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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rloð Lv 6VIII (Ragn 10)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 10 (Ragnarr loðbrók, Lausavísur 6)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 644.

Ragnarr loðbrókLausavísur

text and translation

Sá ek engum sveini
nema Sigurði einum
í brúnsteinum brúna
bráðhalls tau*ma lagða.
Sjá hefir dagrýfir dýra
— dælt er hann at því kenna —
hvass í hvarmatúni
hrings myrkviðar fengit.

Ek sá {brúna tau*ma bráðhalls} lagða í {brúnsteinum} engum sveini, nema Sigurði einum. {Sjá {dýra dag}rýfir}, hvass, hefir fengit {hrings myrkviðar} í {hvarmatúni}; dælt er kenna hann at því.
‘I have seen bright reins of a rockface [SNAKES] placed in the brow-stones [EYES] of no boy save Sigurðr alone. This breaker of the light of hands [(lit. ‘light-breaker of hands’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN], keen as he is, has received a ring of the murky forest [SNAKE] in the enclosure of the eyelids [EYE]; it is easy to recognise him by that.

notes and context

Ragnarr further comments on the distinctive mark in the eye of his newborn son. The prose following this stanza briefly reports Ragnarr’s abandonment of his idea of marrying the daughter of King Eysteinn, and the fact that Kráka-Áslaug’s true parentage is now universally acknowledged.

