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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rloð Lv 7VIII (Ragn 23)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 23 (Ragnarr loðbrók, Lausavísur 7)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 670.

Ragnarr loðbrókLausavísur


These three stanzas reflect a parting scene between Ragnarr and his wife Áslaug. In Ragn 24 he responds to the criticism that he is using the wrong type of ship for his planned invasion of England, and in Ragn 25 Kráka-Áslaug gives him a protective shirt of hair.

text and translation

Spari manngi röf Rínar,
ef röskr vili hermenn;
verr samir hoskum hilmi
hringa fjölð en drengja.
Ilt er í borghlið baugum
brandrauðum fram standa;
allmarga veit ek jöfra,
þá er auðr lifir, dauða.

Spari manngi {röf Rínar}, ef röskr vili hermenn; fjölð hringa samir hoskum hilmi verr en drengja. Ilt er standa fram í borghlið brandrauðum baugum; ek veit allmarga jöfra dauða, þá er auðr lifir.
‘Let no person be sparing of the amber of the Rhine [GOLD], if a brave man should want soldiers; a multitude of rings befits a wise ruler worse than one of men. It is no good entering the gate of a stronghold with fire-red rings; I know of very many kings who are dead, while their wealth lives on.

notes and context

After his sons’ defeat of Eysteinn, their further victory at Vífilsborg (Avenches), and their triumphant progress to Lúna (Luni) (where they abandon the idea of proceeding as far as Rome), Ragnarr, now at home in his kingdom, resolves to win a fame no less lasting than theirs. He decides to invade England with only two ships, and here responds to the forebodings expressed by his wife Kráka-Áslaug, now known as Randalín since her leadership of the land division in the expedition against Eysteinn.

The overall meaning of this stanza is hard to grasp. It seems to be that an aspiring military leader must be prepared to part with his wealth in order to attract followers, because a large following will serve him better than a large store of rings, which are of no use in leading an attack on a stronghold, and also because he will not wish to be remembered as one who hoarded wealth. — [2]: The present edn follows 1824b in reading ef röskr vili (pres. subj.) ‘if a brave man should want’, i.e. ‘if he, (himself) brave, should want …’ (so also Olsen (Ragn 1906-8), Eskeland (Ragn 1944), Örnólfur Thorsson (Ragn 1985) and Ebel (Ragn 2003)). Though not so common in prose, the use of the pres. subj. in ef-clauses is amply attested in poetry, see CVC: ef B. Rafn (FSN) normalises 1824b’s ‘rauskr’ to röskr and retains the 1824b reading vili, Valdimar Ásmundarson (Ragn 1891; also CPB) emends to ef röskva vill (pres. indic.) ‘if he wants brave (soldiers)’, with röskva ‘brave’ as a m. acc. pl. adj. agreeing with and qualifying hermenn ‘soldiers’, and is followed in this respect by Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), Kock (Skald) and Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ). — [7-8]: The meaning is literally: ‘I know very many kings (to be) dead, when wealth lives’, and the construction acc. and inf. with the inf. vera ‘be’ omitted. Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson (Nj 1875-89, II, 17-19, n. 16) offer two possible interpretations of these lines: first: ‘I know of many a king whose wealth is his monument’, i.e. who is remembered more for his wealth than for his prowess or generosity; and second: ‘I know of many a king who died leaving wealth behind him’, i.e. at the height of his prosperity. They prefer the former interpretation, seeing the lines as contrasting semantically with Hávm 76/1, 4-6 (NK 29): Deyr fé …; enn orðztírr | deyr aldregi, | hveim er sér góðan getr ‘Cattle [i.e. riches] die …; but the good reputation of one who achieves it never dies’. Most who have offered a translation have preferred the former interpretation, and it is perhaps the likelier: Ragnarr may be saying here that if he invades with only limited resources (see the Context above) and is defeated and killed, then he will not be accused after death of having hoarded riches during his lifetime.



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 VI 1: AII, 237-8, BII, 257, Skald II, 133, NN §3181; FSN 1, 278-9 (Ragn ch. 14), Ragn 1891, 208 (ch. 14), Ragn 1906-8, 155, 186, 210-11 (ch. 15), Ragn 1944, 92-3, 95 (ch. 15), FSGJ 1, 265 (Ragn ch. 15), Ragn 1985, 137 (ch. 15), Ragn 2003, 49-50 (ch. 15), CPB II, 350.


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