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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (Ragn) 1VIII (Ragn 16)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 16 (Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Ragnars saga loðbrókar 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 657.

Anonymous LausavísurLausavísur from Ragnars saga loðbrókar

Þér segju vér þína
— þat er nauð, kona! — dauða.
Ill eru einkarmanni
ørlög sona Þóru.
Þung spjöll vitum önnur
æ nýjari en þessi:
— nú hefi ek fram komit fögrum —
flaug örn of ná dauðan.

Segju vér þér þína dauða; þat er nauð, kona! Ørlög sona Þóru eru ill einkarmanni. Vitum önnur þung spjöll æ nýjari en þessi: örn flaug of dauðan ná; nú hefi ek komit fram fögrum.

We tell you that your [kinsmen] are dead; woman, it is a sad task! The fate of Þóra’s sons will be hard for your husband [to bear]. We know of no more recent heavy tidings than these: an eagle flew around a dead body; now I have told the news aright.

Mss: 1824b(64v), 147(107v) (ll. 1-4) (Ragn)

Readings: [1] Þér segju vér þína: ‘þier seg(iu) […] (þina)’(?) 147    [2] þat er nauð kona dauða: ‘þat er (n)aud (kon)a daud[…]’(?) 147    [3] Ill eru einkarmanni: ‘elli eínkar manni’ 1824b, ‘(elli ein)k(ar) manni’(?) 147    [4] ørlög sona Þóru: ørlög sonum Þóru 1824b, ‘[…](ug s)[…]’(?) 147

Editions: Skj AII, 235-6, Skj BII, 255, Skald II, 133, NN §§1458, 1459, 3197F, 3285; FSN 1, 264 (Ragn ch. 9), Ragn 1891, 197 (ch. 9), Ragn 1906-8, 141-2, 182, 206-7 (ch. 10), Ragn 1944, 68-9 (ch. 10), FSGJ 1, 251-2 (Ragn ch. 10), Ragn 1985, 125-6 (ch.10), Ragn 2003, 37 (ch. 10), CPB II, 349.

Context: The messengers’ spokesman reports the deaths of Eiríkr and Agnarr, Ragnarr’s sons by Þóra.