In 147, part of l. 1 of this stanza (‘sa eg eín’) is written at the foot (l. 27) of fol. 99v, and the remainder of the stanza at the head of fol. 97v, of which l. 1 begins: ‘ngi suein(i)’ (?). The ordering of the fols in this ms. was clearly completed without regard to their inclusion of the text of Ragn, fragmentarily preserved on fols 93r-111v, or to the original ordering of those fols, on which the text of the saga is all but effaced by partial erasure and overwriting (see the Introduction). Olsen’s renumbering of the relevant fols (as 1r-19v) for the purposes of his edn, which shows in correct order what he could read of the text, is described in detail in Ragn 1906-8, lxxxiv-vi; cf. 176-94. — [1-4]: (a) As Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 202) notes, the readings sá ek in l. 1 and to a lesser extent lagða in l. 4, both suggested by Bugge (1876, 403), find support in the 147 text, with which Bugge was evidently already familiar in 1876, since he refers to the reading ‘lagðann der besten hds.’ (‘of the best ms.’), cf. the Introduction and Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, lxxxix, xcv). In l. 1, Sá ek engum ‘In no-one’s (eyes) have I seen …’ is originally Bugge’s (1876, 403) emended reading, also adopted by Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ), Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985) and the present ed. (b) Both Rafn (FSN) and Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891) follow 1824b in normalising to sjá er in l. 1 and both read l. 4 as bráð háls traumi logða, making it difficult to extract a meaning from the half-stanza as a whole (on Skj B’s and Skald’s emendation to svá eru in l. 1, see (d) below). Without discussing ll. 2-3, Bugge (1876, 403) reads l. 4 as bráð háls trǫnu lagða ‘food of the throat of the crane [SNAKE] placed …’ with lagða as f. acc. sg. agreeing with bráð ‘food, meat’, and the latter forming the acc. subject of a passive inf. (vera lagða ‘be/being placed’, with vera omitted, in an acc. and inf. construction dependent on Sá ek ‘I saw, I have seen’, in l. 1. Bugge’s understanding of the half-stanza is thus that the speaker, Ragnarr, saw a snake placed in the eyes of no-one but those of his son Sigurðr. Bugge’s interpretation leaves unanswered the question of how to interpret brúna in l. 3. Is it gen. pl. of brún, f. ‘brow’ or the adj. brúnn ‘brown’, here in the f. acc. sg., agreeing with bráð ‘food’? The former seems on the face of it unlikely, given that brúnsteinn ‘brow-stone’, as Ragn 9/2, above, shows, is an adequate kenning for ‘eye’ (cf. also Ragn 14/6, below), and the kenning brúnsteinn brúna ‘brow-stone of brows’ would surely be tautologous. (c) Olsen considers as a possibility the heavily emended sequence tauma brúðar bergjarls ‘reins of the bride of the rock-ruler [GIANT > GIANTESS > SNAKES]’, taking brúna ‘brown’ as m. acc. pl., agreeing with tauma ‘reins’ (l. 4); in his edited text, however, he takes up Finnur Jónsson’s suggestion of brúnir taumar barðhjarls ‘brown reins of the craggy earth’ (cf. Skj B), also meaning ‘snakes’, though with brúna and tauma in the acc. (as opposed to Finnur’s nom., see further below). In each of these two possible readings tauma is to be seen as the acc. subject of the passive inf. vera lagða ‘be/being placed’ (with vera understood) in the acc. and inf. construction dependent on Sá ek ‘I saw’, l. 1. Eskeland (Ragn 1944) follows the first of these two readings in his translation, but adopts the second (with the spelling barðjarls, understood as ‘of earth’) in his text. Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ) and Ebel (Ragn 2003) also follow Olsen’s finally chosen reading of ll. 3-4 (i.e. í brunsteinum brúna | barðhjarls tauma lagða), as does Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985), except that Örnólfur has barðhalls, gen. of barðhallr ‘cliff, slope beneath a mountain rim’, in place of Olsen’s barðhjarls, while also taking it as the determinant in a kenning meaning ‘snakes’. (d) It remains to consider the readings of Finnur Jónsson in Skj B and Kock in Skald. Both are in agreement in emending the 1824b readings ‘sea er’ and ‘tuarmí logda’ to svá eru and taumir lagðir (m. nom. pl.) in ll. 1 and 4 respectively, so producing the meaning ‘Thus are … reins placed …’. Finnur, moreover, also emends to brúnir ‘brown’, m. nom. pl. adj., to agree with taumar ‘reins’, and reads barðhjarls ‘of craggy earth’ in l. 4, as indicated above, giving the overall meaning: ‘So brown reins of craggy earth [SNAKES] are placed in no boy’s eyes but those of Sigurðr alone’. (e) Kock (NN §1452) objects to these two emendations. In l. 3 he normalises to brúna, understanding this as gen. pl. of brún, f., ‘brow’, and sees the first element, brún-, in brúnsteinum as adjectival, meaning either ‘brown’ or ‘bright, glittering’. In l. 4 he normalises to bráðhalls ‘precipitous cliff’, again taking the first element in the word as adjectival, having the function of intensifying the steepness of the cliff signified by the second element, ‑hallr, m. He thus removes the need for emendation in these two cases, but retains, with Skj B, the emended nom. pl. readings taumar lagðir ‘reins placed’ necessitated by the emendation to Svá eru ‘Thus are…’ in l. 1. (f) The present edn accepts from 147 the Sá ek ‘I have seen’ reading in l. 1, takes brúnsteinum, dat. pl., ‘brow-stones’ in l. 3 as a straightforward kenning for ‘eyes’ (cf. Ragn 9/2 and 14/6, and brásteinar ‘eyelash-stones’, Anon Pét 45/4VII), and brúna ‘brown, bright, glittering’ in l. 3 as an acc. pl. m. adj. qualifying and agreeing grammatically with tauma lagða ‘reins placed’ in l. 4 and forming with them part of the acc. and inf. construction introduced by the opening words of the stanza. This involves minimal emendation. The present ed. also prefers Kock’s NN §1452 reading bráðhalls ‘(of a) precipitous cliff’ in l. 4 (involving no emendation) to his subsequently emended form bráðhjarls ‘(of) precipitous earth?’ in Skald.



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: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 2. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Ragnarssaga loðbrókar IV 3: AII, 234, BII, 254, Skald II, 132, NN §§181, 1452, 2367; FSN 1, 259 (Ragn ch. 8), Ragn 1891, 193-4 (ch. 8), Ragn 1906-8, 136-7, 181, 202-3 (ch. 9), Ragn 1944, 58-9 (ch. 9), FSGJ 1, 246 (Ragn ch. 9), Ragn 1985, 121 (ch. 9), Ragn 2003, 31-2 (ch. 9), CPB II, 348.


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