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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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SnSt Lv 5III

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Snorri Sturluson, Lausavísur 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 370.

Snorri SturlusonLausavísur


This lausavísa (SnSt Lv 5), edited by Kari Ellen Gade, is found in TGT (mss A (main ms.) and W) as well as in Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar (Hák; mss E, F, 42ˣ, 81a, 8 and Flat). It is attributed to Snorri in all mss, and it emerges from the prose narrative in Hák that Snorri composed it during his sojourn at the court of Duke Skúli Bárðarson in Trondheim, Norway, in 1238 (see Context below). The author of TGT, Óláfr Þórðarson, may have been present on the occasion when Snorri recited the stanza, since he accompanied Snorri to Norway in 1237 (cf. Storm 1888, 130, s. a. 1237).

text and translation

Herfanga bauð Hringi
hjaldr einskǫpuðr galdra
— Gautr hvatti þrym þreyta
þann — ok Hilditanni.
Oflengi veldr yngva
ósætt, en vel mætti
herstefnandi hafna
hans dóm, Vǫlundr rómu.

{Einskǫpuðr {galdra {herfanga}}} bauð Hringi ok Hilditanni hjaldr; Gautr hvatti þreyta þann þrym. Oflengi veldr {Vǫlundr rómu} ósætt yngva, en {herstefnandi} mætti vel hafna dóm hans.
‘The one creator of incantations of army-tunics [BYRNIES > BATTLES > = Óðinn] ordered Hringr (‘Ring’) and Hilditǫnn (‘War-tooth’) to fight; Gautr <= Óðinn> incited [them] to prolong that clash. For too long the Vǫlundr <legendary smith> of strife [WARRIOR = Gautr Jónsson] has caused the rulers’ conflict, and the army-summoner [RULER = Hákon] would do well to reject his judgement.

notes and context

In TGT the stanza is given as an example of the rhetorical figure icon, i.e. the comparison between two persons or their characteristics. As Óláfr Þórðarson explains (TGT 1927, 88): Hér er óeiginlig líking milli Óðins ok nǫkkurs illgjarns manns ‘Here there is an improper comparison between Óðinn and a certain evil-minded man’. According to Hák, one of King Hákon Hákonarson’s counsellors, Gautr Jónsson af Meli, was causing bad blood between Hákon and his father-in-law, Skúli Bárðarson. One day Skúli asked Snorri jokingly whether it was correct that ancient kings had referred to Óðinn by the name of ‘Gautr’. When Snorri confirmed that this was indeed the case, Skúli issued the following challenge to Snorri (E 1916, 573): yrk nu visu … ok seg huerssu miok þesi glikiz þeim ‘compose a stanza now … and say how much this one [Gautr Jónsson] resembles that one [Óðinn]’. Snorri then recited the present stanza.

In 1261, Snorri’s nephew, Sturla Þórðarson, composed a lausavísa (Sturl Lv 4IV) in a similar vein in which he made a comparison between Gizurr jarl Þorvaldsson and Óðinn (Gizurr was also a name for Óðinn; cf. Note to Þul Óðins 1/5). Sturla was clearly familiar with Snorri’s stanza, and Óláfr Þórðarson, Sturla’s brother and the author of TGT, must have known the identity of the Gautr in the present stanza (see Introduction above), but he refrains from divulging that information (cf. nǫkkurs illgjarns manns ‘a certain evil-minded man’ in Context above). — [7]: This line echoes Eskál Vell 35/3I.



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: Snorri Sturluson, 4. Lausavísur 4: AII, 78, BII, 89, Skald II, 49, NN §2192; SnE 1848-87, II, 184-5, 426, III, 152, TGT 1884, 31, 116-17, 234-5, TGT 1927, 87-8, 109; E 1916, 573, F 1871, 491, Hák 1910-86, 499, Hák 1977-82, 100, Flat 1860-8, III, 120.


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