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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorm Lv 23I

R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 23’ 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. 838.

Þormóðr KolbrúnarskáldLausavísur

Ǫrt vas Ôleifs hjarta;
óð framm konungr — blóði
rekin bitu stôl — á Stiklar
stǫðum, kvaddi lið bǫðvar.
Élþolla sák alla
Jǫlfuðs nema gram sjalfan
— reyndr vas flestr í fastri
fleindrífu — sér hlífa.

Hjarta Ôleifs vas ǫrt; konungr óð framm á Stiklarstǫðum, kvaddi lið bǫðvar; stôl rekin blóði bitu. Sák {alla {Jǫlfuðs él}þolla} hlífa sér nema gram sjalfan; flestr vas reyndr í {fastri fleindrífu}.

Óláfr’s heart was energetic; the king pressed forward at Stiklestad, rallied his host to battle; steel weapons inlaid with blood bit. I saw {all the firs {of the storm of Jǫlfuðr <= Óðinn>}} [(lit. ‘storm-firs of Jǫlfuðr’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] shelter themselves except the leader himself; most were tested in {the ceaseless missile-blizzard} [BATTLE].

Mss: Holm2(69r), 972ˣ(541va), J2ˣ(229r), 321ˣ(262), 73aˣ(204v), Holm4(65ra), 61(126vb), 325V(82vb), 325VII(39r), Bb(200va), Flat(125vb), Tóm(157r) (ÓH); Kˣ(475v) (Hkr); DG8(101v-102r) (ÓHLeg); Hb(89v), 142ˣ(105), 566aˣ(30r), papp4ˣ(129v) (Fbr); 761bˣ(547v marg)

Readings: [1] vas Ôleifs: hefir Áleifr 142ˣ, 566aˣ, 761bˣmarg    [2] framm: om. Bb, Tóm, DG8;    konungr: gramr 61, Bb, Tóm, DG8;    blóði: góði J2ˣ, í blóði 61, Flat, papp4ˣ, í vals blóði Bb, í valblóði Tóm, í styr í blóði DG8, blóði and góði 761bˣmarg    [3] rekin: ‘rekium’ 972ˣ, rekinn J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 61, 325V, 142ˣ, 566aˣ;    bitu: eru Kˣ;    stôl: om. Flat;    á: om. 73aˣ, Flat;    Stiklar‑: stikla 73aˣ, 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, DG8, Hb, 142ˣ, 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, 761bˣmarg    [4] kvaddi lið bǫðvar: í vǫll at æðru DG8;    kvaddi: kvaddisk 61, 325VII, Tóm, Hb, kveðisk 142ˣ, kvôðusk 566aˣ, kvaddi and kvaddisk 761bˣmarg;    bǫðvar: boðnar Tóm, bǫrva Hb    [5] Él‑: sel‑ 73aˣ, Ý‑ DG8;    sák (‘sa ec’): leit 61, leit ek Flat, papp4ˣ, frá ek Kˣ    [6] Jǫlfuðs: jalmflóðs J2ˣ, alms 321ˣ, ‘jalfvedrs’ 73aˣ, 325V, almveðrs Holm4, 325VII, Flat, 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, jalmveðrs 61, Tóm, ‘jalm vodrs’ Bb, ‘iolfaðrs’ DG8, ‘ialfads’ Hb, ‘jalfauðs’ 142ˣ, ‘ialfauþs’, ‘ialm‑floþs’ and ‘ialm‑veþrs’ 761bˣmarg;    nema: ‘mema’ Hb;    gram: ‘garrm’ or ‘grarm’ Bb    [7] reyndr: ‘reindr’ 73aˣ, ‘reinnd’ papp4ˣ;    vas (‘var’): ‘va’ 972ˣ, mun 321ˣ, varð Holm4, DG8, verðr 325VII, Hb, verða papp4ˣ;    flestr: hverr Bb, um flest Flat, flestir papp4ˣ;    fastri: ‘fazti’ 73aˣ    [8] hlífa: ‘liva’ DG8

Editions: Skj AI, 287-8, Skj BI, 266, Skald I, 136, NN §§713, 942, 2481H, 2988D; Fms 5, 91, Fms 12, 102-3, ÓH 1941, I, 583 (ch. 233), Flat 1860-8, II, 364; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 375-76, VI, 114-15, Hkr 1868, 497 (ÓHHkr ch. 246), Hkr 1893-1901, I, 501, IV, 171-2, ÍF 27, 390-1, Hkr 1991, II, 538 (ÓHHkr ch. 233); ÓHLeg 1849, 72, 120, ÓHLeg 1922, 87, ÓHLeg 1982, 200-1; Hb 1892-6, 415, Fbr 1852, 111, Fbr 1925-7, 213 (ch. 24), ÍF 6, 271-2 (ch. 24), Loth 1960a, l-li, 156-7 (ch. 17), ÍS II, 842, 848 (ch. 24); Gaertner 1907, 312, 347, Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 76-7.

