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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞKolb Eirdr 16I

Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Eiríksdrápa 16’ 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. 511.

Þórðr KolbeinssonEiríksdrápa

Gengu upp, þeirs Englum,
ár hrafngefendr, vôru
langa stund á landi
leiðir, grund af skeiðum.
Eðr í gǫgn, þeirs gôðu
(glaum skers) bœi verja,
(galt hilmis lið hjalta)
herferð búendr gerðu.

{Hrafngefendr}, þeirs vôru langa stund leiðir Englum á landi, gengu ár upp grund af skeiðum. Eðr búendr, þeirs gôðu verja bœi, gerðu herferð í gǫgn; lið hilmis galt {glaum {skers hjalta}}.

{The raven-benefactors} [WARRIORS], who had been for a long time hateful to the English in the land, went up early onto land from the ships. But the farmers, who intended to defend the settlements, made a military expedition in return; the troop of the ruler dealt out {the merriment {of the skerry of the hilt}} [SWORD > BATTLE].

Mss: (12-14), JÓ(26), 20dˣ(5v), 20dˣ(11v), 873ˣ(6v), 873ˣ(12r), 20i 23ˣ(15v), 41ˣ(5r), 41ˣ(10r) (Knýtl)

Readings: [4] grund: upp JÓ(26), 20dˣ(11v), 873ˣ(12r), 20i 23ˣ, 41ˣ(10r);    af: frá JÓ(26), 20dˣ(11v), 873ˣ(12r), 20i 23ˣ, 41ˣ(10r)    [5] Eðr (‘enn’): en 20dˣ(5v), 873ˣ(6v), 873ˣ(12r)    [7] hilmis: hjalmað JÓ(26), 20dˣ(11v), 873ˣ(12r), 20i 23ˣ, 41ˣ(10r)    [8] búendr: bœndr JÓ(26), 20dˣ(11v), 873ˣ(12r), 20i 23ˣ, 41ˣ(10r)

Editions: Skj AI, 217, Skj BI, 206, Skald I, 108, NN §§707, 1953B, 2466B, 2771; 1741, 12-15, 26, Knýtl 1919-25, 37, 48, ÍF 35, 105-6, 119 (chs 8, 15).

Context: This stanza is cited for the first time in Knýtl ch. 8, within an account of Knútr’s arrival in England. The English muster a defensive force and resist Knútr’s advance. In ch. 15, it is cited after a note of Eiríkr’s victory at the battle of Hringmaraheiðr (see Context to st. 15).

Notes: [2] ár; hrafngefendr ‘early; raven-benefactors [WARRIORS]’: (a) Ár is taken as an adv. of time here (as in NN §1953B, Skald and ÍF 35). Hrafngefandi (pl. ‑gefendr) is a warrior-kenning of a somewhat unusual sort since hrafn ‘raven’ in such kennings usually functions as the direct object of a base-word denoting ‘feeder’ or ‘gladdener’, whereas here it is the indirect object of one meaning ‘givers, benefactors’. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: ár(h)rafngefandi) interprets ár to mean ‘food, produce’, and construes hrafn-ár-gefendr ‘givers of food to the raven [WARRIORS]’, assuming tmesis and a rare structure (cf. árhrafngefendr, Meissner 337). — [3] á landi ‘in the land’: (a) Here, the phrase is construed with the dependent clause beginning þeirs ‘who’, which makes for straightforward word order. (b) Skj B and Skald construe gengu upp á landi ‘advanced into the land’ (although see LP: 2. ganga 4, where this phrase is categorised with ganga upp á land ‘go ashore’). See further Note to l. 4. — [4] grund af skeiðum ‘onto land from the ships’: The mss read grund af skeiðum in their first citation of the stanza, and upp frá skeiðum ‘up from the ships’ in their second. Neither reading is straightforward. (a) This edn follows Bjarni Guðnason (ÍF 35) in reading grund af skeiðum. Grund ‘land’ is understood as the acc. object of gengu upp ‘went up’ (l. 1), the site of movement (cf. Note to st. 13, 5-6, interpretation (a), and references there; see also E. Olsen 1934, 262-3), although ganga upp ‘go ashore’ is normally followed by a prepositional phrase. (b) Upp frá skeiðum ‘up from the ships’ is preferred by Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Kock (Skald). This, however, gives somewhat awkward syntax with its repetition of upp ‘up’, and it assumes convoluted word order in construing á landi (l. 3) with gengu upp, hence gengu upp á landi upp frá skeiðum ‘advanced into the land, up from the ships’ (E. Olsen 1934, 262, notes the difficulty, but see NN §2771 for a defence). (c) A further possibility is to adopt grund from the first citation and frá (skeiðum) from the second, hence gengu grund upp frá skeiðum ‘went across the ground up from the ships’. As in interpretation (a), grund is understood as an acc. of place, now following gengu ‘went’ (l. 1) rather than gengu upp . — [5] eðr ‘but’: The mss have en(n), but its older form eðr is required by the skothending (so Skald; NN §2466B). The word order here shows eðr to be a conj. ‘and, but’, although it is more usually an adv. ‘still, further’. Skj B prints en ‘and, but’. — [6, 7] glaum skers hjalta ‘the merriment of the skerry of the hilt [SWORD > BATTLE]’: The n. pl. hjǫlt (gen. hjalta) refers to the constituent parts of a hilt, hence a single hilt (see Note to Anon Ól 1/5). Sker hjalta ‘skerry of the hilt [SWORD]’ is an unusual sword-kenning, the closest parallels being three others which mean ‘land of the whetstone’ (Meissner 155). Sker ‘skerry’ and other terms for ‘land’ are common base-words in shield-kennings (Meissner 169), but if sker hjalta were a shield-kenning the determinant hjalta would signify ‘of the sword’, and evidence of that is lacking. — [7] hilmis ‘of the ruler’: The context of Knýtl ch. 8 suggests that Knútr is referred to here; that of ch. 15 would suggest Eiríkr.


  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. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  6. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  8. 1741 = Jón Ólafsson, ed. 1741. Æfi dana-konunga eda Knytlinga saga: Historia Cnutidarum regum Daniæ. Copenhagen: [n. p.].
  9. Knýtl 1919-25 = Petersens, Carl af and Emil Olsen, eds. 1919-25. Sǫgur danakonunga. 1: Sǫgubrot af fornkonungum. 2: Knýtlinga saga. SUGNL 66. Copenhagen: SUGNL.
  10. Olsen, Magnus. 1934. ‘Þundarbenda’. MM, 92-7.
  11. Internal references
  12. Not published: do not cite (ÞormÓl ÁrIV)
  13. Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Poems, Poem about Óláfr Tryggvason 1’ 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. 1063.

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