Notes: [1-4]: Some emendation of the text of this helmingr is required to give good sense. The present edn keeps the ms. readings in ll. 1-2 and adopts Kock’s readings and emendations of ll. 3-4 (see (d) below). (a) Among previous eds, Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891), Olsen (Ragn 1906-8, 206), Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), Eskeland (Ragn 1944), Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ), and Ebel (Ragn 2003) emend the þína of 1824b and 147 to þínum, m. dat. sg. of poss. adj. þinn ‘your’, following this with somewhat varying interpretations, but all seeing it as qualifying  (-)manni in l. 3. (b) Olsen takes dauða in l. 2 as m. acc. pl. of dauðr adj. ‘dead’, emends elli in l. 3 to ill eru (n. nom. pl. of illr ‘evil’) ‘evil are …’, takes the f. gen. sg. form einkar, also in l. 3, as adverbial, meaning ‘particularly’ and qualifying ill, and in l. 4 emends 1824b’s sonum to sonu acc. pl. ‘sons’. Thus: ‘We are telling you, woman – it is a sad task – that Þóra’s sons are dead (acc. with inf. construction); especially evil is the fate befalling your husband’. (c) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) presents the text in much the same way as Olsen, taking einkar however (as in the present edn) with manni as forming the first element in a cpd word einkarmanni ‘husband’, thus dispensing with the idea of einkar as an adverbial intensive. (d) The difficulty with the emendation to þínum, m. dat. sg. in l. 1, is that it entails a syntactic link with einkarmanni in l. 3, thus complicating the syntax and interpretation of the passage. Kock (Skald; cf. NN §1458) retains the ms. reading þína (taking it as m. acc. pl.) in l. 1, but emends kona in l. 2 to koni, acc. pl. of konr m. ‘son, kinsman’, seeing ll. 1-2 as syntactically self-contained, with the meaning ‘We are telling you – it is a sad task – that your kinsmen (þínakoni) are dead’. He follows Olsen and Skj B in retaining the emendation ill eru in l. 3, and Skj B in seeing einkarmanni as a cpd word, but emends to sona gen. pl. in l. 4, thus producing for these lines the meaning: ‘The fate of the sons of Þóra will be painful to (your) husband.’ (e) Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985) also sees the two halves of the helmingr as syntactically independent, but emends þína in l. 1 to þinna, gen. pl., taking it as substantival and seeing dauða in l. 2 as acc. sg. of dauði m. ‘death’; thus: ‘we are reporting to you … the death of your (people, kinsmen).’ Cf. the Modern Icelandic expression þú og þínir ‘you and yours’. For ll. 3-4 he produces virtually the same text as Kock, but presents einkar and manni as separate words, acknowledging that they may be taken together as meaning ‘husband’. (f) The present ed. envisages no emendation in ll. 1-2, taking þína in l. 1 as m. acc. pl. and (cf. Örnólfur, under (e), above) substantival, i.e. ‘your (kinsmen)’, and the two lines as self-contained syntactically (cf. Kock, under (d), above). It is apparently appropriate for the messenger to treat Áslaug’s stepsons, Eiríkr and Agnarr, as her kinsmen, cf. the Notes to 18/8 and 20/7, below. — [5-6]: Rafn (FSN) follows 1824b here, and so does the present ed. Previous eds apart from those of CPB, Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891) and Kock (NN §3285), do not seem to have been troubled by the absence of internal alliteration in l. 5. CPB has œng spiꜵll … ꜵnnor … enn nýjari … ‘no news fresher …’ (sic); Valdimar emends as follows: engi spjöll vitum önnur | enn nýjari ‘we know of no (other) still more recent tidings …’, while Kock, retaining the 1824b reading of l. 6, emends in NN §3285 þung ‘heavy’ to ung ‘young’ in l. 5 and reads æ in l. 6 as ei ‘not’, thus: ‘of young (i.e. recent) tidings we know not of others more recent …’; in Skald, on the other hand, he retains the reading þung and replaces vitum with eigum (‘we have no [other] heavy tidings that are more recent …’), here accepting æ (l. 6) as having negative meaning; see the next Note. Metrical irregularity is sufficiently frequent among the stanzas of Ragn to justify acceptance of 1824b’s text here. — [6] æ nýjari ‘no more recent’: The form æ, most often understood to mean ‘always, ever’, may apparently also occur in the meaning ‘not (at all), never’ (see Vafþr 36/6; cf. CVC: æ II; LT: æ), and should be so understood in this latter sense here, as Kock (NN §3197F) confirms, so that emendation of þung ‘heavy’ in the previous line to the negative pron. as adj. engi ‘no, not any’, is unnecessary (at least if considerations of alliteration are disregarded, see the previous Note). — [7] nú hefi ek komit fram fögrum ‘now I have told the news aright’: I.e. ‘performed correctly’. The present edn follows CPB, FSN, and Skald in adopting the reading fögrum found in both 1824b and 147. Kock argues convincingly (NN §§11, 1459; cf. Kock 1918, 36-7) for acceptance of fögrum here as an adverbial (instr.) dat. pl., meaning ‘in fair words’ in the sense of ‘properly, correctly’. This involves an understanding of koma fram as intransitive, meaning ‘come forward, perform’. Other eds take it as transitive (‘bring forward, convey’) and supply it by emendation with a dat. object meaning ‘news’: fregnum (Ragn 1891; Ragn 1985); fregnu (Ragn 1906-8, 206-7; Ragn 1944 and 2003); and fréttum (Skj B; FSGJ). — [8]: On the eagle as a bird of battle and its association with Óðinn as a god of war, see Jesch (2002b, 267).


  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. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  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. LT = La Farge, Beatrice and John Tucker. 1992. Glossary to the Poetic Edda, based on Hans Kuhn’s Kurzes Wörterbuch. Skandinavistische Arbeiten 15. Heidelberg: Winter.
  9. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  10. Jesch, Judith. 2002b. ‘Eagles, Ravens and Wolves: Beasts of Battle, Symbols of Victory and Death’. In Jesch 2002a, 251-80.
  11. Ragn 1906-8 = Olsen 1906-8, 111-222.
  12. 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].
  13. Kock, Ernst Albin. 1918. Jubilee Jaunts and Jottings: 250 Contributions to the Interpretations and Prosody of Old West Teutonic Alliterative Poetry. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser., sec. 1. Vol. 14 no. 26. Lund: Gleerup.
  14. Ragn 1985 = Örnólfur Thorsson 1985, 101-53.
  15. Ragn 1891 = 2nd edn (pp. 175-224) of Ragn as ed. in Valdimar Ásmundarson 1885-9, I.
  16. Ragn 2003 = Ebel, Uwe, ed. 2003. Ragnars saga loðbrókar. Texte des skandinavischen Mittelalters 4. Vol. II of Ebel 1997-2003.
  17. Internal references
  18. 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Ragnars saga loðbrókar’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 616. <> (accessed 21 September 2021)
  19. Not published: do not cite ()

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