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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bragi Rdr 3III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 31.

Bragi inn gamli BoddasonRagnarsdrápa
234

Knátti eðr við illan
Jǫrmunrekkr at vakna
með dreyrfáar dróttir
draum í sverða flaumi.
Rósta varð í ranni
Randvés hǫfuðniðja,
þás hrafnbláir hefndu
harma Erps of barmar.

Jǫrmunrekkr knátti eðr at vakna við illan draum með dreyrfáar dróttir í {flaumi sverða}. Rósta varð í ranni {hǫfuðniðja Randvés}, þás {hrafnbláir of barmar Erps} hefndu harma.

Jǫrmunrekkr then awakened with an evil dream among the blood-stained troops in {the eddy of swords} [BATTLE]. There was tumult in the hall {of the chief kinsmen of Randvér} [= the dynasty of the Goths], when {the raven-black brothers of Erpr} [= Hamðir and Sǫrli] avenged their injuries.

Mss: R(30v), Tˣ(32r), C(2r) (SnE); W(113) (FoGT)

Readings: [1] Knátti: ‘Knatt’ W;    eðr: áðr C, ørr W    [2] Jǫrmun‑: ermen‑ C, ermin‑ W    [3] dróttir: dóttur C    [5] Rósta: róstu C;    varð: vann C    [6] Randvés: randvérs C    [7] ‑bláir: so Tˣ, C, corrected from ‘blarir’ R, blám W    [8] of: um C, ok W;    barmar: barma W

Editions: Skj AI, 1, Skj BI, 1, Skald I, 1, NN §§1909A, 2507; SnE 1848-87, I, 370-3, II, 576, III, 59, SnE 1931, 134, SnE 1998, I, 50; SnE 1848-87, II, 208, FoGT 1884, 129, FoGT 2014, 14-17, 77-9.

Context: This stanza is preserved in two sources, the Skm section of SnE (R, , C) and FoGT (W). In Skm (SnE 1998, I, 50-1) the stanza is the first of a sequence of four stanzas and a stef, specifically ascribed to Rdr, and these stanzas are cited at the end of a long passage recounting various narratives about the legendary Niflungar and their descendants, among whom were the brothers Hamðir and Sǫrli. The Rdr stanzas are introduced thus: Eptir þessum sǫgum hafa flest skáld ort ok tekit ymsa þáttu. Bragi hinn gamli orti um fall Sǫrla ok Hamðis í drápu þeiri er hann orti um Ragnar loðbrók ‘Most poets have composed [poetry] based on these stories, and have used various parts [of them]. Bragi the Old composed about the death of Sǫrli and Hamðir in the drápa that he composed about Ragnarr loðbrók’. In FoGT (FoGT 1884, 129), which is only preserved in W, its anonymous author cites the stanza on its own as an example of the rhetorical figure of ekbasis, or digression, and introduces it with the words (normalised): Ebasis er af ganga efnisins, þá er skaldit reikar afvegis, sem Bragi skald gerði, þá er hann setti í þá drápu, er hann orti um Ragnar konung, þær vísur er segja um fall Sǫrla ok Hamðis sona Jónakrs konungs ok Guðrúnar Gjúkadóttur, er þeir fellu fyrir mǫnnum Erminreks konungs, ok er sjá vísa ein af þeimEkbasis is a departure from the subject-matter, when the poet drifts off course, as Bragi the poet did, when he inserted into the drápa that he composed about King Ragnarr, those stanzas that tell about the death of Sǫrli and Hamðir, sons of King Jónakr and Guðrún daughter of Gjúki, when they fell before the men of King Jǫrmunrekkr, and this stanza is one of them’.

