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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þklypp Lv 1I

R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorkell klyppr Þórðarson, Lausavísa 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. 269.

Þorkell klyppr ÞórðarsonLausavísa1

text and translation

Hygg eigi beð byggva,
bjórranns, hjá þér, Nanna,
— ek em af angri miklu
ófrýnn — né svá dýnu.
Ok dauðs vallar dáðar
(drekk eigi,) mér þekkja
(áðr í bragnings blóði
bengjóði nef rjóðum).

Hygg eigi byggva beð né svá dýnu hjá þér, {Nanna {bjórranns}}; ek em ófrýnn af miklu angri. Ok dáðar vallar dauðs þekkja mér; drekk eigi, áðr rjóðum nef {bengjóði} í blóði bragnings.
‘I do not intend to occupy a bed, and certainly not a feather bed, beside you, Nanna <goddess> of the beer-mansion [DRINKING HORN > WOMAN]; I am grimacing from great anguish. And accomplishments of the field of death are agreeable to me; I shall not drink before we [I] redden the beak of the wound-osprey [RAVEN/EAGLE] in the blood of the prince.

notes and context

King Sigurðr slefa of Norway, son of Eiríkr blóðøx ‘Blood-axe’, sends Þorkell klyppr to England to collect tribute, and while Þorkell is away, Sigurðr compels Ólǫf Ásbjarnardóttir, Þorkell’s wife, to cohabit with him. When Þorkell returns, Ólǫf invites him into the bedchamber, offering to tell him all that has happened and to make it up to him. But Þorkell has already heard the truth, and he responds with this stanza. Later, at an assembly, Þorkell kills Sigurðr with an axe-blow to the head, and he in turn is killed by Ǫgmundr Kárason.

[5-6]: Whatever the precise meaning, the general sense of the helmingr is plain: Þorkell desires no pleasures before he has taken vengeance. But no very satisfactory interpretation of ll. 5-6 has been devised, and the impeccable poetic form discourages emendation. A particular point of obscurity is þekkja in l. 6, which could be inf. or 3rd pers. pl. pres. indic. of the verb ‘to recognise, know’ or various parts of the adj. þekkr ‘agreeable’. (a) The approach adopted here assumes that mér þekkja has the sense ‘please me, are agreeable to me’, which would normally be expressed by m. v. þekkjask. Dáða in the sole ms. witness is emended to nom. pl. dáðar. Since dáð is an i-stem noun, the inflexion -ar (rather than ‑ir) would be rare, but it does occur early (ANG §390.4). The thought is comparable to Hfr ErfÓl 2/3-4 heldr lét skyldir hauka hugrekki þekkja sér ‘rather the obliger of hawks [MAN] made courage dear to him’. (b) In a similar interpretation, dáðar þekkja is now an acc. with inf. construction with the sense ‘be content with’ usually expressed by þekkjask with nom. subject and acc. object, as in Gamlkan Has 15/3, 4VII en þekkjask dýrar dáðir ‘and be content with good deeds’. The two helmingar are linked, with the þekkja construction dependent on hygg eigi ‘I do not intend’ in l. 1, as a second object. Hence hygg eigi byggva … ok þekkja mér dáðar vallar dauðs, whose overall sense in this context is ‘I do not intend to occupy … and (merely) to accept the deeds of the field of death (i.e. without avenging them)’. (c) A variant on either of these interpretations would be to emend ‘vallar’ to gen. sg. valda ‘of the wielder’, hence valda dauðs ‘of the wielder of death [WARRIOR/RULER]’, cf. valdi styrjar ‘wielder of battle’ (SnSt Ht 63/2III). (d) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) appears to think that l. 5 may contain a kenning for ‘beer’, as the object of drekk ‘I drink’, and qualified by the adj. þekkja. He takes dauðs with bragnings, hence ‘of the dead prince’. (e) Kock (NN §343) suggests emending dauðs … þekkja to dauð … þekkjan ‘agreeable death’ as object of drekk, here ‘drink to, in honour of’. (f) Later (NN §2432) Kock proposes to retain the ms. reading, regarding dauðs vallar dáða ‘accomplishments of the field of death (i.e. battlefield)’ as object of drekk, the gen. case of dáða ‘deeds’ licensed by the negative construction, and mér þekkja as functioning like an apostrophe, ‘you who are agreeable to me’.



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: Þórkell klyppr Þórðarson, Lausavísa: AI, 99, BI, 93, Skald I, 54-5, NN §§343, 2432; Fms 3, 86, Fms 12, 69, Flat 1860-8, I, 20 (SSlef).


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