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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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RvHbreiðm Hl 55III

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill 55’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1063.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr ÞórarinssonHáttalykill

text and translation

Gætt at: Gautrekr þótti
góðr illr kyni þjóðar;
saddr varð svanr, en hræddisk
seint, skjótt, konungr, Þróttar.
Allvald frák, þanns óðisk,
opt, sjaldan, styr valda;
vǫrðr gekk fróns, né fœrðisk,
framm, aptr, í bǫð ramma.

Gætt at: Gautrekr þótti góðr, illr kyni þjóðar; {svanr Þróttar} varð saddr skjótt, en konungr hræddisk seint. Frák allvald, þanns óðisk sjaldan, valda opt styr; {vǫrðr fróns} gekk framm í ramma bǫð; né fœrðisk aptr.
‘Listen: Gautrekr seemed good [and] bad to the kin of men; the swan of Þróttr <= Óðinn> [RAVEN/EAGLE] was sated quickly, and the king was frightened slowly. I heard that the mighty ruler, who was seldom afraid, often caused uproar; the guardian of the land [RULER] went forwards in the strong battle; he did not pull back.

notes and context

The metre is called refrún in meiri (‘Ref runur hin mæiri’) ‘the greater fox-secret’ (see sts 39-40), a dróttkvætt variant that corresponds to SnSt Ht 21 (refhvǫrf ‘fox-turns’).

In this stanza, antithesis occurs in all even lines: góðr ‘good’ : illr ‘bad’ (l. 2); seint ‘slowly’ : skjótt ‘quickly’ (l. 4); opt ‘often’ : sjaldan ‘seldom’ (l. 6); framm ‘forwards’ : aptr ‘back’ (l. 8). For this metrical variant, see Note to st. 39 [All]. Lines 3-4 and 5-8 of the present stanza illustrate how the metre got its name (refrún ‘fox-secret’). If the adverbs are lined up differently with the verbs they modify, the meaning of the clauses is reversed: ‘the raven/eagle was sated slowly, and the king was frightened quickly’ (ll. 3-4); ‘I heard that the mighty ruler, who was often afraid, seldom caused uproar’ (ll. 5-6); ‘the guardian of the land pulled back in the strong battle; he did not advance’ (ll. 7-8). See Holtsmark (Hl 1941, 125). In Ht, Snorri appears to have interpreted this variant somewhat differently than the poets of Hl (see Note to SnSt Ht 17 [All] and Introduction to Ht). — Gautrekr is the protagonist of Gautreks saga (see sts 53-4 above) and he was famous for his generosity (see also ÍF 26, 64 as well as Saxo 2005, I, 8, 16, 1-8, 16, 8, pp. 578-83). — [1]: The first line contains three internal rhymes (-ætt : ‑aut- : ‑ótt), and Skj B and Skald emend gætt at (imp.) ‘listen, pay attention’ (‘Giættu at’ papp25ˣ; ‘Giætto at’ 683ˣ) to golli (n. dat. sg.) ‘to gold’ (cf. st. 56/7-8) which is construed with illr ‘bad’ (l. 2): ‘Gautrekr seemed ill to gold (and) good to the kin of men’. That interpretation, which has no support in the mss, forces a violation of syntax (the finite verb occurs in syntactic position 3). Holtsmark suggests the emendation of ‘giættu at’ to ‘getþu at’ ‘guess if’. That emendation is not in keeping with Rugman’s orthography, because [e] is never written <iæ>  (see Hl 1941). The same objection can be made to the syntactically simpler getk, at ‘I say that’. For a similar use of gætt at, cf. the Y redaction of LaufE in which Giæt hier ad ‘Pay attention here’ is used to translate Lat. nota (LaufE 1979, 259, 335). In the present stanza, it looks as though the first poet is presenting the second poet with a riddle, telling him to pay attention (gætt at) and try to unravel why people considered Gautrekr to be both ‘good’ (góðr) and ‘bad’ (illr). The second poet solves that riddle in st. 56/7-8 (see below). — [2]: The line is repeated in st. 56/8. — [5]: Rugman renders this line as ‘fra ec allvald þann ædest’ (papp25ˣ), which most earlier eds emend to frák allvald, þanns óðisk ‘I heard the mighty ruler, who became frightened’. That emendation yields a line whose structure is unparalleled in the skaldic corpus (Type C with a sentence boundary after position 3). In the present edn, the order of the first two words has been reversed to create a Type A-line (see the similar type in sts 57/1, 3 and 58/1, 3). In either rendition, the line does not contain internal rhyme. — [6, 7]: ‘Sialdar’ (l. 6) for sjaldan ‘seldom’ and ‘fordest’ (l. 7) for fœrðisk ‘draw (back)’ are Rugman’s misreadings.



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 28a: AI, 523, BI, 500-1, Skald I, 246; Hl 1941, 28, 79-80.


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