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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞKolb Eirdr 6I

Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Eiríksdrápa 6’ 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. 497.

Þórðr KolbeinssonEiríksdrápa

text and translation

Meinrennir, brá — manna
margs fýsa skǫp —, varga,
ljóða lítlu siðar
læ Hôkunar ævi.
Enn til lands, þess’s lindar
láðstafr vegit hafði
hraustr, þás herr fór vestan,
hykk kómu son Tryggva.

{Varga {meinrennir}}, lítlu siðar brá læ ljóða ævi Hôkunar; skǫp manna fýsa margs. Enn hykk {son Tryggva} kómu til lands, þess’s {hraustr {lindar láð}stafr} hafði vegit, þás herr fór vestan.
‘Harm-banisher [GLADDENER] of wolves [WARRIOR = Eiríkr], a little later the people’s treachery ended the life of Hákon; the fate of men urges much on. And I think the son of Tryggvi [= Óláfr] came to the land which the bold staff of the land of the linden spear [(lit. ‘bold land-staff of the linden spear’) SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon] had vanquished, when the army advanced from the west.

notes and context

In Hkr and ÓT, Óláfr Tryggvason is accepted as king throughout Norway; Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson, his brother Sveinn and their followers take refuge with King Óláfr sœnski ‘the Swede’ in Sweden. ÓT makes explicit the enmity between Óláfr Tryggvason and the sons of Hákon. This stanza is found a second time in Hkr and ÓT (with st. 7 following in Hkr). It is reproduced complete in Flat but cited by l. 1 only in the other mss. The context of the repeat is a chapter about Eiríkr jarl, and the citation follows a brief reiteration of Eiríkr’s flight and Óláfr sœnski’s generosity to him, and acts as a prelude to an account of Eiríkr’s harrying in the Baltic region. For Fsk, see st. 5.

In the J transcripts and in ÓT, this stanza is attributed to Belgskakadrápa. For this, and the arrangments of helmingar in sts 5-7, see Introduction. — [1-2]: The mss diverge significantly in their l. 1 readings, the main alternatives being rennir/remmir and manna/mána, and these divergences do not group according to text or stemmata. (a) The present edn (with Skj B) adopts the readings -rennir and manna found in four of the mss, including the main ms.: the Hkr mss (172r) and J2ˣ(95v-96r), the ÓT ms. Flat(32ra), and FskAˣ. In kennings containing rennir ‘impeller, banisher’ its grammatical object is normally concrete, such as a term for ‘ship’ or ‘treasure’ (as noted in NN §576), but meinrennir varga forms a warrior-kenning belonging to a known sub-type, where the base-word amounts to ‘gladdener’ or ‘feeder’ but is unusually replaced by a kenning; cf. Note to Arn Hryn 7/1, 2II and ‘The diction of skaldic poetry’ in General Introduction. Here, as in Skj B, the kenning is taken as an apostrophe to Eiríkr jarl, though the apostrophe is itself somewhat problematic (see Introduction) and this construal results in considerable syntactic complexity (see NN §576). The reading manna is also adopted here, as by most eds, despite the eleven attestations of mána found in the listed mss, since it gives good sense and a satisfactory skothending (with -renn-). (b) ÍF 26 and ÍF 29 read -remmir ‘strengthener, increaser’ rather than -rennir (see also NN §576), and take varga as ‘of outlaws’ (cf. CVC: vargr II; LP: vargr 2) rather than ‘of wolves’, hence meinremmir varga ‘increaser of suffering of outlaws [(lit. ‘suffering-increaser of outlaws’) JUST RULER = Eiríkr jarl]’. This is read as an apostrophe and results in similarly complex syntax to (a) above. (c) Kock (NN §576) therefore proposed that meinremmir should instead be construed with manna, hence ‘injury-strengthener of men’, i.e. ‘inflictor of injuries’, as an appositive subject with læ ljóða ‘people’s treachery’, taken as a reference to Hákon’s killer Skopti karkr (see Context to st. 5). While this simplifies the syntax, this version of l. 1 is less than satisfactory in its skothending (mein- : mann-), occurs in only three mss ((199r), F(29ra), and Bb(34va)) and is less compatible with normal kenning usage. (d) There is a further, difficult alternative, favoured by Kock in Skald and NN §2465: meinremmir … mána ‘strengthener of the moon’s harm [(lit. ‘harm-strengthener of the moon’) WOLF]’. This refers to Gylf’s account (SnE 2005, 14) of Hati Hróðvitnisson, the wolf who chases and eventually swallows the moon. The ‘wolf’ of the stanza is again Skopti karkr, and again the kenning functions as an appositive subject with læ ljóða, though in this case the gen. pl. ljóða would be objective, hence ‘treachery against people’. This reflects a form of l. 1 found in six of the mss and must be counted a distinct possibility. The resulting intercalary, margs fýsa skǫp varga ‘the fate of outlaws urges much’ has the consecutive words skǫp varga forming a phrase rather than separated, and as Kock states, a reference to Hati would resonate by means of a pun (ofljóst) with varga in the sense ‘of wolves’.



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: Þórðr Kolbeinsson, 1. Belgskakadrápa 2: AI, 212, BI, 202, Skald 106, NN §§576, 1105, 2465A; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 358, 415, IV, 92, ÍF 26, 300, 337, Hkr 1991, I, 202, 228 (ÓTHkr chs 51, 89), F 1871, 132; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 244, II, 241 (chs 105, 243), Flat 1860-8, I, 242, 518; Fsk 1902-3, 107, ÍF 29, 140 (ch. 22).


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