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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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RvHbreiðm Hl 40III

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill 40’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1048.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr ÞórarinssonHáttalykill

text and translation

Benfasti varð bresta
— bitu hjalm svalir malmar —
í háturnum hjarna,
heitr, kaldr, þars dreif sveiti*.
Strǫng vas guðr, áðr gengi
(geirmót) konungs Jóta,
bendr sparn almr til unda,
(óx) þvarr, boga stǫrrum.

{Kaldr benfasti} varð bresta í {háturnum hjarna}, þars heitr sveiti* dreif; svalir malmar bitu hjalm. Guðr vas strǫng, áðr gengi {konungs Jóta} þvarr; {geirmót} óx; bendr almr sparn {stǫrrum boga} til unda.
‘The cold wound-flame [SWORD] had to crack in high towers of the brain [HEADS] where hot blood spurted; cool weapons bit the helmet. The battle was strong before the company of the king of the Jótar [DANISH KING = Haraldr] diminished; the spear-meeting [BATTLE] intensified; the bent elm-bow kicked sedge-grass of the bow [ARROWS] towards wounds.

notes and context

As st. 39 above.

The antithesis consists of the words heitr ‘hot’ : kaldr ‘cold’ (l. 4) and óx ‘grew’ : þvarr ‘diminished’ (l. 8). — [5, 6]: Skj B and Skald retain the nom. form konungr (m. nom. sg.; so both mss) ‘king’ as the subject of gengi (l. 5) which they construe as 3rd pers. sg. pret. subj. of ganga ‘go’ i.e. ‘die’. As Holtsmark (Hl 1941) points out, ganga is not attested in that meaning, and the word must be the noun gengi (n. nom. sg.) ‘company, support’. — [7-8]: Skj B and Skald, following R683ˣ, construe these lines as follows: bendr sparn almr til unda, | (óx) þvarr boga starran, translated in Skj B as den spændte bue skød [pilene] til sårene; den stive bue slappedes ‘the drawn bow shot [the arrows] toward the wounds; the stiff bow became slack’. In that reading the object of sparn lit. ‘kicked’ is missing, however, and þverra ‘diminish’ (þvarr 3rd pers. sg. pret. indic.) is not attested in the meaning ‘become slack’. The present edn follows Holtsmark (Hl 1941).



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.

editions and texts

Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl og Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill 20b: AI, 519-20, BI, 496-7, Skald I, 244; Hl 1941, 25-6, 69-70.


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