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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Magnfl 2II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Magnússflokkr 2’ 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, pp. 65-6.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonMagnússflokkr

Út rétt, allvaldr, skjóta
— ekin dúðisk rô — snekkju,
en þrítøgt skip þrautar
þann tíð í haf skríða.
Vægðit vendi sveigðum
veðr ótt of þér, dróttinn;
hlóðu hirðmenn prúðir
húnskript í Sigtúnum.

Allvaldr, rétt skjóta snekkju út, en [rétt] þrítøgt skip skríða þrautar í haf þann tíð; ekin rô dúðisk. Ótt veðr vægðit sveigðum vendi of þér, dróttinn; prúðir hirðmenn hlóðu {húnskript} í Sigtúnum.

Mighty ruler, you launched [lit. did launch] a warship out, and [made] the thirty-benched ship glide at full stretch over the sea at that time; the driven sailyard shuddered. The raging wind did not spare the swayed mast above you, lord; splendid retainers took down {the decorated cloth} [SAIL] of the mast-top in Sigtuna (Sigtúnir).

Mss: (495v), papp18ˣ(203v), 39(12rb-va), F(37rb), E(3r), J2ˣ(239v) (Hkr)

Readings: [2] ekin: eikin F, E, ekinn J2ˣ    [3] þrítøgt: ‘þritug’ J2ˣ;    þrautar: so 39, F, E, J2ˣ, þrauta Kˣ, papp18ˣ    [5] vendi: vandi 39, vindi E, J2ˣ    [6] ótt: so F, E, J2ˣ, átt Kˣ, 39

Editions: Skj AI, 361, Skj BI, 332, Skald I, 168, NN §§848, 3228; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 7, IV, 180, ÍF 28, 7, Hkr 1991, 559-60 (Mgóð ch. 1), F 1871, 169, E 1916, 8.

Context: Making his way westwards from Novgorod (Hólmgarðr), Magnús stops in Sigtuna (Sigtúnir, Sweden), where his stepmother, Ástríðr, rallies support for him.

