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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Sǫrl 1VIII (Sǫrla 1)

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Sǫrla þáttr 1 (Anonymous Poems, Sǫrlastikki 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 788.

Anonymous PoemsSǫrlastikki1

Fell inn forsnjalli
fyst, inn víglysti,
ýgr í austrvegi,
allr á Helpalla,
dauðr, um dalreyðar,
dáðkunnr, miskunnir.
Beit at brandmóti
brynstingr víkingum.

Inn forsnjalli, inn víglysti, ýgr í austrvegi, fell fyst, allr á Helpalla, dauðr, dáðkunnr, um {miskunnir {dalreyðar}}. {Brynstingr} beit víkingum at {brandmóti}.

The very brave one, the battle-eager one, fearsome in the east, fell first, lifeless onto Hel’s benches, dead, deed-renowned, during {the mercies {of the valley-char}} [SNAKE > SUMMER]. {The corslet-stabber} [SWORD] bit for vikings at {the sword-meeting} [BATTLE].

Mss: Flat(36vb) (Sǫrla)

Editions: Skj AII, 242, Skj BII, 262, Skald II, 136, NN §2596; FSN I, 397 (Sǫrla ch. 4); Flat 1860-8, I, 278 (ÓTC : Sǫrla), Flat 1944-5, I, 307(ÓTC : Sǫrla), FSGJ 1, 372 (Sǫrla ch. 4), Barwell 1976, 84-5 (Sǫrla ch. 4), 128-30.

Context: See Introduction above.

Notes: [All]: The metre of this stanza has been identified as málaháttr by van Hamel (1935-6, 278), but is metrically mixed. Lines 1-5 and 7 are regular Haðarlag, a variant of málaháttr with hendingar; see General Introduction, Section 4, in SkP I, lxvii, and SnSt Ht 79III, second Note to [All]. Lines 6 and 8, however, in which internal rhyme falls in metrical position 2 rather than 1, do not conform to any known Old Norse metre, and may be an indication of late composition. — [2] fyst ‘first’: The prose introducing this stanza states (Flat 1860-8, I, 278): En Sorlli lifðe þeirra skemr ‘But Sǫrli was the shorter-lived of them’, i.e. of himself and Hǫgni. It is not certain, however, that the sup. adv. fy(r)st ‘first’ (as opposed to the comp. adv. fyrr ‘earlier’) necessarily refers here specifically to the first of two, as Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), van Hamel (1935-6, 280), and Barwell (1976, 84) seem to have thought; the meaning could simply be that Sǫrli, or whoever inn forsnjalli ‘the brave one’ may be, was the first of an unspecified number of combatants to fall. — [3] í austrvegi ‘in the east’: As Barwell (1976, 128) notes, austrvegr lit. ‘the east way’ refers to the lands of the eastern Baltic and especially the lands reached by the river routes that the vikings followed through Russia. The prose of Sǫrla gives no more specific location than this for Sǫrli’s death in battle. — [4] allr ‘lifeless’: As Kock shows (NN §2596), allr ‘all’ here has the meaning of ‘departed, dead, lifeless’. He compares HaukrV Ísldr 9/5, 8IV, where the phrases varð allr … í fǫr þeiri ‘died on that expedition’ and fell á því þingi ‘fell in that battle’ are closely juxtaposed. — [4] á Helpalla ‘onto Hel’s benches’: The first element of the hap. leg. cpd Helpallr m. ‘Hel’s bench’ is formed from Hel f., the name of the mythical realm of death and of the female divinity presiding over it. The realm is here thought of as a hall with its sides lined with a raised floor forming benches for new arrivals. — [5] um ‘during’: The ms. abbreviation ‘v̄’, construed here as um, has been understood by some eds (Skj, Skald, NN §2596) as a shortened form of varð ‘became, was’. Even Barwell (1976, 129), who reads um, assumes an implicit varð. All these eds take dáðkunnr ‘deed-renowned’ as substantival, and construe varð with dauðr ‘dead’ as varð dauðr ‘was dead, died’. — [5, 6] miskunnir dalreyðar ‘the mercies of the valley-char [SNAKE > SUMMER]’: This recalls the inverted kenning for summer, fiska dalmiskunn ‘the mercy of valley fishes [(lit. ‘valley-mercy of fishes’) SNAKES > SUMMER]’, in Egill Lv 8/4V(Eg 12), and the kennings for summer and winter in HǫrðG Lv 7/5-6, 8V (Harð 14). Summer is a time merciful (favourable) to snakes because they can be active in the warmth; winter is a time of sickness or sorrow for them because hibernation puts them out of action. It is possible that the present kenning and those in Harð are modelled on Egill’s kenning, see the Note to Egill Lv 8/4V (Eg 12). The cpd dalreyðr also occurs as a snake-kenning in Sturl Hrafn 7/8II, another poem composed in Haðarlag, and it is possible that the poet of Anon Sǫrl 1 knew this work by Sturla Þórðarson (1214-84). The translation ‘char’ (a fish of the salmon species), rather than ‘whale’ for reyðr both here and in Sturl Hrafn 7/8II, is discussed in the Note to the latter stanza. — [6] miskunnir ‘the mercies’: The ms. reads miskunnar, normalised here to miskunnir, and understood as the acc. pl. of miskunn ‘mercy’. Miskunn is a f. i-stem noun (see ANG §390), in which ‑ar is a variant of the normal nom./acc. pl. form ‑ir (though an archaic and rare one, see ANG §390.4 and the second Note to Arn Hryn 18/3II). The acc. pl. form is here governed by um ‘during’ in l. 5. Kock (cf. NN §§ 1591, 140) retains ms. miskunnar and takes it as a gen. sg. of time.


  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. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  7. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  8. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  9. SkP = Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Turnhout: Brepols.
  10. Flat 1944-5 = Sigurður Nordal et al., ed. 1944-5. Flateyjarbók. 4 vols. Reykjavík: Flateyjarútgafan.
  11. Barwell, Graham. 1976. ‘An Edition of Sörla þáttr’. M. Litt. thesis. University of Otago, Dunedin.
  12. Hamel, A. G. van. 1935-6. ‘The Saga of Sǫrli the Strong’. APS 10, 265-95.
  13. Internal references
  14. Not published: do not cite (HarðV)
  15. 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Sǫrla þáttr’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 785.
  16. Not published: do not cite (ÓTCI)
  17. Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘Háttatal’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  18. Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘(Biography of) Sturla Þórðarson’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 392.
  19. Not published: do not cite (HaukrV ÍsldrIV)
  20. Not published: do not cite (Egill Lv 8V (Eg 12))
  21. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sturla Þórðarson, Hrafnsmál 7’ 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. 733-4.
  22. Not published: do not cite (HǫrðG Lv 7V (Harð 14))
  23. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Sǫrla þáttr 1 (Anonymous Poems, Sǫrlastikki 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 788.

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