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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bragi Frag 1III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Fragments 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. 54.

Bragi inn gamli BoddasonFragments
12

This stanza (Bragi Frag 1) is extant at the end of the first paragraph of Gylf in the R, and W redactions of SnE and in Yng in Hkr (ÍF 26, 15-16) in the mss , F, and J2ˣ. Ms. R is used here as the base ms. The stanza is explicitly attributed to Bragi in both sources; in SnE it is introduced by Svá segir Bragi skáld gamli ‘Thus says the poet Bragi the Old’, in Yng by Svá kvað Bragi inn gamli ‘Thus spoke Bragi the Old’.

Previous editors have considered this dróttkvætt stanza to be a part of Ragnarsdrápa (see Introduction to Bragi Rdr), but, though that is possible, there is no sure evidence that it was (there is, e.g., no stef and no attribution to Rdr in the prose introductions in either source). It is here presented more conservatively as a fragment of a descriptive mythological poem, along with several other fragments ascribed to Bragi.

The myth of Gefjun’s encounter with the Swedish king Gylfi and the origin of the Danish island of Sjælland as a large piece of land her oxen (her sons by a giant) ploughed away from Sweden is not known from any other Old Norse text, aside from SnE and Yng and this stanza of Bragi’s, nor is it known from extant medieval pictorial representations.

It is uncertain whether Bragi’s stanza is self-contained or part of a larger whole. It encapsulates the whole myth, emphasising Gefjun’s happy mental state, the richness of her booty, and the brute strength and effort of the oxen, who pull Sjælland (‘Denmark’s increase’) to its new location. This early reference to Denmark, apparently considered as a political and territorial whole (cf. Finnur Jónsson 1930-1, 253), may be what persuaded Snorri Sturluson to give the myth such prominence in SnE and Yng, especially as it has resonance with other early European political foundation myths based on deceptive bargains, such as Dido’s foundation of Carthage and Hengest’s claim to territory in Britain (cf. Clunies Ross 1978a; Marold 1986b, 438-40). If Bragi treated this subject in more than one stanza, the one we have is very likely introductory, but the first line opens in medias res, with mention of both Gefjun and Gylfi.

Gefjun dró frá Gylfa
glǫð djúprǫðul ǫðla,
svát af rennirauknum
rauk, Danmarkar auka.
Bôru øxn ok átta
ennitungl, þars gingu
fyr vinjeyjar víðri
valrauf, fjǫgur haufuð.

Gefjun dró frá Gylfa, glǫð, {djúprǫðul ǫðla}, {auka Danmarkar}, svát rauk af rennirauknum. Øxn bôru {átta ennitungl} ok fjǫgur haufuð, þars gingu fyr {víðri valrauf vinjeyjar}.

Gefjun drew from Gylfi, glad, {a deep disk of inherited land} [ISLAND = Sjælland], {Denmark’s addition} [= Sjælland], so that steam rose from the swift-moving draught animals. The oxen bore {eight forehead-moons} [EYES] and four heads, where they went before {the wide plunder-rift of the meadow-island} [= Sjælland].

Mss: R(1v), Tˣ(2r), W(8) (SnE); Kˣ(10r), F(2ra), J2ˣ(4v-5r) (Hkr)

Readings: [2] ‑rǫðul: ‑rǫðuls F    [4] rauk: raukn F;    auka: hauka with ‘[auka]’ written in right margin in scribal hand Kˣ    [7] vinjeyjar: vineyjar R, Kˣ, F, J2ˣ, ‘vineydiar’ Tˣ, ‘vinæyia’ W    [8] ‑rauf: ‘rof’ W;    haufuð: ‘hofod’ Tˣ, ‘hofut’ F

Editions: Skj AI, 3, Skj BI, 3, Skald I, 2; SnE 1848-87, I, 32-3, SnE 1931, 8, SnE 2005, 7; ÍF 26, 15 (Yng ch. 5).