Notes: [All]: The st. is introduced, Svá segir Þjóðólfr í Magnúsflokki ‘As Þjóðólfr says in Magnússflokkr’—the only direct reference to the poem’s title. — [1, 2, 3, 4] rétt skjóta snekkju út, en [rétt] ... skip skríða ‘you launched [lit. did launch] a warship out, and [made] the ... ship glide’: Rétt (2nd pers. sg. pret. indic. of ráða) in l. 1 forms a periphrastic pret. tense with the inf. skjóta ‘launch’, hence strictly ‘you did launch’. There is, however, no such verb to accompany skríða in l. 4, which also appears to be an inf. (a) The interpretation adopted with some reluctance here assumes that the infinitives skjóta and skríða are parallel, and both dependent on rétt. The resulting construction is awkward because the relationship of rétt and the inf. is different in the two instances. In rétt skjóta, lit. ‘did launch’ rétt is little more than an auxiliary and Magnús is the subject of the whole verb phrase, whereas in (rétt) skríða ‘made glide’ rétt again has Magnús as its subject, but it means ‘caused’, and the ship is the subject of skríða. It seems as though rétt is functioning rather like lét ‘caused’ here. Kock favoured this interpretation, comparing seggi vil ek í sal ganga ‘I want the men to go into the hall’ (Sigsk 44; NN §3228), but the behaviour of the verb vilja is not evidence for that of ráða. (b) The same meaning would be gained simply by assuming that, like skjóta, skríða can be causative, hence rétt skríða skip ‘you did make the ship glide’, but evidence for this is lacking. (c) Finnur Jónsson’s solution in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B was to assume that the second, understood, occurrence of rétt is in effect 3rd sg. réð, hence rétt skjóta, en [réð] skríða, lit. ‘you did launch, and it did glide’ rather than ‘you made it glide’, but this displaces the problem rather than solving it. (d) A neater option altogether is to adopt the reading þrauta ‘did not fail’ in l. 3, i.e. 3rd pers. sg. pret. indic. of þrjóta with negative suffix -a, hence en skip þrauta skríða ‘and the ship did not fail to glide’. However, this makes the assumption that K alone (represented by and papp18ˣ) preserves the correct, straightforward, reading, and although this assumption seems almost unavoidable in st. 3/1 spornuðu(ð) ‘they/you trod’, it is in principle better avoided, and attractive K readings have not been adopted in sts 10/1 bru(t) and 14/2 elds / éls. (e) The J2ˣ reading þrítug implies a pl. skip ‘thirty-benched ships’ which could be subject to skríða ‘glide’, but a pres. tense verb seems unlikely here. — [2] ekin rô dúðisk ‘the driven sailyard shuddered’: Jesch explains, ‘as it [was] turned to catch the wind’ (2001, 162). Ekin provides a regular resolution of two short syllables, while the variant eikin is metrically inappropriate, and seems to be influenced by the adj. eikinn ‘savage, hostile’, or by the noun eik(i) ‘oak tree(s)’. Finds from the Gokstad ship identified as sailyards are of birch and fir (Jesch 2001a, 162). — [2, 3] snekkju; þrítøgt skip ‘warship; thirty-benched ship’: This constitutes a useful piece of evidence that the snekkja, whose size and type are somewhat elusive, was not necessarily smaller than a skeið, as has been assumed (Falk specified twenty rowing stations, 1912, 102-4, but see Jesch 2001a, 126-7). — [3-4] þrautar ... þann tíð ‘at full stretch ... at that time’: Þrautar seems to be an adverbial gen. sg., with a sense comparable to til þrautar ‘to the utmost, at full stretch’ (cf. ÞjóðA Har 6, also in a context involving a snekkja). Both it and þann tíð ‘at that time’ are best taken, as by most eds, with the cl. in ll. 3-4 in which they are embedded. Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901 and Skj B construed þrautar with the cl. ekin r dúðisk ‘the driven sailyard shuddered’, and þann tíð ‘at that time’ with the cl. rétt skjóta ‘you launched’, but this creates an extremely disjointed cl. arrangement which is decried by Kock (NN §848). — [7] hlóðu ‘took down’: In what seems an abrupt end to the journey, the warriors take down the sail. Whether the normal sense of hlaða, ‘pile’, means here that the sail was taken off the yard and folded on the deck or merely that it was furled around the yard is not clear (cf. Falk 1912, 62; Jesch 2001a, 178). That the sail is not taken down but reefed is suggested by Finnur’s translation rebede (Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B), but this is rejected as a land-lubberly (landkrabbebetonade) explanation by Kock (NN §3228, Anm). — [8] húnskript ‘the decorated cloth of the mast-top [SAIL]’: Jesch (2001a, 161) points out that the skript ‘decoration, picture’ on the sail could be embroidered, painted or simply the effect of stitching in sections; cf. Seglit var sett með fögrum skriptum ‘The sail was laid out with beautiful decorations’ (Fms 10, 77, cited in CVC: skript). Sail-kennings are rare (Meissner 222), but this one reappears in SnSt Ht 78/8III and Sturl Hákkv 11/5 (see LP: húnskript).


  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. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  9. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  10. Falk, Hjalmar. 1912. Altnordisches Seewesen. Wörter und Sachen 4. Heidelberg: Winter.
  11. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  12. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  13. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  14. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  15. E 1916 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1916. Eirspennill: AM 47 fol. Nóregs konunga sǫgur: Magnús góði – Hákon gamli. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske historiske kildeskriftskommission.
  16. Internal references
  17. Not published: do not cite ()
  18. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Snorri Sturluson, Háttatal 78’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1189.
  19. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sturla Þórðarson, Hákonarkviða 11’ 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, p. 708.
  20. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr 6’ 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, pp. 156-7.

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