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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ÞjóðA Sex 16II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Sexstefja 16’ 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. 129-30.

Þjóðólfr ArnórssonSexstefja

text and translation

Flest vas hirð, sús hraustum
hrafns fœði vel tœði,
dauð, áðr dǫglingr næði,
døkks, á land at støkkva.
Skóp furðu þá skerði
skipun ǫll (vas þá) snjǫllum
hrings (til Heljar genginn
hverr fótr) konungs Jóta.

Flest hirð, sús tœði {hraustum fœði døkks hrafns} vel, vas dauð, áðr dǫglingr næði at støkkva á land. Ǫll skipun {konungs Jóta} skóp {snjǫllum skerði hrings} furðu þá; hverr fótr vas þá genginn til Heljar.
‘Most of the troop, who served the bold feeder of the dark raven [WARRIOR = Sveinn] well, was dead by the time the prince managed to leap ashore. The whole company of the king of the Jótar [DANISH KING = Sveinn] performed for the valiant damager of the ring [GENEROUS MAN] a marvel then; every foot had then marched off to death’s realm.

notes and context

Fsk: In the battle at the Nissan (Niz), the Norwegians board the Danes’ ships and clear Sveinn’s ship. The st. is followed by a comment that it tells how King Sveinn escaped ashore in a skiff (skúta) which had been floating by the raised after-deck (lypting). Mork and Flat have much the same surrounding prose, including the references to Þjóðólfr, although Mork only cites l. 1 and Flat nothing at all.

[5-8]: The second helmingr is textually difficult, and (or perhaps because) only preserved in copies of the lost vellum FskB. The ms. readings would yield konungr Jóta skóp snjǫllum skerði hrings furðu þá ‘the king of the Jótar performed for the valiant damager of the ring [GENEROUS MAN] a marvel then’, with skipun ǫll vas þá til heljar gengin ‘the whole company had then marched off to death’s realm’ as an intercalary, but this would leave hvern fótr ‘every foot’ unaccounted for, and the phrase is ungrammatical since hvern is acc. and fótr is nom. It may well be that skipun ǫll ‘the whole company’ has been taken as the subject of vas … gengin(n) ‘had marched, gone’ in error, with the consequence that an original hverr fótr ‘every foot’ has become corrupted and an original konungs in l. 4 taken as konungr in order to supply a subject to skóp ‘performed, furnished’ in l. 1. (a) If, then, it is assumed instead that hverr fótr vas genginn til heljar ‘every foot had marched off to death’s realm’ belong together, ǫll skipun and konungr Jóta remain to be assigned to clauses, and emending nom. sg. konungr to gen. sg. konungs is a paleographically minimal solution, especially if the word had been abbreviated in an exemplar. The helmingr then falls reasonably into place, as in the prose order and translation above, following Finnur Jónsson in Fsk 1902-3 and Skj B, and Bjarni Einarsson in ÍF 28. (b) Poole (1991, 63, 71) adopts a similar construal, but has skipun ǫll and hverr fótr in opposite positions, and hence f. nom. sg. gengin to agree with skipun. (c) One could assume that skipun ǫll and hverr fótr are in apposition to each other: ǫll skipun snjǫllum skerði hrings vas þá til heljar gengin, hverr fótr; konungr Jóta skóp þá furðu ‘the whole company of the valiant destroyer of the ring [GENEROUS MAN = Sveinn], every foot, had then marched to death’s realm; the king of the Jutes [= Sveinn] performed a wonder then’. This has the merit of avoiding emendation, and gives a slightly less disjointed arrangement of clauses in the metrical ll., but the assumption that the dat. snjǫllum skerði hrings has a more or less possessive sense is awkward, and the statement that Sveinn performed a wonder (skóp furðu) would be curious, whereas its application to his slain troops under interpretation (a) is cuttingly ironic: the marvel that Sveinn’s troops perform for him is getting killed. (d) Kock’s interpretation in Skald and NN §§860, 1853 combines aspects of these various solutions. He emends to konungs in l. 8, but takes this with hverr fótr, hence ‘every foot of the king of the Jutes’. He assumes that skipun ǫll and hverr fótr are in apposition and, uniquely, that skóp furðu in l. 5 is impersonal, hence ‘this marvel occurred’. As with interpretation (b), there is a difficulty with the dat. phrase snjǫllum skerði hrings, which he translates för den tappre fursten ‘for/before the valiant prince’.



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, 3. Sexstefja 15: AI, 372, BI, 342, Skald I, 172, NN §§860, 1853D; Fsk 1902-3, 270 (ch. 47), ÍF 29, 267-8 (ch. 57); Mork 1928-32, 211, Andersson and Gade 2000, 230, 478 (MH).


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