Context: In SnE this stanza is cited to confirm Snorri’s prose narrative of the deceptive bargain of Gefjun, a female member of the euhemerised Æsir from Troy, with King Gylfi of Sweden, who allowed her, as a reward for her entertainment (skemtun) of him, to obtain as much of Sweden as her four oxen could plough up in a day and a night. Unknown to Gylfi, these beasts were Gefjun’s sons by a giant, and she succeeded in ploughing up and removing across the sea a far larger piece of land than Gylfi had expected. It formed the Danish island of Sjælland (Zealand), and the gap it left behind in Sweden became Lake Mälaren, whose inlets are said in Gylf to correspond to the headlands of Sjælland. This etiological narrative forms a link with the Prologue, in which Gylfi is mentioned as reigning in Sweden when the Æsir migrate to Scandinavia from Troy, and motivates his visit to their hall in Gylf to find out the secret of their success. In Yng Gefjun’s visit to Gylfi is directed by Óðinn, who sends her north from Denmark to Sweden in search of land; Gylfi gave her eitt plógsland ‘one plough-land’. The deceptive bargain aspect of the myth is here suppressed. In Yng Gefjun marries Óðinn’s son Skjǫldr and thus becomes the consort of the progenitor of the Danish royal house, the Skjǫldungar.

Notes: [1] Gefjun: In Gylf (SnE 2005, 7) as well as in Yng, the name of one of the ‘historical’ Æsir from Troy, but elsewhere an ásynja ‘goddess’ (cf. SnE 2005, 29, Lok 19-21 and Þul Ásynja 1/5 and Note). — [1] Gylfa ‘Gylfi’: In the Prologue to SnE and in Gylf (SnE 2005, 6, 7), name of a legendary Swedish king, but elsewhere name of a sea-king (Þul Sækonunga 1/8 and Note), and found in kennings for ships or the sea (Þór Lv 1/5I, Anon Óldr 23/6I, Anon Pl 35/5VII). — [2] djúprǫðul ǫðla ‘a deep disk of inherited land [ISLAND = Sjælland]’: (a) Understood here as a kenning for Gylfi’s patrimony of Swedish land, which Gefjun and her oxen plough away from him to form the island of Sjælland. Djúprǫðull ‘deep disk’ is a hap. leg., the word rǫðull normally denoting the sun or other round heavenly body. Ǫðli, with the sense ‘patrimony, origin’ occurs in two eddic poems, Lok 43/1 and Hárb 9/3. (b) The cpd may also be construed as a f. adj., in apposition to Gefjun, meaning ‘deeply calculating’ or ‘deeply wise’, ‑rǫðull then being related to ráða ‘advise’ (cf. Genzmer 1932; Marold 1983, 83-4). (c) Finnur Jónsson, adopting F’s reading -rǫðuls (gen. sg.), takes glǫð djúprǫðuls to mean glad ved guldet ‘glad at the gold’ (Skj B construing djúprǫðuls as a kenning ‘sun of the deep’ for gold) or ‘shining with gold’ (Finnur Jónsson 1930-1, 251). (d) Another interpretation, proposed by Holtsmark (1944) and followed by Frank (1978, 108-10), argued for ‘wheel’ as the sense of ‑rǫðull, and construed [renniraukn] djúprǫðuls óðla ‘[the swift-moving draught animals] of the deep wheel of the earth [PLOUGH]’ to refer to the deeply penetrating wheel of the heavy plough (as contrasted with the arðr, a simpler, more superficial type of plough), supposedly a technological innovation introduced into Scandinavia c. C9th. Archaeological evidence for such a theory is equivocal at best (cf. Steensberg 1936; Fowler 2002, 182-204, especially 203-4). Ǫðla, gen. sg. of ǫðli, øðli (later eðli) ‘inherited land’, is sometimes emended to the unattested *óðla ‘quickly’ (so Skj B) or the mss’ readings are interpreted as *auðla ‘fruitfully’ (so Skald) or *œðla, understood as lønn for erotisk oppflamming ‘reward for erotic arousal’ (Kiil 1965, 68), the latter alluding to Gefjun’s supposed role as a ritual prostitute in her encounter with Gylfi. — [4] rauk ‘steam rose’: Lit. ‘it steamed’. — [4] auka Danmarkar ‘Danmark’s addition [= Sjælland]’: Construed here as a kenning with a specific referent. The use of the p. n. Danmǫrk is probably the earliest attestation in Old Norse, slightly earlier than the inscription in Jelling 1 (DR 41, DK SJy 10), c. 940-55, and at least a century earlier than that on the Karlevi stone (Run Öl 1VI). — [7] vinjeyjar ‘of the meadow-island’: A rare use of the noun vin ‘meadow’, otherwise only found in Old Norse compounds denoting tax payable on farm products and in Norwegian place names (cf. AEW: vin). For the archaic form vinjeyjar (rather than the later vineyjar), see Note to Bragi Rdr 2/3-4. — [8] valrauf ‘plunder-rift’: The first element of this cpd, val-, is understood as from valr ‘the slain on the battlefield’, thus ‘spoil, plunder (from the slain)’. Some eds (so Skj B) have emended to vall- and understood the element to derive from vǫllr ‘plain, field’. — [8] haufuð ‘heads’: The rare form haufuð ‘head’ (cf. Goth. haubiþ, OE heafod) beside the commoner hǫfuð is confirmed by aðalhending with -rauf; see ANG §98.1 and cf. Bragi Rdr 4/8.