Context: In ÓH (excluding Flat) and Hkr, the poet listens to the talk around him, and he hears some praise the valour of the king above all, while others rate the prowess of other men no less. He speaks this vísa. In Flat, the stanza follows Lv 21. The woman tending the men asks who bore himself best in battle, and the poet responds. In ÓHLeg and Fbr, the stanza follows Lv 22 (see Context); the same woman asks further how the king bore himself in battle, and Þormóðr replies.

Notes: [All]: On the differences between the prose contexts of this and the following vísur in Fbr and Hkr, see Wolf (1965, 464-7). — [2] blóði ‘with blood’: (a) On the present interpretation, rekin blóði is assumed to be an unusual variant on the application of rekinn to costly decoration on weapons, but it is not unparalleled: cf. dreyrrekin ‘blood-inlaid’ (Anon Darr 2/5V (Nj 54)) and the problematic blóðrekinn (HHund I 9/8 (NK 131); see LP: blóðrekinn). So also Skj B and Gordon (1957, 127, 239). (b) Blóði can alternatively be construed with óð ‘advanced’, leaving an intercalary rekin bitu stôl ‘inlaid swords bit’, as in ESk Geisl 43/7VII (see NN §942); so Skald (and NN §713A, reading í blóði, though see also NN §2481H), ÍF 6 and ÍS. A similar construction is found in Steinn Óldr 3/4II, though vaða there takes the acc. blóð, while here it could be intransitive, and a prepositional sense of blóði is conceivable (see NN §2988D). — [3-4] á Stiklarstǫðum ‘at Stiklestad’: Gaertner (1907), Jón Helgason (1968, 48), and ÍS group this phrase with the intercalary clause rather than with the clause preceding it. Von See (1977b, 484) observes that if Þormóðr had actually composed this vísa so soon after the battle, it is unlikely that he would have referred to the p. n. by which the battle came to be known to history. However, it is conceivable that the stanza helped to determine the traditional name of the battle. As to the form of the name, variation between Stikla- and Stiklar- already occurs widely in the medieval mss, and hence also in modern normalisations. The conjectured derivation of the p. n. from a river-name *Stikl, perhaps ‘leaping one’, would suggest gen. sg. -ar as the original form, early reduced to -a- (Rygh et al. 1897-1936, XV, 122; Sandnes and Stemshaug 1990, 298). — [4] kvaddi lið bǫðvar ‘rallied his host to battle’: (a) The idiom is kveðja e-n e-s ‘summon sby to sth.’ (see CVC: kveðja), and here Óláfr, understood from konungr in l. 2, is taken as the subject (so ÍF 6; Ulset 1975, 92; ÍS). This has the advantage of assuming that the dramatic focus remains on the king. (b) Alternatively, lið ‘host’ in l. 4 could be subject, hence ‘the host called forth battle’ (so Skj B). (c) The variant kvaddisk occurs in mss of both ÓH and Fbr, and is adopted in Fbr 1852, and by Gaertner (1907), who interprets the clause to mean ‘the host came to blows’, on the basis of the observation that kveðjask means ‘greet one another’. Yet it is hard to see how the verb could be so used in the sg., even though lið is collective. Finnur Jónsson (1932-3) says that with kvaddisk the clause should mean ‘the troop incited itself to battle’ (though in Hb 1892-6 he took it to mean ‘the troop was summoned to battle’). — [7-8] í fastri fleindrífu ‘in the ceaseless missile-blizzard [BATTLE]’: The prepositional phrase is here grouped with the intercalary. Hkr 1893-1901, Skj B, Skald, Gordon (1957, 127), Ulset (1975, 92) and ÍS (but not Gaertner 1907 or Jón Helgason 1968, 48) instead group it with the main clause. Yet the pattern of devoting the third line of a helmingr and the beginning of the fourth to an intercalary is highly characteristic of Þormóðr’s verse (see Introduction to Þorm ÞorgdrV), and this arrangement lends symmetry and incisiveness to the structure of the helmingr. The somewhat critical hlífa sér ‘shelter themselves’ which is the entire point of the helmingr (so valiant was the king that, as the author of Fbr tells us, he bore neither shield nor coat of mail to battle) is thus lent force by its isolation in final position, and the placing of the reason why the men shelter themselves (the missile storm) in the intercalary ties the two clauses attractively. Of course, it may be that fleindrífu is no more than a kenning for ‘battle’ (as LP: fleindrífa has it), but the helmingr is richer if the cpd’s more literal sense is kept in mind.


