a dangling hjalma ‘helmets’ or ‘of helmets’. It is possible that the missing word(s) in metrical positions 3-4 could have been a prepositional phrase and that hjalma was a determinant in a kenning (if taken as gen. pl.), e.g. almr sparn til klifs malma hjalma, i.e. almr sparn malma til klifs hjalma ‘the elm-bow kicked arrows towards the cliff of helmets [HEAD]’, but that remains a conjecture (for other examples of such metrical fillers, see Gade 1995a, 100; for similar kennings for ‘head’ see Meissner 127). (b) In Skj B, Finnur Jónsson takes hjalma (gen. pl.) as a determinant in a kenning for warrior (almr hjalma ‘the elm-tree of helmets’) and malma ‘arrows’ as the acc. object of sparn. He does not attempt to speculate about the missing word(s) in the line. Almr does not otherwise occur as a base-word in a kenning for ‘man, warrior’ in Hl; rather, the word always means ‘elm-bow’ and it is found twice in that meaning as the subject of sparn (see (a) above). (c) Jón Helgason (Hl 1941) offers the following reading: almr sparn drifi malma hjalma, i.e. almr sparn hjalma drifi malma ‘the elm-bow kicked helmets with a blizzard of metal (en malmbyge)’. That construction is metrically unlikely: an inflected verb may occur in metrical position 1 in even lines of Type A2k, but not in position 2 directly preceding a noun (see Gade 1995a, 122-3). — [6] malma ‘arrows’: Malmr lit. ‘metal, ore’ in the sense ‘arrow’ is relatively rare (see LP: malmr 3). — [8] ítrar ‘precious’: This reading was suggested by Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and it is fairly certain (ít- is ascertained both by alliteration and internal rhyme). — [8] rítar (f. nom. pl.) ‘shields’: A somewhat problematic form. The word is otherwise attested only as a consonant stem (pl. rítr), but rítar must be an ō-stem (see Hl 1941). According to Holtsmark (Hl 1941, 135), the form could be Norwegian.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  6. 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.
  7. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  8. Hl 1941 = Jón Helgason and Anne Holtsmark, eds. 1941. Háttalykill enn forni. BA 1. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  9. Internal references
  10. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Krákumál 8’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 732.
  11. Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1001.
  12. Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 27’ 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. 983.

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