Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv ErfÓl 18I

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 18’ 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. 686.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonErfidrápa Óláfs helga

Bjǫrn frák auk af œrnum
endr stǫllurum kenndu
hug, hvé halda dugði
— hann sótti framm — dróttin.
Fell í her með hollum
hann verðungar mǫnnum;
leyfðrs at hilmis hǫfði
hróðrauðigs sá dauði.

Frák auk Bjǫrn endr kenndu stǫllurum af œrnum hug, hvé dugði halda dróttin; hann sótti framm. Hann fell í her með hollum mǫnnum verðungar; sá dauði at hǫfði hróðrauðigs hilmis [e]s leyfðr.

I have heard also how Bjǫrn at that time taught the marshals, with abundant courage, how it was fitting to protect their lord; he pressed forward. He fell in the army with the loyal men of the retinue; that death at the head of the fame-rich leader is praised.

Mss: (471v) (Hkr); Holm2(68r), J2ˣ(227r-v), 321ˣ(257), 73aˣ(202r), Holm4(63vb), 61(125vb), 325V(81rb), 325VII(38v), Bb(199ra), Flat(124vb), Tóm(156r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] auk: at J2ˣ, 321ˣ, ok 73aˣ, 325V, ‘okr’ Holm4, auð 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    af: om. 73aˣ, 325V, at 61;    œrnum: œrnu Holm2, J2ˣ, Flat, ‘ornum’ 321ˣ, ernum 61, Tóm, ǫrnum 325VII    [2] stǫllurum: ‘stallerum’ J2ˣ, ‘stallaurum’ 321ˣ, ‘stallar[…]vm’ 61, stallara Flat, Tóm;    kenndu: kenndi J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, Flat, kenndan 325VII, kennda Bb, kenndum Tóm    [3] hvé: om. 61;    dugði: skyldi 73aˣ, 325V    [5] hollum: hylli 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [6] hann: her 325VII, Bb;    verðungar: virðinga 61, ‘verdungra’ Bb, ‘verdugra’ Flat;    mǫnnum: manni J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, manna Holm4, 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm, sverða 325VII    [7] leyfðrs (‘leyfðr er’): ‘leyfr er’ Holm2, leyfði er 73aˣ, leyfðr Holm4, 61, 325VII, frægr 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [8] hróðr‑: hróð‑ Flat;    ‑auðigs: auðigr 321ˣ;    sá: sjá 73aˣ, 325V;    dauði: dauða 73aˣ, 325VII

Editions: Skj AI, 261-2, Skj BI, 243, Skald I, 126, NN §§620, 665, 1116, 1121, 1825, 1879, 2478, 2480D; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 494-5, IV, 171, ÍF 27, 386, Hkr 1991, II, 534 (ÓHHkr ch. 228); ÓH 1941, I, 575 (ch. 226), Flat 1860-8, II, 357; Jón Skaptason 1983, 173, 307.

Context: The close fighting continues at Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) between the king with his defenders (including Bjǫrn stallari ‘the Marshal’) and a small group of opponents. Bjǫrn attacks, but is killed by, Þórir hundr. Óláfr is then felled by three different blows and most of his troop also die. BjHall Kálffl 5 is cited as a witness to Kálfr Árnason’s role, then this stanza concerning Bjǫrn.

Notes: [1] Bjǫrn: Bjǫrn digri ‘the Stout’ was King Óláfr’s marshal, who sat in the high-seat opposite the king in the royal hall at Niðaróss (Trondheim; ÍF 27, 72), and regularly acted as the king’s spokesman (see index in ÍF 27, 455). See also Sigv Lv 5 on Bjǫrn and other stallarar ‘marshals’. — [1, 3, 4] af œrnum hug, hvé dugði halda dróttin ‘with abundant courage, how it was fitting to protect their lord’: (a) This is construed following ÍF 27, with halda + acc. meaning ‘protect’ (cf. the same construction in Steinn Nizv 5/5, 8II, where the protectors are also hugfylldir ‘courage-filled’). Œrnum ‘abundant, enough’ qualifies hug ‘courage, mind’. (b) Both Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) and Kock (NN §1116) assume that hug is the direct object of halda, normally ‘hold’, Finnur by assuming a cpd dróttinhug ‘loyalty to one’s lord’ (with tmesis) and Kock by assuming dróttinn is an error for dat. sg. dróttni, which he does not explain. Both also adopt the minority reading œrnu rather than œrnum, hence adv. at/af œrnu ‘fully, abundantly’. Finnur chooses at, the reading of 61 alone, while Kock (NN §2478) prefers the majority reading af. — [5-8]: This helmingr is taken as two independent clauses with relatively natural word order, following Kock (NN §§620, 665). At hǫfði hróðrauðigs hilmis ‘at the head of the fame-rich leader’ is taken here with sá dauði ‘that death’. It could alternatively be taken with hann fell ‘he fell’ in ll. 5-6 (so Skj B; ÍF 27). — [7] at hǫfði ‘at the head’: The phrase is not to be taken literally (Bjǫrn falls while Óláfr is still standing), and hǫfði (nom. sg. hǫfuð) presumably refers to the king’s person; cf. Note to st. 21/2 and Yt 25/7. Frank (1978, 130) suggests a reminiscence of the last words and ‘heroic self-sacrifice’ of the Danish hero Bjarki; his name means ‘little bear’ while Bjǫrn means ‘bear’. — [8] hróðrauðigs ‘fame-rich’: Kock (NN §§1121, 1879) believes that this word shows the influence of OE hrēðēadig ‘glorious, victorious’, but this is not necessary as both elements are common in ON. Hróðr can also mean ‘poem’ and in this collocation with leyfðr ‘praised’ there may also be an allusion to the many poems composed about Óláfr, by Sigvatr and others.


  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. Frank, Roberta. 1978. Old Norse Court Poetry: The Dróttkvætt Stanza. Islandica 42. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  6. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  7. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  8. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  9. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  10. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  11. Jón Skaptason. 1983. ‘Material for an Edition and Translation of the Poems of Sigvat Þórðarson, skáld’. Ph.D. thesis. State University of New York at Stony Brook. DAI 44: 3681A.
  12. Internal references
  13. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  14. Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 5’ 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. 885.
  15. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 5’ 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. 705.
  16. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Steinn Herdísarson, Nizarvísur 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 363-4.
  17. Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þjóðólfr ór Hvini, Ynglingatal 25’ 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. 53.

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