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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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EirRagn Lv 2VIII (Ragn 12)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 12 (Eiríkr Ragnarsson, Lausavísur 2)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 649.

Eiríkr RagnarssonLausavísur

Munat eins konungs efni,
svá at ek vita dæmi,
á dýrra beð deyja
til dagverðar hrafni.
Mun blóði þá bróður
ok bráð yfir gjalla
bræðra beggja slíta
blár, þó at illa leyni.

Efni eins konungs munat, svá at ek vita dæmi, deyja á dýrra beð til dagverðar hrafni. Þá mun blár slíta blóði bróður ok gjalla yfir bráð beggja bræðra, þó at illa leyni.

Not a single future king, as far as I know [any] examples, will die on a more glorious bed as breakfast for the raven. Then the black one will consume the blood of [my] brother, and scream above the raw flesh of both brothers, even though it conceals badly [what it is doing].

Mss: 1824b(64r) (Ragn)

Readings: [6] bráð: ‘brat’ 1824b    [7] bræðra beggja: ‘hridr veggia’ 1824b

Editions: Skj AII, 235, Skj BII, 254, Skald II, 132, NN §1454; FSN 1, 262 (Ragn ch. 9), Ragn 1891, 196 (ch. 9), Ragn 1906-8, 139-40, 203-4 (ch. 10), Ragn 1944, 64-5 (Ragn ch. 10), FSGJ 1, 249-50 (Ragn ch. 10), Ragn 1985, 124 (ch. 10), Ragn 2003, 34-5 (ch. 10), CPB II, 348.

Context: Eiríkr speaks proudly of the heroic nature of his imminent death on a bed of spears, and foresees the exposure of his own body and that of his dead brother to ravens eager for prey.

