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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (Ragn) 2VIII (Ragn 32)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 32 (Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Ragnars saga loðbrókar 2)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 687.

Anonymous LausavísurLausavísur from Ragnars saga loðbrókar

These six stanzas, quoted in a chapter (19) of the Y-redaction (preserved in 1824b) of Ragn that arguably did not form part of the X-redaction (preserved in 147), resemble a mannjafnaðr ‘comparison of men’, in which male rivals boast of their own daring achievements, usually in battle, and their opponent’s lack of such virtues. They introduce several conventional topics of such dialogues: accusations of cowardice and lack of battle-worthiness, preference for soft, stay-at-home activities over participation in manly fights. The last two stanzas, however, are conciliatory, as the two speakers agree that they are both worthy warriors.

Seg þú frá þegnsköpum þínum!
Þik ráðumz ek spyrja:
hvar sáttu hrafn á hríslu
hrolla dreyrafullan?
Optar þáttu at öðrum
í öndvegi fundinn,
en þú dreyrug hræ drægir
í dal fyrir valfugla.

Seg þú frá þegnsköpum þínum! Ek ráðumz spyrja þik: hvar sáttu dreyrafullan hrafn hrolla á hríslu? Optar þáttu at öðrum, fundinn í öndvegi, en þú drægir dreyrug hræ í dal fyrir {valfugla}.

Speak of your exploits! I venture to ask you: where did you see a raven, full of blood, fluttering on a branch? You received from others, [and were] found in the high seat, more often than you could have dragged bloody corpses into a valley for {carnage-birds} [RAVENS/EAGLES].

Mss: 1824b(76r) (Ragn)

Editions: Skj AII, 240, Skj BII, 259, Skald II, 135, NN §§1464, 2151, 2373, 2983; FSN 1, 296 (Ragn ch. 20), Ragn 1891, 221 (ch. 20), Ragn 1906-8, 171, 216 (ch. 19), Ragn 1944, 124-7 (ch. 21), FSGJ 1, 282 (Ragn ch. 19), Ragn 1985, 150 (ch. 19), Ragn 2003, 65 (ch. 19), CPB II, 352.

Context: Once all the sons of Ragnarr are dead, none of their followers can find leaders of comparable excellence, although two of them search separately for such a leader. The two searchers finally meet at a royal funeral feast, one of them arriving before the other. Once they are both present, the one who arrived first initiates an exchange of stanzas between them. In this stanza he accuses the one who arrived second of having more experience of the banqueting hall than of the field of battle.

Notes: [4] hrolla ‘fluttering’: Lit. ‘flutter’. Kock (NN §2151) provides examples from Old Norse poetry (Anon Sól 38/5VII, Þjsk Lv 5/1I, Am 97/9) to justify his translation gunga på gren ‘rock (or swing) on a branch’, criticising Finnur Jónsson’s translation skutte sig ‘shake oneself’ (Skj B), and his later remarks in LP: hrolla, apparently on the grounds that Finnur takes the verb to mean ‘shiver’ or ‘hunch oneself up’, as if assailed by the cold. Olsen’s translation (Ragn 1906-8, 216), vakle ‘reeling, staggering’ (as if drunk on blood?) and Eskeland’s (Ragn 1944, 125) ModNorw. raga, meaning much the same, give tolerable sense in the context. — [5-8]: The meaning appears to be that the person addressed has more often received than given, has more often been regaled with food and drink in the banqueting hall than he has regaled the birds of battle (the valfuglar of l. 8) with corpses of the slain (so Kock NN §1464 and most translators). Kock rightly criticises Finnur’s emendation (Skj B) of dat. pl. öðrum to n. dat. sg. öðru, and his translation of þáttu at as (oftere) har du … kikket efter ‘you have (more often) … looked at’ in l. 5, thus producing the meaning ‘You have more often looked at something else than …’, which says very little, and seems to imply a mistaken view of þáttu as pret. of þekkja ‘perceive, recognise’, rather than of þiggja ‘receive, accept’. — [6] í öndvegi ‘in the high seat’: Bååth (1890, 4) questions the frequent translation of öndvegi, as ‘high seat’ (ModSwed. högsäte), presumably on the grounds that, as certain dictionaries (LP: ǫndugi, ‑vegi; CVC: önd-vegi and önd-ugi; AEW: ǫndvegi, ǫndugi; ÍO: öndvegi; cf. 2 vega) have since explained, the word probably meant originally ‘opposite seat’, i.e. a seat facing another across a table or making with its prominence a strong impression on a newcomer facing it. According to Shetelig and Falk (1937, 324), the application of the word to the high seat, the special seat for the host in the centre of the wall of a long hall (cf. Holmquist 1962, 291; Roesdahl 1987, 45), arose from the fact that this seat was given prominence by the ǫndvegissúlur, the pillars placed on either side of it. Use of the term here is evidently symbolic and implies a contrast between the world of the banqueting hall and that of the battlefield. On the rather different context of the word as used in Ragn 36/2, see the Notes to that line and to Ragn 37/8.


  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. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  7. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  9. 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.
  10. ÍO = Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon. 1989. Íslensk orðsifjabók. Reykjavík: Orðabók Háskólans.
  11. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  12. Shetelig, Haakon and Hjalmar Falk. 1937. Scandinavian Archaeology. Trans. E. V. Gordon. Oxford: Clarendon.
  13. Ragn 1906-8 = Olsen 1906-8, 111-222.
  14. 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].
  15. Holmquist, Wilhelm. 1962. ‘Högsäte’. KLNM 7, 290-2.
  16. Roesdahl, Else. 1987. The Vikings. Trans. Susan M. Margeson and Kirsten Williams. London: Allen Lane: Penguin.
  17. Ragn 1985 = Örnólfur Thorsson 1985, 101-53.
  18. Ragn 1891 = 2nd edn (pp. 175-224) of Ragn as ed. in Valdimar Ásmundarson 1885-9, I.
  19. Ragn 2003 = Ebel, Uwe, ed. 2003. Ragnars saga loðbrókar. Texte des skandinavischen Mittelalters 4. Vol. II of Ebel 1997-2003.
  20. Internal references
  21. 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 17 September 2021)
  22. Carolyne Larrington and Peter Robinson (eds) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Sólarljóð 38’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 321.
  23. Not published: do not cite ()
  24. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 36 (Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Ragnars saga loðbrókar 6)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 695.
  25. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Ragnars saga loðbrókar 37 (Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Ragnars saga loðbrókar 7)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 697.

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