Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Liðs 7I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Poems, Liðsmannaflokkr 7’ 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. 1024.

Anonymous PoemsLiðsmannaflokkr

Knútr réð ok bað bíða
(baugstalls) Dani alla;
(lundr gekk rǫskr und randir
ríkr) vá herr við díki.
Nær vas, sveit þars sóttum,
Syn, með hjalm ok brynju,
elds sem olmum heldi
elg Rennandi kennir.

Knútr réð ok bað alla Dani bíða; {ríkr lundr {baugstalls}} gekk rǫskr und randir; herr vá við díki. Syn, vas nær sem {kennir {elds Rennandi}} heldi olmum elg, þars sóttum sveit með hjalm ok brynju.

Knútr decided and commanded all the Danes to wait; {the mighty tree {of the ring-support}} [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Knútr] went, brave, under the shields; the army fought by the moat. Syn [lady], it was nearly as if {the master {of the fire of Rennandi <river>}} [GOLD > MAN] were holding a maddened elk, where we attacked the army with helmet and mail-shirt.

Mss: Flat(186vb) (Flat); DG8(73r) (ÓHLeg)

Readings: [8] elg Rennandi: so DG8, ‘elgr ennanda’ Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 422, Skj BI, 392, Skald I, 194, NN §§906, 1854C; Flat 1860-8, III, 238, ÓH 1941, II, 684; ÓHLeg 1922, 11, ÓHLeg 1982, 50-3.

Context: As for st. 1.

Notes: [4] ríkr ‘mighty’: This adj. could alternatively qualify herr ‘army’ (l. 4) or Knútr (l. 1; so Skj B; ÓHLeg 1982); cf. Note to st. 5/1, 2. — [4] díki ‘the moat’: Circumvallation of London played a prominent part in the viking offensive in 1016 (Campbell 1998, 77 n. 4). — [6] Syn ‘Syn [lady]’: Syn is a goddess-heiti of the sort normally occurring in kennings on the pattern ‘goddess of treasure [WOMAN]’. In the absence of a determinant here it appears to be used as a half-kenning for ‘woman’, parallel to Ilmr in st. 10/4. Kock (Skald and NN §906) reads Syn elds ‘Syn <goddess> of fire’ as a woman-kenning. See Note to ll. 7-8 below. — [6] með hjalm ok brynju ‘with helmet and mail-shirt’: Mail-shirts could connote superior status (Brooks 1978, 83, 90, 93), and this indicates the resources available to Knútr and suggests that, despite the sentiments in st. 2, some of the men at least are equipped with them. Thietmar of Merseburg (Kurze 1889, 217) states that vast numbers of loricae ‘coats of mail’ were stockpiled in London during this siege. — [7-8]: (a) The interpretation adopted here yields a standard man-kenning (cf. Meissner 297). The fierce fighting around the circumvallation is being compared with a tussle between an elk and its would-be captor. Elk-hunting was a time-honoured pursuit in medieval Norway and Sweden and the prey was sometimes driven into steep-sided pits or trenches (Nedkvitne 1993, 307-8), whose resemblance to a moat may have triggered this comparison. A related simile occurs in Grettis saga (ÍF 7, 44) when Grettir protests that there is no need to hold on to him as though he were a wild dog (sem ólmum hundi). (b) Alternatively, elg Rennandi ‘elk of Rennandi / the river’ would form a natural ship-kenning. This is adopted in Skj B, leaving kennir syn elds as a man-kenning which is put in quotation marks to indicate a problem, but kennir elds would form a warrior-kenning ‘master of the sword’, with eldr as a sword-heiti (LP: eldr 7, and see Note to Hfr ErfÓl 6/4), and syn/Syn could be explained as above. (c) Kock (NN §906) reads Syn elds together (see Note to l. 6 Syn), leaving elg Rennandi ‘ship’ as both object to heldi ‘were holding’ and implied determinant of a man-kenning, with kennir ‘master, knower’ as its base-word, but this double construction is highly dubious.


  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. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  8. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  9. ÓHLeg 1982 = Heinrichs, Anne et al., eds and trans. 1982. Olafs saga hins helga: Die ‘Legendarische Saga’ über Olaf den Heiligen (Hs. Delagard. saml. nr. 8II). Heidelberg: Winter.
  10. Campbell, Alistair, ed. 1998. Encomium Emmae Reginae. Edition of 1949 with a supplementary introduction by Simon Keynes. Camden Classic Reprints 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  11. ÍF 7 = Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar. Ed. Guðni Jónsson. 1936.
  12. ÓHLeg 1922 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert, ed. 1922. Olafs saga hins helga efter pergamenthåndskrift i Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, Delagardieske samling nr. 8II. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 47. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  13. Brooks, Nicholas P. 1978. ‘Arms, Status and Warfare in Late-Saxon England’. In Hill 1978, 81-103.
  14. Kurze, Frederick, ed. 1889. Thietmari Merseburgensis episcopi Chronicon. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Germanicorum 54. Hannover: Hahn.
  15. Nedkvitne, Arnvid. 1993. ‘Hunting’. In MedS, 307-8.
  16. Internal references
  17. Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 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. 409.

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