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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞHjalt Lv 2I

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorvaldr Hjaltason, Lausavísur 2’ 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. 273.

Þorvaldr HjaltasonLausavísur

text and translation

Illr varð ǫlna fjalla
auðkveðjǫndum beðjar
til Svíþjóðar síðan
sveimr víkinga heiman.
Þat eitt lifir þeira,
— þeir hǫfðu lið fleira —
— gótt vas her at henda
Hundings — es rann undan.

Sveimr víkinga heiman til Svíþjóðar varð síðan illr {auðkveðjǫndum {beðjar {ǫlna fjalla}}}. Þat eitt þeira lifir, es rann undan; þeir hǫfðu fleira lið; gótt vas at henda her Hundings.
‘The vikings’ surge from their home to Sweden turned out afterwards [to be] disastrous for the wealth-demanders of the bed of fish of the mountains [SNAKES > GOLD > MEN]. Only that part of them survives, that ran away; they had the more numerous force; it was good to catch Hundingr’s army.

notes and context

The stanza follows Lv 1 almost immediately. The citation is followed by a remark that Þorvaldr received a ring worth half a mark for each stanza.

[1-4]: As with Lv 1, a certain amount of emendation is unavoidable, and the problems are interdependent. The general meaning of the first helmingr seems to be that the vikings’ journey from their home into Swedish territory was disastrous for men (probably themselves; see below), but since there is no word for journey, sveim n. or sveimr m. ‘bustle, surge’ needs to replace the word which appears in Flat as ‘sæím-’, normalised seim- ‘gold, riches’. This stands at the right-hand edge of the column in Flat, with a superscript abbreviation that seems to indicate <s> (as assumed in 761bˣ, Flat 1860-8 and Skj A) or possibly <ir> (Fms) or <ar>. Emendation to sveim n. or sveimr m., adopted in all the eds listed above, brings with it a consequential emendation of ill in l. 1 to illt n. or illr m. respectively, which is reasonable since there is nothing for ill (f. nom. sg. or n. nom./acc. pl.) ‘bad, disastrous’ to qualify. The analysis of auðkveðjǫndum ‘wealth-demanders’ in l. 2 is uncertain, though under any interpretation it must presumably refer to the viking attackers themselves (so Fms 12 and subsequent eds). The gen. nouns elfar, fjalla, beðjar are most likely to form part of a kenning, in which case there are two main options: (a) The construal tentatively adopted above takes as a starting-point the fact that beðjar ‘of the bed, couch’ fits most naturally within a gold-kenning of the type ‘bed, lair of the serpent’ (cf. Meissner 237-41). Emendation of elfar to ǫlna ‘of fish’ (also adopted in Skj B) supplies this since ǫlunn fjalla ‘fish of the mountains’ would be a serpent or snake. This emendation is less drastic than it appears since the <e> and <ǫ> graphs are similar in many hands, and the <n> in an original ǫlna could have been misread as <u>, understood as [v], and written as <f> in Flat; corruption could also have been encouraged by elfar in Lv 1/7. Under this interpretation, auðkveðjǫndum ‘wealth-demanders’ (l. 2) becomes slightly problematic in that auð- ‘wealth’ and the gold-kenning both supply a determinant for the overall man-kenning, so that a mildly tautological ‘wealth of gold’ has to be assumed. In order to obviate this problem auð- could be taken as a descriptive element rather than integral to the kenning, with the sense ‘easy’ as in numerous adjectives such as auðfenginn, auðsóttr, both ‘easily obtained’, though normally, as in these cases, the second element is a p. p. A further possibility is to emend, for instance to ǫr- ‘eager’ as in Skj B and LP: ǫrkveðjandi, though the fact that ǫrr can mean ‘generous’ would seem problematic in an epithet describing ‘demanders’ of gold. (b) Fms 12 retains elfar, assuming that elfar fjalla ‘of the river of the mountains’ is a reference to the Rhine, qualifying auð(kveðjǫndum) ‘wealth(-demanders)’, and hence alluding to the legendary Nibelung hoard. This leaves til beðjar Svíþjóðar as a unit, which would mean ‘to the shore of Sweden / the Swedish realm’. (c) If elfar, fjalla and beðjar are not kenning-elements, auðkveðjǫndum could constitute a man-kenning in its own right, and this is how Kock (Skald and NN §1946) reads it. He also retains ms. elfar, reading elfar fjalla beðjar as a geographical description, lit. ‘beds of the mountains of the river’, which he takes with auðkveðjǫndum, hence (männen) från fjällen vid älvens strand, ‘(the men) from the mountains by the river’s shore’, or alternatively från fjällflodens strand ‘from the mountain river’s shore’. However, this is stylistically improbable.



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: Þórvaldr Hjaltason, Lausavísur 2: AI, 117, BI, 111, Skald I, 63, NN §§380, 1946; Fms 5, 251, Fms 12, 115, Flat 1860-8, II, 73 (Styrb).


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