Notes: [1, 3] efni eins konungs munat … deyja ‘not a single future king … will die’: Lit. ‘the material of a single king will not die’. — [4]: This line is unmetrical with the ms. spelling dögurðar (‘daugurdar’); it has therefore been normalised here to the alternative form dagverðar. — [5-8]: There have been a number of editorial attempts to make sense of the first word of l. 7, ms. ‘hridr’, and the construal of the other lines in this helmingr have largely depended on them. An explanation of the present ed.’s position is at point (d) below. (a) Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 203-4) emends as follows: Mun blóðþiðurr bráðir | ok brátt yfir gjalla | brœðra beggja slíta | blár, þótt illa launi (with launi for ms. leyni): ‘The (dark-)blue blood-capercaillie (i.e. raven) will tear the bodies (bráðir) of both brothers and soon shriek over (them), even though he (the raven) (thus) pays a poor reward’ (i.e. for the prey which the brothers had provided for him with their battle-slayings, cf. Ragn 14/7-8, below, and Ragn 1906-8, 205). In support of his emendation to blóðþiðurr ‘blood-capercaillie’, evidently suggested to him by Bugge through personal communication, Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 204) adduces blóðorri ‘blood-grouse’ and blóðtrani ‘blood-crane’, both recorded elsewhere as kennings for ‘raven’ (see, respectively, ÞjóðA Sex 29/1II and Ótt Knútdr 10/3I). As an alternative presentation of the half-stanza as he reads it, Olsen suggests the reversal of bráðir and brœðra in its word order (with retention of blóðþiðurr in l. 5 and no change in the overall meaning), and considers only to reject as mindre rimeligt ‘less reasonable’ the possibility of retaining the 1824b reading Mun blóði þá in the sense ‘the blood-brother (of the raven mentioned in the first half-stanza) will then …’ (with blóði ‘blood-brother’ taken as a weak m. noun in the nom. case). (b) Kock (Skald; NN §1454) retains the latter reading in this sense, but is otherwise in agreement with Olsen in treating yfir ‘thereover, over (them)’ in l. 6 as adverbial, in taking blár ‘(dark-)blue, black’, as an adj. used attributively (in this case with blóði), and in emending to launi ‘pays a reward’ in l. 8. (c) Except on this last point, Kock is here arguing against Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), who, as well as emending to launi in l. 8, also retains in l. 5 the 1824b reading Mun blóði þá but takes blóði ‘blood’ as dat. sg., governed by yfir functioning in l. 6 as a prep., and the adj. blár in l. 8 as substantival. Finnur’s translation is thus: da vil den sorte (ravnen) rive i bægge brødrene som bytte og gjalde hurtig over deres blod, skönt det er dårlig gengæld ‘the black one (the raven) will then tear at the prey consisting of both brothers and will soon clamour over their blood, even though that is a poor return’. (d) The present ed. proposes emendation of ms. ‘brat’ in l. 6 to bráð, dat. sg. of bráð ‘meat, raw flesh’, in l. 6 (here following Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891)), and, noting with Finnur Jónsson (Skj A II, 235 n. 2) that paper copies of 1824b read beggja rather than veggja in l. 7, assumes alliteration on <b> for this line and for line 8 (where blár occurs in head-stave position), and emends ms. ‘hridr’ in l. 7 to bræðra (following in this respect most other eds), and also emending veggja to beggja, thus producing the translation given above. Ms. leyni ‘conceals’ (3rd pers. sg. pres. subj.) is not emended to launi ‘pays a reward’ in l. 8 in this edn, as in several others. The word yfir ‘above’ in l. 6 is here taken as prepositional (cf. also Finnur Jónsson, Skj B, noted above) and as governing bráð f. in the dat. sg. Another possibility, rather less likely because of its syntactic awkwardness, but which would avoid emendation of ms. ‘brat’ in l. 6, might be to normalise this to brátt adv. ‘soon’, and to read: Þá mun blár slíta blóði bróður, beggja bræðra, ok brátt gjalla yfir ‘Then the black one [the raven] will consume the blood of [my] brother, [indeed] of both brothers, and soon scream above [it]’, with yfir ‘thereover’ here taken as prepositional with a suppressed object. For an alternative treatment of this half-stanza, avoiding emendation altogether, see McTurk (2014b). — [8] blár ‘the black one’: That is, the raven. — [8] þó at leyni illa ‘even though it conceals badly [what it is doing]’: The emendation of leyni ‘conceals’ to launi ‘pays a reward’ gives awkward sense in the context (but cf. launa illa (of a raven) in st. 14/7-8). The retention here of leyni ‘conceals’, itself not altogether easy to accommodate in the context, syntactically and semantically, may however be justified as follows: previous eds who have emended here to launi have clearly assumed that poetic licence, the exigencies of metre, and the semantic context as viewed by each of them, justify the understanding of launa here as having an absolute, intransitive, sense, i.e. ‘(pay a) reward’ without the acc. object (referring to the occasion for the reward) or the dat. object (referring to the person rewarded) that the verb might be expected to have; these are presumably to be understood by the listener or reader. The same justification can, however, be used here for the reading leyni. The verb leyna ‘conceal’ might be expected to have a dat. object referring to what is concealed and an acc. object referring to the person from whom it is concealed, but need not have either if the meaning is clear from the context, as previous eds clearly take objectless launa to be. The present ed. adopts the reading leyni and translates þó at leyni illa as ‘even though it [thus] conceals badly [what it is doing]’, with ‘it’ referring to the raven.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj A = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15a. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. A: Tekst efter håndskrifterne. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1967. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  4. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  5. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  7. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  8. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  9. Ragn 1906-8 = Olsen 1906-8, 111-222.
  10. Ragn 1944 = Eskeland, Severin, ed. and trans. 1944. Soga om Ragnar Lodbrok med Kråka-kvædet. Norrøne bokverk 16. 2nd ed. Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget. [1st ed. 1914].
  11. McTurk, Rory. 2014b. ‘Rattus rattus as a Beast of Battle? Stanza 12 of Ragnars saga’. In Chase 2014, 102-13.
  12. Ragn 1985 = Örnólfur Thorsson 1985, 101-53.
  13. Ragn 1891 = 2nd edn (pp. 175-224) of Ragn as ed. in Valdimar Ásmundarson 1885-9, I.
  14. Ragn 2003 = Ebel, Uwe, ed. 2003. Ragnars saga loðbrókar. Texte des skandinavischen Mittelalters 4. Vol. II of Ebel 1997-2003.
  15. Internal references
  16. 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Ragnars saga loðbrókar’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 616.
  17. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 14 (Eiríkr Ragnarsson, Lausavísur 4)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 653.
  18. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Sexstefja 29’ 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. 144-5.

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