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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Magnfl 5II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Magnússflokkr 5’ 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. 69-70.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonMagnússflokkr

Sjalfr vas austr við Elfi
Ulfs mǫgr ok hét fǫgru;
þar réð Sveinn at sverja
sínar hendr at skríni.
Réð Ôleifs sonr eiðum,
— átt hafa þeira sáttir
skemmra aldr an skyldi —
Skônunga gramr, hônum.

{Mǫgr Ulfs} vas sjalfr austr við Elfi ok hét fǫgru; þar réð Sveinn at sverja hendr sínar at skríni. {Sonr Ôleifs}, {gramr Skônunga}, réð hônum eiðum; sáttir þeira hafa átt skemmra aldr an skyldi.

{Úlfr’s kinsman} [= Sveinn Úlfsson] himself was east at the Götaälv (Elfr), and promised fine things; there Sveinn did pledge himself [lit. his hands] at the shrine. {Óláfr’s son} [= Magnús], {the lord of the Skánungar} [= Magnús], dictated oaths to him; their peace-agreements have had a shorter life than they ought.

Mss: (508v-509r), 39(15va), F(39va), E(6v), J2ˣ(248v) (Hkr); FskBˣ(56v), FskAˣ(216) (Fsk); H(6v), Hr(7va) (H-Hr); Flat(190va-b) (Flat)

Readings: [1] við: í 39, F, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, H, Flat    [3] þar: þá FskBˣ, ‘þer’ FskAˣ    [6] sáttir: sættir FskBˣ, FskAˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 362, Skj BI, 333, Skald I, 168; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 42, IV, 193, ÍF 28, 38, Hkr 1991, 581 (Mgóð ch. 23), F 1871, 180, E 1916, 21-2; Fsk 1902-3, 207 (ch. 41), ÍF 29, 219 (ch. 49); Fms 6, 53 (Mgóð ch. 27), Fms 12, 132; Flat 1860-8, III, 274, Andersson and Gade 2000, 113-14, 468 (MH).

Context: While Magnús and his fleet are anchored by the Götaälv (Elfr, Gautelfr), the Dane Sveinn Úlfsson comes and becomes his man. Magnús appoints him as jarl and viceroy over Denmark (this follows the st. in Fsk) and Sveinn swears oaths of loyalty on a shrine or reliquary.

Notes: [All]: In Flat, the st. is anonymous. — [1-4]: The main problem in the first helmingr is that the verb var (normalised vas) ‘was’, the reading of all mss, makes sense in ll. 1-2 but appears to leave acc. pl. sínar hendr ‘his hands’ unaccounted for. (a) The interpretation adopted here agrees with those early eds who retained var/vas and took sverja hendr sínar á skríni together as ‘swear (with) his hands (placed) on the shrine’ (e.g. Munch and Unger in Fsk 1847, 101-2, 194; Sveinbjörn Egilsson in LP (1860): sverja and SHI 6, 48). This rather strained assumption was taken up by C20th eds of Hkr (ÍF 28, Hkr 1991) and Fsk (ÍF 29) and by Gade (2000, 113). Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson, however, improves the solution by translating as batt hendur sínar með eiðum ‘bound (over) his hands with oaths’ and noting that this is not dissimilar from constructions like sverja e-m land (‘make over land to sby on oath’; cf. a similar rendering in Hkr 1991). Given that hendr ‘hands’ can refer to the whole person, as in Hǫgni varði hendr Gunnars, lit. ‘Hǫgni defended Gunnarr’s hands’ in Akv 19 (NK 243), there could be a double sense here, literal and figurative: Sveinn is placing his hands on the shrine while swearing himself in allegiance to Magnús. (b) Emendation of var to bar provides the necessary transitive verb, and some corruption would be understandable given that the presumed cl. bar sínar hendr is suspended over ll. 1 and 4. This yields:

Sjalfr bar austr við Elfi
Ulfs mǫgr ok hét fǫgru,
— þar réð Sveinn at sverja —
sínar hendr at skríni.

Prose order: Mǫgr Ulfs bar sjalfr hendr sínar at skríni austr við Elfi ok hét fǫgru; Sveinn réð at sverja þar. Translation: Úlfr’s kinsman [= Sveinn] himself placed his hands on the shrine east at the Götaälv, and promised fine things; Sveinn did swear there. The emendation was suggested by Konráð Gíslason (Nj 1875-8, II, 298 anm.), and was adopted by Finnur Jónsson in his eds of Hkr (1893-1901) and Fsk (1902-3) and in Skj B. As well as being an emendation against the whole paradosis, however, this leaves sverja awkwardly intransitive, whereas the verb is normally followed by a noun object such as eið(a) ‘oath(s)’ or a cl. such as (þess), at ... ‘that ...’. (c) Konráð dismissed an alternative emendation, of hét in l. 2 to helt, hence helt hendr sínar at fǫgru skríni ‘held his hands over the beautiful shrine’, for the good reason that helt (inf. halda) would normally govern the dat., not the acc. — [1] við Elfi ‘at the Götaälv (Elfr)’: The reading í ‘in’ is found in Flat, H-Hr, and most Fsk mss (52ˣ exceptionally having við, fol. 81r), and it is retained in the eds of those works listed above. It would presumably refer to the region around the river in Västergötland, but við ‘at’ or ‘by’ is preferable. — [4] skríni ‘reliquary’: The word could refer to a shrine or reliquary. The surrounding prose in Hkr, H-Hr and Flat suggests a portable reliquary. — [8] gramr Skônunga ‘the lord of the Skánungar [= Magnús]’: This is taken in apposition to sonr leifs ‘Óláfr’s son’ (l. 5), since both refer to Magnús. The alternative is that it is an apostrophe (a possibility raised, and rejected, by Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV, 193). The Skánungar are the people of Skåne, now in southern Sweden but then Dan. territory.


  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. Nj 1875-89 = Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson. 1875-89. Njála: Udgivet efter gamle håndskrifter. Íslendingasögur udgivne efter gamle haandskrifter af Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskrift-selskab 4. Copenhagen: Thiele.
  5. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. LP (1860) = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1860. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis. Copenhagen: Societas Regia antiquariorum septentrionalium.
  7. Andersson, Theodore M. and Kari Ellen Gade, trans. 2000. Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030-1157). Islandica 51. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  8. Gade, Kari Ellen. 2000. ‘Poetry and its Changing Importance in Medieval Icelandic Culture’. In Clunies Ross 2000a, 61-95.
  9. 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.
  10. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. 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. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  16. E 1916 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1916. Eirspennill: AM 47 fol. Nóregs konunga sǫgur: Magnús góði – Hákon gamli. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske historiske kildeskriftskommission.
  17. Fsk 1847 = Munch, P. A. and C. R. Unger, eds. 1847. Fagrskinna. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  18. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  19. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  20. Internal references
  21. 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].
  22. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Flateyjarbók (Flat)’ 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. clxi-clxii.
  23. 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.
  24. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Hulda and Hrokkinskinna (H-Hr)’ 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].
  25. Not published: do not cite (MHII)
  26. Not published: do not cite ()

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