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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjsk Sveindr 1I

Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Drápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg 1’ 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. 374.

Þorleifr jarlsskáld RauðfeldarsonDrápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg1

Opt með œrnri giptu
ǫðlings himins rǫðla
Jóta gramr inn ítri
Englandi rauð branda.

{Inn ítri gramr Jóta} rauð branda opt Englandi með œrnri giptu {ǫðlings {rǫðla himins}}.

{The splendid ruler of the Jótar} [DANISH KING = Sveinn] reddened blades often in England with ample luck {of the Lord {of the discs of the sky}} [HEAVENLY BODIES > = God].

Mss: Flat(27vb) (Flat); 4867ˣ(100v), 563aˣ(2) (ÞorlJ)

Readings: [2] ǫðlings: ǫðling 4867ˣ    [3] Jóta: so 563aˣ, jótra Flat, Jóta corrected from jǫtna 4867ˣ;    gramr: corrected from ‘grier’ 4867ˣ;    inn: om. 563aˣ;    ítri: ‘eytre’ 4867ˣ    [4] Englandi: á Englandi 4867ˣ, 563aˣ;    rauð: so 4867ˣ, roðit Flat, rjóða 563aˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 141, Skj BI, 133, Skald I, 73; SHI 3, 97, Flat 1860-8, I, 210, ÞorlJ 1883, 119, 157, ÍF 9, 219, ÍS III, 2269 (ÞorlJ).

Context: Soon after arriving at Sveinn’s court, Þorleifr asks his permission to recite a poem about him. It is well received and Sveinn gives Þorleifr a ring and a sword in payment. 

Notes: [All]: As noted above, the stanza is introduced as a, or the, stef ‘refrain’ from a forty-stanza drápa. — [1] œrnri ‘ample’: (a) This is taken here, as in ÍS, as the f. dat. sg. form of œrinn ‘ample, sufficient’. Although the normal form would be œrinni, syncope by analogy with forms such as m. nom. pl. œrnir is possible (cf. ANG §428.2 Anm. 1 for forms such as ýms(r)a beside ýmissa; cf. also ModIcel. gen. pl. ærnra). (b) The eds of Skj B, Skald and ÍF 9 emend to f. acc. sg. œrna; með can govern either acc. or dat. sg. — [1] giptu ‘luck’: As the ‘luck’ here is God’s, the sense is presumably Christian: grace or blessing from God, which brings Sveinn victory. This has been compared with crusader literature (Ejerfeldt 1971, 142; see also Lange 1958a, 50-3). Sveinn was almost certainly a Christian (Sawyer and Sawyer 2003, 151), but judging by his þáttr Þorleifr had no opportunity to come into contact with the new faith, other than this visit to Denmark. — [2] ǫðlings rǫðla himins ‘of the Lord of the discs of the sky [HEAVENLY BODIES > = God]’: The kenning rǫðla himins is at first sight unsatisfactory, since rǫðull can itself mean ‘sun’ or (in pl.) ‘heavenly bodies’, but rǫðull may have the more specific meaning ‘disc, circle’, deriving from its etymological links with words denoting circular objects (AEW: rǫðull 1). Fidjestøl (1982, 102) thinks this kenning seems young, and it is true that non-mythological kennings for the heavenly bodies (including some using hvél ‘wheel’ as base-word) are more frequent in late, especially Christian, poetry (Meissner 103-4, 378-82), though it is possible that the present stanza is an early instance of this trend. — [3] Jóta ‘of the Jótar’: I.e. the people of Jótland (Jutland). Flat’s ‘jotra’ makes no sense, while king-kennings with Jótar are both common and appropriate to the Danish King Sveinn, so the paper mss seem to preserve the original reading here. Previous eds also read Jóta, regarding it as an emendation. — [4] Englandi ‘in England’: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s first mention of Sveinn raiding in England is in 994 (ASC ‘E’, ‘F’, s. a.), while Þorleifr was apparently killed in Iceland by agents of Hákon jarl, who died c. 995. This chronology renders Þorleifr’s authorship of the present stanza somewhat unlikely, though it has been argued that Sveinn took part in an earlier attack on English soil c. 991 (ÍF 9, xcvii; Sawyer 1993, 41), and it could be this which is referred to here. — [4] rauð ‘reddened’: (a) This, the 4867ˣ reading, is to be preferred, and it is adopted in most previous eds. Since the textual relations are elusive it is not clear whether it is in fact a scribal emendation. (b) Flat has roðit, the p. p. of the same verb, rjóða ‘to redden’, but because this would require resolution in position 4 it is metrically less satisfactory (see Gade 1995a, 60-6), and an auxiliary is lacking.


  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. 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.
  5. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  6. Fidjestøl, Bjarne. 1982. Det norrøne fyrstediktet. Universitet i Bergen Nordisk institutts skriftserie 11. Øvre Ervik: Alvheim & Eide.
  7. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  8. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  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. Lange, Wolfgang. 1958a. Studien zur christlichen Dichtung der Nordgermanen 1000-1200. Palaestra 222. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  11. ASC [Anglo-Saxon Chronicle] = Plummer, Charles and John Earle, eds. 1892-9. Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1952.
  12. ÍF 9 = Eyfirðinga sǫgur. Ed. Jónas Kristjánsson. 1956.
  13. 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.
  14. ÍS = Bragi Halldórsson et al., eds. 1987. Íslendinga sögur og þættir. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Svart á hvítu.
  15. ÞorlJ 1883 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1883. ‘Þáttr Þorleifs’. In Guðmundur Þorláksson et al. 1880-3, III, 117-63.
  16. Ejerfeldt, Lennart. 1971. Helighet, ‘karisma’ och kungadöme i forngermansk religion. Skrifter utgivna av Religionshistoriska Institutionen i Uppsala (Hum. Fak.) 7. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.
  17. Sawyer, Birgit and Michael Sawyer. 2003. ‘Scandinavia Enters Christian Europe’. In Helle 2003, 147-59.
  18. Sawyer, Michael. 1993. ‘The Scandinavian Background’. In Cooper 1993, 33-42.
  19. Internal references
  20. Not published: do not cite (ÞorlJI)

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