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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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RvHbreiðm Hl 73III

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill 73’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1082.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr ÞórarinssonHáttalykill

text and translation

Óláfr náði eggjar rjóða
enskra þjóða vǫrmu blóði;
hneigiborða háði skerðir
hjǫrva þeyja Viðris meyja.
Bǫðvar hauka bðar snáka
beiti-Nirðir ógnar girði
rjóða nômu; rekkar kómu
randar Freyju þing at heyja.

Óláfr náði rjóða eggjar vǫrmu blóði enskra þjóða; {skerðir {hneigiborða hjǫrva}} háði {þeyja {meyja Viðris}}. {Beiti-Nirðir {snáka {bðar {hauka bǫðvar}}}} nômu rjóða {girði ógnar}; rekkar kómu at heyja {þing {Freyju randar}}.
‘Óláfr was able to redden edges with the warm blood of English people; the diminisher of the bending-boards of swords [SHIELDS > WARRIOR] waged warm winds of Viðrir’s <= Óðinn’s> maidens [VALKYRIES > BATTLES]. The brandishing-Nirðir <gods> of the snakes of the meat of hawks of battle [RAVENS/EAGLES > CORPSES > SWORDS > WARRIORS] began to redden fences of fight [SHIELDS]; warriors came to hold an assembly of the Freyja <goddess> of the shield-rim [VALKYRIE > BATTLE].

notes and context

The heading is konungslag (‘Konongs lagh’) ‘king’s metre’, a term not found in SnSt Ht. The metre is a variant of hrynhent which corresponds to Ht 63 (trollsháttr ‘troll’s verse-form’): all lines are trochaic (Type A) and the internal rhymes in both odd and even lines fall in positions 3 and 5.

According to de Vries (1938, 717), this hrynhent variant is modelled on Medieval Latin metres. While it is quite possible that hrynhent itself was influenced by Latin metres (see Whaley 1998, 79-80 and Section 4 of the General Introduction in SkP I), it is more likely that the poets of Hl were familiar with such poems as Arn Hryn (see Note to st. 30/4 above), and there is no reason to assume a direct influence from and a conscious imitation of Latin poetry in this particular instance. — The hero commemorated is Óláfr Haraldsson (S. Óláfr), who died at the battle of Stiklestad, Norway, on 29 July 1030. For his life, see ÓH, ÓHLeg, ÍF 27 and ÍF 29, 167-201 as well as his Biography in SkP I. The present stanza is devoted to his early campaigns in England (see ÓH 1941, I, 41-7, 56-7; ÓHHkr chs 12-15, 28, ÍF 27, 13-22, 34; ÍF 29, 167-70; Sigv Víkv 6-9I; Ótt Hfl 7-11I). — [3-4]: Skj B and Skald construe the kennings in the last clause as follows: skerðir hneigiborða meyjar Viðris ‘the diminisher of the bending-boards of Viðrir’s <= Óðinn’s> maidens [VALKYRIES > SHIELDS > WARRIOR]’ (ll. 3, 4); þeyja hjǫrva ‘the swords’ warm winds [BATTLES]’ (l. 4). Jón Helgason (Hl 1941) offers skerðir hneigiborða þeyja hjǫrva háði Viðris meyja ‘the diminisher of the bending-boards of the warm winds of swords [BATTLES > SHIELDS > WARRIOR] held Viðrir’s maidens [VALKYRIES = BATTLE]’. But as Holtsmark points out (Hl 1941), þeyja Viðris meyja ‘the warm winds of Viðrir’s maidens’ must go together. — [5-8]: The second helmingr is garbled and cannot be interpreted without fairly extensive emendations. ‘Baudar’ (l. 5; so both mss) is clearly wrong and apparently based on Rugman’s conjecture that there existed a poetic word baud ‘blood’ (Hl 1941). (a) The present edn follows that of Jón Helgason in Hl 1941, which requires the fewest emendations, but the interpretation remains conjectural. (b) Skj B emends ‘baudar’ to búðar (f. gen. sg.) ‘of the booth’ (a reading suggested in SnE 1848, 247) and construes the first clause as follows: Beiti-Nirðir hauka bǫðvar nômu rjóða snáka girðibúðar ógnar ‘the feeding-Nirðir of the hawks of battle [RAVENS/EAGLES > WARRIORS] began to redden the snakes of the protecting-booth of battle [SWORD-SHEATH > SWORDS]’. Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation of this helmingr results in an impossible word order. (c) Kock (NN §986) reads: beiti-Nirðir búðar snáka nômu rjóða girði ógnar haukum bǫðvar ‘the brandishing-Nirðir of the booth of snakes [GOLD > GENEROUS MEN] began to redden the girdle of fight [SHIELD] for the hawks of battle [RAVENS/EAGLES]’. As Jón Helgason (Hl 1941) points out, the kenning beiti-Nirðir búðar snáka ‘the brandishing-Nirðir of the booth of snakes’ for ‘generous men’ is unparalleled in the corpus of skaldic poetry (and, further, one can brandish a sword, but not gold).



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 37a: AI, 526, BI, 505-6, Skald I, 248, NN §986; Hl 1941, 30, 91-2.


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