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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Arn Hryn 13II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 13’ 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. 198-200.

Arnórr jarlaskáld ÞórðarsonHrynhenda, Magnússdrápa

Skjǫldungr, lézt við skíra valdit
Skotborgarô Venða sorgum;
yngvi, vas sá frægr, es fenguð,
fǫrnuðr þinn, við helming minna.
Vári, lá þar valkǫstr hæri,
— vas þér sigr skapaðr grams ins digra —
virðum kunnr, an víða runnin
varga ætt of klífa mætti.

Skjǫldungr, lézt valdit sorgum Venða við skíra Skotborgarô; yngvi, sá fǫrnuðr þinn, es fenguð við minna helming, vas frægr. Vári kunnr virðum, valkǫstr lá þar hæri an ætt varga, runnin víða, mætti of klífa; sigr ins digra grams vas skapaðr þér.

King, you caused griefs for the Wends by the gleaming Kongeå; sovereign, that success of yours, which you won with a smaller troop, was famed. Defender, renowned to men, a corpse-pile lay there higher than the clan of wolves, run from far and wide, could climb over; victory of the stout lord was granted you.

Mss: H(9r), Hr(9rb) (H-Hr); Flat(191va) (Flat)

Readings: [1] lézt: lét Hr;    valdit: valdi Flat    [4] fǫrnuðr: fǫrnuð Hr, ‘for naudr’ Flat    [5] Vári (‘vare’): vaxi Hr, ‘vorru’ Flat    [6] skapaðr: skaptr Hr    [7] kunnr: kunn all;    runnin: so Hr, Flat, runninn H    [8] ætt of: ætt ef Hr, ættum Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 336, Skj BI, 309, Skald I, 157, NN §816; Fms 6, 68 (Mgóð ch. 34), Fms 12, 133; Flat 1860-8, III, 281, Andersson and Gade 2000, 121-2, 469 (MH); Whaley 1998, 168-71.

Context: In H-Hr, the defeated Wends flee as far as the Kongeå (Skotborgará) where, caught up by Magnús’s men, they surge into the water. So many are slain that their bodies make a causeway. In Flat, the st. follows Arn Magndr 10, with a brief link.

Notes: [All]: H-Hr cites the st. from Arnórr’s ‘i hrynhendu’ (H) or ‘i hrunhendu’ (Hr). — [2] Venða (m. gen. pl.) ‘for the Wends’: Lit. ‘of the Wends’. On the spelling, see Note to st. 11/6. — [5] vári ‘defender’: A point of difficulty. The reading ‘vare’ is partially secured by the versification, as [v] is required by the alliterative pattern and [r] by the internal rhyme. The vowel is almost certain to be long, since of all Arnórr’s hrynhent ll. only st. 2/2 fails to begin with a long syllable, and hnika there is doubtless corrupt, so that if no emendation is made the word is vári. (a) Vári may be related to the verb verja and hence have the sense ‘defender’ (so AEW: vári 1). It appears in ÚlfrU Húsdr 2/4III, where it is probably to be construed with ragna ‘of the gods’ or ragna rein- ‘gods’ land’ to form an appellation for Heimdallr, who figures elsewhere as guardian of the gods (e.g. Grí 13, Lok 48). In the present st. vári ‘defender’ would be an apostrophe addressed to Magnús and would be qualified by virðum kunnr ‘renowned to men’. In meaning it would be similar to other heiti for ‘prince’ such as skyli ‘defender’ and vísi ‘leader’. This has been adopted here as the most satisfactory interpretation of vári, but there are alternatives, of which the following are the most plausible. (b) Konráð Gíslason suggested that the original text had a word meaning ‘son’ or ‘descendant’ which would be defined by the gen. grams ins digra hence ‘son of the stout lord [of Óláfr]’ (l. 6) (Nj 1875-8, II, 352 n.), and Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1903, 108-9) took up this suggestion, proposing that vári ‘relative’, etymologically linked with várar fem. pl. ‘faith, compact’, was the word in question; cf. also Vár, goddess of truces. Finnur Jónsson, in Skj B, postulated verja as the word meaning ‘son’. (c) Kock also proposed emending to verja, but read valkǫstr verja ‘corpse-heap of men’ (NN §816). This expression, however, would be tautologous and it has no parallel in ON, except for the still more unlikely construction proposed by Kock for Arn Magndr 11/4 (see Note below). — [6] sigr ins digra grams ‘victory of the stout lord’: This phrase may allude to the legend that Óláfr helgi posthumously helped his son Magnús to victory at the battle of Lyrskovshede (Hlýrskógsheiðr). According to Flat (1860-8, III, 279), Magnús spurred on his men with the words, ver sko᷎lum sigr fꜳ þuiat hinn helgi Olafr konungr fer med oss ‘We shall win victory, for the holy king Óláfr goes with us’. Compare also the words of Einarr Skúlason who, composing a century after the event, says that Óláfr sigr gaf sínum ... frǫmum arfa ‘gave his distinguished heir victory’ (ESk Geisl 30/1, 4VII). If interpretation (b) of l. 5 vári (above) were adopted, sigr and grams ins digra could not be construed together and interpreted thus. — [7] kunnr virðum ‘renowned to men’: Emendation is necessary since the ms. reading kunn could only qualify ætt varga ‘clan of wolves’ (l. 8), and it seems unlikely that wolves should be described as ‘renowned to men’, especially when the synonymous kunnr ǫldum and kunnr þjóðum are applied to the hero in sts 5 and 15.


  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. 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.
  5. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  7. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  8. Andersson, Theodore M. and Kari Ellen Gade, trans. 2000. Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030-1157). Islandica 51. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  9. Whaley, Diana, ed. and trans. 1998. The Poetry of Arnórr jarlaskáld: An Edition and Study. Westfield Publications in Medieval Studies 8. Turnhout: Brepols.
  10. 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.
  11. Björn Magnússon Ólsen. 1903. ‘Til versene i Egils saga’. ANF 19, 99-133.
  12. Internal references
  13. Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘(Biography of) Einarr Skúlason’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 140.
  14. 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.
  15. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Hulda and Hrokkinskinna (H-Hr)’ 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].
  16. Not published: do not cite (MHII)
  17. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Magnússdrápa 10’ 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. 219-20.
  18. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Magnússdrápa 11’ 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. 220-1.
  19. Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 30’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 31.
  20. Not published: do not cite ()
  21. Not published: do not cite ()
  22. Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Úlfr Uggason, Húsdrápa 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 407.

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