Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Óldr 26I

Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Poems, Óláfs drápa Tryggvasonar 26’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1056.

Anonymous PoemsÓláfs drápa Tryggvasonar

Borit hefk hróðr enn hjǫrva
(hóf sœmði vel lófa
elda) þeys fyr ôsu
(ôr mest* at hlut flestum).
Áðr mun, óss an glóða
elris þrek, at virkum,
greppr megi ǫllum yppa
ǫrnfljótr, at brag þrjóta.

Hefk enn borit hróðr fyr {ôsu {þeys hjǫrva}}; mest* hóf sœmði vel {ôr {elda lófa}} at flestum hlut. Áðr mun þrjóta at brag at virkum, an ǫrnfljótr greppr megi yppa ǫllum þrek {elris {glóða óss}}.

I have, further, borne praise before {gods {of the breeze of swords}} [BATTLE > WARRIORS]; the greatest restraint suited well {the envoy {of fires of the palm}} [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] in most respects. The poem for the dear one [Óláfr] will come to an end before the eagle-swift poet will be able to extol all the valour {of the alder {of the embers of the estuary}} [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN].

Mss: Bb(113ra-b)

Readings: [1] hjǫrva: hjǫrvi Bb    [4] ôr: ítr Bb;    mest*: mestr Bb    [8] ǫrnfljótr: ‘orn fliotr’ or ‘orn fliotz’ Bb

Editions: Skj AI, 578, Skj BI, 574, Skald I, 278, NN §§1223, 1224, 2991A; Munch and Unger 1847, 123, 142, Gullberg 1875, 19, 40-1.

Notes: [1-4]: As it stands in the ms. this stanza appears to be corrupt, and the first helmingr cannot be construed without emending (see Notes below). There appear to be two tvíkent kennings, the first with ôsu ‘gods’ (l. 3) as base-word, referring to the audience, and the second with ôr ‘envoy’ (l. 4, emended from ítr) as base-word, referring either to the skald or to Óláfr himself. The determinants of the two kennings could be reversed, but this would result in a tripartite l. 3. — [1] hjǫrva ‘of swords’: Ms. hjǫrvi (dat. sg.) is difficult syntactically and almost all previous eds emend to gen. sg. hjǫrva. Kock (NN §1223) avoids emendation and reads hóf lófa sœmði vel hjǫrvi ‘the measure of the hands suited the sword well’, but this is forced. — [4] ôr ‘envoy’: Ms. ítr ‘magnificent’ would seem most naturally to belong with the rest of l. 4, yielding ítr mest* at hlut flestum ‘most magnificent in most respects’. But the only word with which ítr (m. nom. sg.) can agree is the suffixed -k of hefk ‘I have’ in l. 1, which is implausible both syntactically and semantically (the statement that the skald is ‘most magnificent’ accords poorly with the modesty topoi elsewhere in the poem). Skj B emends to ôr (dat. of ôrr ‘envoy, messenger’), which has the additional advantage of providing a dat. obj. for sœmði ‘suited’. Kock’s construal (NN §1223; Skald) involves reading ítrs and taking it as a substantive qualifying hróðr (i.e. ‘praise of the magnificent one’), and is not convincing overall. — [4] mest* ‘greatest’: There is no m. nom. sg. noun in the helmingr for ms. mestr ‘most’ (adj.) to qualify, so it must be emended, here to n. nom. sg. (modifying hóf ‘restraint’); mest could alternatively be taken as an adv. — [5-8]: The helmingr is problematic and has been emended by all previous eds (see Nj 1875-8, II, 63-7 for a survey of the early scholarship). The construal tentatively proposed in the Text above avoids emendation. — [5] óss ‘of the estuary’: Ms. ‘oss’ is taken in Skj B as oss ‘to us, our’, hence oss mun áðr þrjóta at brag ‘my powers in composing will be exhausted before ...’, and the determinant of the gold-kenning as not óss but fljóts in l. 8 (see Note below).  — [6] at virkum ‘for the dear one’: This interpretation avoids emendation, but is slightly forced and does not provide aðalhending in l. 6. Skj B emends þrek to sterks ‘strong’, qualifying elris ‘of the alder’ in the man-kenning, and virkum to verkum ‘deeds’, as dat. object of yppa ‘extol, raise up’. — [8] ǫrnfljótr ‘eagle-swift’: This unusual epithet (though cf. NN §2991) comments on the skald’s speed in composing, a common boast, especially in later poetry (Kreutzer 1977, 206-7). ‘Eagle’ may possibly allude to Óðinn (alias Bǫlverkr) taking the shape of an eagle to carry off the mead of poetry (SnE 1998, I, 4-5). If the ms. reading is rather gen. sg. ǫrnfljóts, the epithet will qualify elris glóða óss ‘alder of the embers of the estuary [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’. Finnur Jónsson in Skj B emends ǫrn to ǫrr ‘bold’ and reads fljóts ‘of the river’, providing the determinant of the gold-kenning (see Note to l. 5 óss).


  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. Nj 1875-89 = Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson. 1875-89. Njála: Udgivet efter gamle håndskrifter. Íslendingasögur udgivne efter gamle haandskrifter af Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskrift-selskab 4. Copenhagen: Thiele.
  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. Kreutzer, Gert. 1977. Die Dichtungslehre der Skalden: Poetologische Terminologie und Autorenkommentare als Grundlage einer Gattungspoetik. 2nd edn. Hochschulschriften: Literaturwissenschaft 1. Meisenheim am Glan: Hain.
  7. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  8. Munch, P. A. and C. R. Unger, eds. 1847. Oldnorsk læsebog med tilhörende glossarium. Christiania (Oslo): Dahl.
  9. Gullberg, H., ed. 1875. Óláfs drápa Tryggvasonar: fragment ur “Bergsboken”. Lund: Berling.

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