  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. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 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. 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.
  7. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  8. 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.
  9. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. Heidelberg: Winter.
  10. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  11. ÓHLeg 1982 = Heinrichs, Anne et al., eds and trans. 1982. Olafs saga hins helga: Die ‘Legendarische Saga’ über Olaf den Heiligen (Hs. Delagard. saml. nr. 8II). Heidelberg: Winter.
  12. ÍF 6 = Vestfirðinga sǫgur. Ed. Björn K. Þórólfsson and Guðni Jónsson. 1943.
  13. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  14. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  15. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  16. Hb 1892-6 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1892-6. Hauksbók udgiven efter de Arnamagnæanske håndskrifter no. 371, 544 og 675, 4° samt forskellige papirshåndskrifter. Copenhagen: Det kongelige nordiske oldskrift-selskab.
  17. ÓHLeg 1922 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert, ed. 1922. Olafs saga hins helga efter pergamenthåndskrift i Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, Delagardieske samling nr. 8II. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 47. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  18. Ulset, Tor. 1975. Merknader til en del skaldedikt. Oslo: Novus.
  19. Gordon, E. V. 1957. An Introduction to Old Norse. 2nd edn rev. A. R. Taylor. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  20. See, Klaus von. 1977b. ‘Skaldenstrophe und Sagaprosa: Ein Beitrag zum Problem der mündlichen Überlieferung in der altnordischen Literatur’. MS 10, 58-82. Rpt. in von See 1981a, 461-85.
  21. Jón Helgason, ed. 1968. Skjaldevers. 3rd edn. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  22. Gaertner, K. H. 1907. ‘Zur Fóstbrœðra saga. I. Teil: Die vísur’. BGDSL 32, 299-446.
  23. Loth, Agnete, ed. 1960a. Membrana regia deperdita. EA A 5. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  24. Fbr 1925-7 = Björn K. Þórólfsson, ed. 1925-7. Fóstbrœðra saga. Copenhagen: Jørgensen.
  25. Finnur Jónsson. 1932-3. ‘Þórmóðr Kolbrúnarskald’. APS 7, 31-82.
  26. Fbr 1852 = Konráð Gíslason, ed. 1852. Fóstbrœðra saga. Copenhagen: Berling.
  27. Wolf, Alois. 1965. ‘Zur Rolle der vísur in der altnordischen Prosa’. In Menghin et al. 1965, 459-84.
  28. Sandnes, Jørn and Ola Stemshaug. 1990. Norsk stadnamnleksikon. 3rd edn. Oslo: Det norske samlaget.
  29. Hkr 1777-1826 = Schöning, Gerhard et al., eds. 1777-1826. Heimskringla edr Noregs konunga-sögor. 6 vols. Copenhagen: Stein.
  30. Hkr 1868 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1868. Heimskringla eller Norges kongesagaer af Snorre Sturlassøn. Christiania (Oslo): Brøgger & Christie.
  31. ÓHLeg 1849 = Keyser, R. and C. R. Unger. eds. 1849. Olafs saga hins helga: En kort saga om kong Olaf den Hellige fra anden halvdeel af det tolfte aarhundrede. Efter et gammelt pergaments-haandskrift i Universitets-bibliotheket i Upsala. Christiania (Oslo): Feilberg & Landmark.
  32. ÍS = Bragi Halldórsson et al., eds. 1987. Íslendinga sögur og þættir. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Svart á hvítu.
  33. Internal references
  34. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  35. Not published: do not cite (FbrV)
  36. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Legendary Saga of S. Óláfr / Helgisaga Óláfs konungs Haraldssonar (ÓHLeg)’ 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. clxxiii.
  37. Not published: do not cite (Anon Darr 2V (Nj 54))
  38. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Flateyjarbók (Flat)’ 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, pp. clxi-clxii.
  39. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH)’ 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, pp. clxxvi-clxxix.
  40. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  41. Not published: do not cite (Þorm ÞorgdrV (Fbr))
  42. Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 43’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 42-3.
  43. Not published: do not cite ()
  44. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Steinn Herdísarson, Óláfsdrápa 3’ 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, p. 370.

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