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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Arn Hryn 2II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 2’ 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. 184-5.

Arnórr jarlaskáld ÞórðarsonHrynhenda, Magnússdrápa

Seinkun varð, þás hlébarðs hanka
hnikaði ôr in ljóta bára.

Seinkun varð, þás in ljóta bára hnikaði ôr {hlébarðs hanka}.

Delay came about, as the foul breaker drove against the oar {of the bear of the cleat} [SHIP].

Mss: A(5r), W(104) (TGT)

Readings: [1] varð: verðr W;    hlébarðs: so W, hlébarð A    [2] hnikaði: hnika A, ‘hnika’ or ‘hinka’ W

Editions: Skj AI, 333, Skj BI, 306, Skald I, 155, NN §810; SnE 1848-87, II, 126, 413, TGT 1884, 82, 19-20, TGT 1927, 57, TGT 1998, 152-3; Whaley 1998, 143-5.

Context: The ll. are used to illustrate macrologia, which Óláfr hvítaskáld defines as a long sentence containing matter irrelevant to the skald’s subject. Óláfr adds that the figure is common at the beginning of poems, and after the citation explains that Arnórr here tells of his own difficult journeys, which is not relevant to the praise of the king.

Notes: [All]: The st. is cited from Magnússdrápa in TGT. — [All]: (a) The analysis adopted here is syntactically the most straightforward (and was adopted by Kock, NN §810). The couplet could be construed in two other ways, both of which are less satisfactory since they assume a complex intertwining of clauses which is uncharacteristic of Hryn. (b) Seinkun varð r hlébarðs hanka, þás in ljóta bára hnikaði ‘There was delay on the oar of the bear of the cleat [SHIP], as the foul breaker tossed’. Here r is a dat. of respect or disadvantage and hnikaði is intransitive. (c) Seinkun hlébarðs hanka varð, þás in ljóta bára hnikaði r ‘There was delay on the bear of the cleat [SHIP] as the foul breaker drove against the oar’. In this construal, hlébarðs hanka ‘of the bear of the cleat [SHIP]’ is taken as an objective gen. governed by seinkun ‘delay’. It was adopted by Björn Magnússon Ólsen, TGT 1884, 192-3 (reading pres. verðr, hnikar), and by Finnur Jónsson in Skj B; it was rejected by Kock, NN §810. — [1] hlébarðs hanka ‘of the bear of the cleat [SHIP]’: Only the gen. sg. ‑barðs is compatible with the syntax of the couplet. The hanki ‘cleat’ is a loop or other device which holds the cordage for the sails in a given position (cf. Jesch 2001a, 166). Hanka here is taken as gen. sg. ‘of the cleat’, but gen. pl. ‘of cleats’ is also possible. Hlébarðr (also a giant name in Hárb 20, NK 81) is clearly an animal term forming, with hanka, a stereotypical ship-kenning, but the particular animal is not certain. (a) It occurs as a term for ‘bear’ in Þul Bjarnar 1/6III, in Grett Lv 15/5V and elsewhere, and ship-kennings with a base-word meaning ‘bear’ are well attested (Meissner 218). (b) Hlébarðr is a heiti for ‘wolf’ in Þul Vargs 1/6III, and ‘wolf’ is also attested in kennings for ‘ship’, although rather less frequently than ‘bear’ (Meissner 220). (c) Hlébarðr is held to be an adoption, altered by folk etymology, of MLat. leopardus (Alexander Jóhannesson 1951-6, 1026; AEW), and it is conceivable that Arnórr meant ‘leopard’ here (cf. bru léón ‘lion of the wave [SHIP]’ in Svtjúg LvI), but he does not in general show a taste for such exotic references. (d) Krömmelbein’s solution produces an implausible kenning (TGT 1998, 153). — [2] hnikaði ‘drove against’: Ms. hnika (inf. or 3rd pers. pl. pres. indic.) does not fit into the syntax of the couplet, and the best solution is to emend to the past sg. form. (So Finnur Jónsson in Skj B, and see Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson 1895-7, II, 66-7 for a metrical objection to the alternative emendation, to hnikar ‘drives against’.) That hnika belonged to the first weak, or a-stem, conjugation is inferred from modern usage (e.g. Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4: hnika) and from the Óðinn-heiti Hnikuðr (Þul Óðins 1/8III and Grí 48, NK 67), variant to the commoner Hnikarr. The verb is not recorded elsewhere in ON, and yet its meaning can be established. In ModIcel. it can either be intransitive, meaning ‘move, sway’, or else it can govern a dat. object and mean ‘move’. In Blöndal’s two examples the object is something heavy, which suggests that hnikaði in Arnórr’s l. could mean ‘drive, thrust against’. The related ON verb hnekkja ‘throw back, thwart’ supports this. For a sceptical view of this and similar forms, see Kuhn 1939, 180-4. — [2] ôr ‘oar’: This forms a very natural phrasal unit with hlébarðs hanka, hence ‘oar of the bear of the cleat [SHIP]’, cf. typpi élmars ‘mast-heads of the storm-steed [SHIP]’ in st. 10. The phrase is taken as dat. sg. object of hnikaði ‘drove against’, which gives excellent sense in the context, since delay or drag (seinkun) in the ship’s advance would result from the counter-thrust of the sea against the oar. For an alternative interpretation, see LP (1860): hlæbarðr.


  1. Bibliography
  2. TGT 1884 = Björn Magnússon Ólsen, ed. 1884. Den tredje og fjærde grammatiske afhandling i Snorres Edda tilligemed de grammatiske afhandlingers prolog og to andre tillæg. SUGNL 12. Copenhagen: Knudtzon.
  3. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  4. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  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. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  8. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  9. LP (1860) = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1860. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis. Copenhagen: Societas Regia antiquariorum septentrionalium.
  10. Alexander Jóhannesson. 1951-6. Isländisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2 vols. Bern: Franke.
  11. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  12. Sigfús Blöndal. 1920-4. Islandsk-dansk ordbog / Íslensk-dönsk orðabók. Reykjavík, Copenhagen and Kristiania (Oslo): Verslun Þórarins B. Þorlákssonar / Aschehoug.
  13. Whaley, Diana, ed. and trans. 1998. The Poetry of Arnórr jarlaskáld: An Edition and Study. Westfield Publications in Medieval Studies 8. Turnhout: Brepols.
  14. 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.
  15. Kuhn, Hans (1899). 1939. ‘Westgermanisches in der altnordischen Verskunst’. BGDSL 63, 178-236. Rpt. in Kuhn (1899) 1969-78, I, 485-527.
  16. TGT 1927 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1927b. Óláfr Þórðarson: Málhljóða- og málskrúðsrit. Grammatisk-retorisk afhandling. Det kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selskab. Historisk-filologiske meddelelser 13, 2. Copenhagen: Høst.
  17. TGT 1998 = Krömmelbein, Thomas, ed. and trans. 1998. Dritte grammatische Abhandlung. Studia nordica 3. Oslo: Novus.
  18. Internal references
  19. Tarrin Wills 2017, ‘The Third Grammatical Treatise’ 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].
  20. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Bjarnar heiti 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 895.
  21. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Vargs heiti 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 903.
  22. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Óðins nǫfn 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 732.
  23. Not published: do not cite ()
  24. Not published: do not cite ()
  25. Matthew Townend 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sveinn tjúguskegg Haraldsson, Lausavísa’ 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. 379.
  26. Not published: do not cite (Grett Lv 15V (Gr 28))
  27. Not published: do not cite ()

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