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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞKolb Eirdr 12I

Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Eiríksdrápa 12’ 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. 506.

Þórðr KolbeinssonEiríksdrápa

Ítr þrifusk jǫfra hleyti
eggveðrs í fǫr seggja;
skeið helt mǫrg í móðu
mislǫng, sem ek vissa.
Bládýrum helt bôru
brands svá náar landi
Ullr, at enska vǫllu,
áttstórr, séa knátti.

Ítr hleyti jǫfra þrifusk í fǫr seggja {eggveðrs}; mǫrg mislǫng skeið helt í móðu, sem ek vissa. {Áttstórr Ullr brands} helt {bládýrum bôru} svá náar landi, at knátti séa enska vǫllu.

The glorious kinship of the princes prospered in the expedition of men {to the edge-storm} [BATTLE]; many warships of various lengths steered into the river, as I learned. {The high-born Ullr <god> of the sword} [WARRIOR] steered {the dark animals of the wave} [SHIPS] so near land that the English plains could be seen.

Mss: (22), 20dˣ(9r), 873ˣ(10v), 41ˣ(8v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [1] hleyti: ‘hlæti’ JÓ, 873ˣ, 41ˣ, ‘hleti’ 20dˣ    [6] svá náar (‘sva nær’): nær svá 41ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 216, Skj BI, 205, Skald I, 107, NN §582; 1741, 22-3, Knýtl 1919-25, 44, ÍF 35, 114 (ch. 13).

Context: Knútr has heard that the English king Játmundr járnsíða (Eadmund Ironside) is in London. He brings his army to the Thames estuary, where he meets Eiríkr’s fleet. They join forces and sail upriver towards London. Stanzas 12 and 13 are cited with only a brief link in between.

Notes: [1] hleyti ‘kinship’: All eds emend to this (grammatically pl.) form to produce good sense. Hleyti refers to kinship by marriage. Eiríkr married Gyða, a daughter of Sveinn tjúguskegg and half-sister of Knútr, so Knútr and Eiríkr were brothers-in-law (see Hkr, ÍF 26, 340; Fsk, ÍF 29, 164; Knýtl, ÍF 35, 97). — [3, 4] mǫrg mislǫng skeið ‘many warships of various lengths’: Lit. ‘many [a] variously-long warship’. Mislangr is a hap. leg. — [3] helt ‘steered’: In seafaring contexts, including ll. 5-6 of the present stanza, halda usually means ‘steer’, with a term for ‘seafarer’ as subject and one for ‘ship’ as dat. object (see also Jesch 2001a, 174-5). Intransitive usage with a human subject is not uncommon (LP: halda A. 9), but the construction with the inanimate subject skeið ‘warship’ here is unique. — [4] sem ek vissa ‘as I learned’: (a) This is understood here as modifying the clause beginning skeið ‘warship(s)’ immediately preceding it (so Skald). (b) In Skj B it modifies ll. 1-2, with skeið helt mǫrg í móðu mislǫng ‘many warships of various lengths proceeded into the river’ (ll. 3-4) functioning parenthetically; the prose order given in ÍF 35 suggests the same. This is presumably on the grounds that ll. 1-2 make a more important statement, but, as Kock (NN §582) points out, the second helmingr continues the narrative of the ships’ progress, which favours (a). (c) A further possibility is that sem ek vissa qualifies the entire first helmingr. — [8] knátti séa ‘could be seen’: Knátti is taken here, as in Skj B and ÍF 35, as a subject-elliptical impersonal construction: ‘[one] was able to see’, ‘it was possible to see’. A possible alternative would be to understand áttstórr Ullr brands ‘high-born Ullr <god> of the sword [WARRIOR]’ as the subject of both helt ‘steered’ and knátti ‘was able’.


  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. 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.
  6. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  7. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  8. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  9. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  10. 1741 = Jón Ólafsson, ed. 1741. Æfi dana-konunga eda Knytlinga saga: Historia Cnutidarum regum Daniæ. Copenhagen: [n. p.].
  11. 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.
  12. Internal references
  13. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  14. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Fagrskinna (Fsk)’ 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, pp. clix-clxi.

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