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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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RvHbreiðm Hl 74III

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill 74’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1084.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr ÞórarinssonHáttalykill

text and translation

Slíðrar tungur snarpar gengu;
sullu benjar; hlífðir gullu;
hilmir vakði — hneitir rakði
hjǫrva salma — skúrir malma.
Hyggju knarrar harða veggi
hjoggu sverðum vísa ferðir
vægðar trauð*ar valskrar þjóðar
varg at tafni knífum grafna.

{Snarpar tungur slíðrar} gengu; benjar sullu; hlífðir gullu; hilmir vakði {skúrir malma}; hneitir rakði {salma hjǫrva}. Ferðir vísa, trauð*ar vægðar, hjoggu sverðum {harða veggi {knarrar hyggju}}, grafna knífum, valskrar þjóðar varg at tafni.
‘Sharp tongues of the scabbard [SWORDS] wagged; wounds swelled; shields resounded; the ruler stirred up showers of weapons [BATTLES]; the sword spread psalms of swords [BATTLES]. The leader’s companies, reluctant to grant mercy, cut with swords the hard walls of the ship of thought [HEART > CHESTS], incised by knives, of French people as food for the wolf.

notes and context

As st. 73 above.

The stanza commemorates Óláfr’s early campaigns in France and further south (see ÓH 1941, I, 48-50; ÓHHkr, chs 16-20, ÍF 27, 22-7; Sigv Víkv 10-14I; Ótt Hfl 12I). — [2, 5]: These two lines have internal rhyme in positions 1 and 5 (rather than in positions 3 and 5).  — [5-8]: The second helmingr is problematic and the present interpretation is conjectural. (a) The ms. reading ‘karrar’ (l. 5) cannot be construed as an Old Norse word and appears to be a misreading of knarrar (f. gen. sg.) ‘of the ship’ (emendation in keeping with earlier eds). The kenning veggi knarrar hyggju ‘the walls of the ship of thought [HEART > CHESTS]’ (l. 5) follows the interpretation of Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: knǫrr; veggr). Finnur also emends valskar þjóðir (f. nom. or acc. pl.) ‘French people’ (l. 7) to valskrar þjóðar (f. gen. sg.) as a genitival phrase qualifying ‘chests’, which has been adopted in the present edn (so also Skald). It could well be that the rendering of this phrase in the mss reflects Norwegian forms (vowel reduction in unstressed syllables þjóðar > þjóðer and reduction of the gen. inflectional ending ‑rar > ‑ar, which is found in the oldest Norwegian mss). See Holtsmark in Hl 1941, 110. (b) Jón Helgason (Hl 1941) believed that veggi knarrar hyggju was a kenning for ‘shields’ (‘the walls of the ship of thought [CHESTS > SHIELDS]’) which had been engraved with knives (grafna knífum). He also retains the acc. pl. valskar þjóðar ‘French people’ (l. 7), qualified by trauðar vægðar ‘reluctant to grant mercy’ (l. 7) and takes this as a second object of hjoggu ‘cut, hew’ (l. 6): ‘the leader’s troops cut the decorated shields, [and] French people, reluctant to grant mercy’. This is less preferable from a syntactic point of view and, furthermore, the company performing the slaughter is more likely than the victims to be reluctant to grant mercy.



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 37b: AI, 526, BI, 506, Skald I, 248; Hl 1941, 30, 92-3.


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