References

  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. 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.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  6. Frank, Roberta. 1978. Old Norse Court Poetry: The Dróttkvætt Stanza. Islandica 42. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  7. 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.
  8. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  9. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  10. Marold, Edith. 1983. Kenningkunst: Ein Beitrag zu einer Poetik der Skaldendichtung. Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte der germanischen Völker, new ser. 80. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  11. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  12. Clunies Ross, Margaret. 1978a. ‘The Myth of Gefjon and Gylfi and its Function in Snorra Edda and Heimskringla’. ANF 93, 149-65.
  13. Finnur Jónsson. 1930-1. ‘Brage skjald’. APS 5, 237-86.
  14. Fowler, Peter. 2002. Farming in the First Millennium AD: British Agriculture between Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  15. Genzmer, Felix. 1932. ‘Die Gefjonstrophe’. BGDSL 56, 414-36.
  16. Holtsmark, Anne. 1944. ‘Gevjons plog’. MM, 169-79. Rpt. in Holtsmark 1956b, 162-76.
  17. Kiil, Vilhelm. 1965. ‘Gevjonmyten og Ragnarsdråpa’. MM, 63-70.
  18. Marold, Edith. 1986b. ‘Ragnarsdrápa und Ragnarssage. Versuch einer Interpretation der Ragnarsdrápa’. In Brogyanyi et al. 1986, 427-57.
  19. Steensberg, Axel. 1936. ‘North-West European Plough-Types of Prehistoric Times and the Middle Ages’. Acta Archaeologica 7, 244-80.
  20. Internal references
  21. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ 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].
  22. 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].
  23. Not published: do not cite (GylfIII)
  24. Not published: do not cite (YngII)
  25. Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Poems, Óláfs drápa Tryggvasonar 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. 1054.
  26. Jonna Louis-Jensen and Tarrin Wills (eds) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Plácitusdrápa 35’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 203.
  27. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Sækonunga 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. 678.
  28. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Ásynja 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. 763.
  29. Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 27.
  30. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Fragments 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. 54.
  31. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 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. 30.
  32. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 4’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 33.
  33. Not published: do not cite ()
  34. Not published: do not cite ()
  35. Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórarinn, Lausavísa 1’ 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. 445.
  36. Not published: do not cite (Run Öl 1VI)
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