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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

text and translation

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.

notes and 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.

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.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, 1. Magnúsflokkr 5: AI, 362, 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).


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