Notes: [All]: The first of four stanzas in which Bragi depicts the vengeance carried out by the brothers Hamðir and Sǫrli, sons of Guðrún Gjúkadóttir and King Jónakr, upon the Gothic king Jǫrmunrekkr, the historical Ostrogothic ruler Ermanaric (d. 375 AD), because he had their sister, his wife Svanhildr, put to death for supposed adultery with his own son Randvér. The brothers attack Jǫrmunrekkr in his hall and maim him, but fail to kill him, whereupon the Goths turn upon Hamðir and Sǫrli, and kill them by pelting them with stones. This legend is also the subject of the eddic poem Hamð (see Dronke 1969, 159-242 for a comparison of this and other sources), which tells that Svanhildr was torn apart by wild horses and Randvér was hanged (Hamð 2-3, 17). Skm prefaces the citation of Bragi’s stanzas with a prose account of the legend (SnE 1998, I, 49-50). See Vǫls chs 41-4 (Vǫls 1965, 74-8) and Saxo 2005, I, 8, 10, 9-14, pp. 550-4, for other accounts. Finch (1993a) details the linking of this legend to the Vǫlsung-Niflung family, with which Ragnarr loðbrók was sometimes connected. For the historical record, see Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum gestarum libri qui supersunt XXXI, ch. 3 (Rolfe 1948-52, III, 394-6) and Jordanes, Getica (Mommsen 1882, ch. XXIV, §§129-30). Rdr reveals a somewhat anti-heroic attitude to its subject-matter, st. 3 beginning in medias res with Jǫrmunrekkr awakening from a drunken sleep to chaos in his own hall. — [1, 2, 4] knátti at vakna við illan draum ‘awakened with an evil dream’: An Old and Modern Icelandic idiom used of someone who awakes from sleep to a nightmarish reality over which he has no control (cf. Wood 1960b). Some scholars (e.g. Vogt 1930b, 3-5) maintain that Jǫrmunrekkr was asleep and woke from a bad dream. In Skm Guðrún advises the brothers to attack Jǫrmunrekkr at night while he is asleep. — [4] í flaumi sverða ‘in the eddy of swords [BATTLE]’: The base-word, flaumr ‘eddy, torrent’, of this battle-kenning connotes the flowing of blood as well as the melée of swords. — [5] rósta varð í ranni ‘there was tumult in the hall’: Cf. Hamð 23/1 (NK 272) Styrr varð í ranni ‘There was uproar in the hall’ and Old English Beowulf l. 1302a Hrēam wearð on Heorote ‘There was uproar in Heorot’ (Beowulf 2008, 45), formulaic introductions to the topic of a hall-fight. — [6] hǫfuðniðja Randvés ‘of the chief kinsmen of Randvér [= the dynasty of the Goths]’: Some scholars (so Skj B) consider this kenning to refer to Jǫrmunrekkr himself, the father of Randvér, believing that the pl. hǫfuðniðjar is intended to have a sg. referent. But there is no reason to abandon the pl. sense, which then denotes the Gothic royal house as a whole and its ancestral hall. — [7] hrafnbláir ‘raven-black’: Hamðir and Sǫrli were linked in Old Norse legend with the Niflungar, traditionally supposed to have been dark in colour (cf. ON nifl- ‘mist, darkness’ (only in compounds like Niflhel, part of the underworld), OHG nebul, OE nifol, Lat. nebula ‘fog, mist, cloud’). — [8] of barmar Erps ‘the brothers of Erpr [= Hamðir and Sǫrli]’: This kenning for Hamðir and Sǫrli depends upon a knowledge of the role played by a third brother, Erpr, in the lead-up to their attack on Jǫrmunrekkr. Erpr ‘the Dark-brown One’, the son of Jónakr by a different mother (inn sundrmœðri, Hamð 13/1, NK 271), offers to help his brothers kill Jǫrmunrekkr as an arm helps a leg, but his cryptically phrased offer is scornfully refused, Hamðir and Sǫrli killing him on the road. According to both Hamð and Skm, this fratricidal act means that they cannot succeed in killing Jǫrmunrekkr outright. Bragi’s use in this kenning of the poetic noun barmi, meaning a child fed at the same breast as another, is deeply ironic.

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. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. 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.
  7. Dronke, Ursula, ed. and trans. 1969. The Poetic Edda. I: Heroic Poems. Oxford: Clarendon.
  8. Beowulf 2008 = Fulk, Robert D., Robert E. Bjork and John D. Niles, eds. 2008. Klaeber’s Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. 4th rev. edn of Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg, ed. Fr. Klaeber. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.
  9. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  10. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  11. Saxo 2005 = Friis-Jensen, Karsten, ed. 2005. Saxo Grammaticus: Gesta Danorum / Danmarkshistorien. Trans. Peter Zeeberg. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Det danske sprog- og litteraturselskab & Gads forlag.
  12. FoGT 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.
  13. Vǫls 1965 = Finch, R. G., ed. and trans. 1965. The Saga of the Volsungs. London: Nelson.
  14. Vǫls = Vǫlsunga saga.
  15. Mommsen, Theodorus, ed. 1882. Iordanis. Romana et Getica. Monumenta Germaniae Historica 5.1. Berlin: Weidmann. Rpt. 1961.
  16. Wood, Cecil. 1960b. ‘Scaldic Notes’. SS 32, 153-8.
  17. Finch, R. G. 1993a. ‘Vǫlsung-Niflung Cycle’. In MedS, 707-10.
  18. Rolfe, John C., ed. and trans. 1948-52. Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum gestarum libri. 3 vols. Rev. and rpt. Loeb Classical Library 300, 315 and 331. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  19. Vogt, Walther Heinrich. 1930b. ‘Bragi’s Schild. Maler und Skalde’. APS 5, 1-28.
  20. FoGT 2014 = Clunies Ross, Margaret and Jonas Wellendorf, eds. 2014. The Fourth Grammatical Treatise. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  21. Internal references
  22. 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].
  23. (forthcoming), ‘ Unattributed, The Fourth 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, p. . <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=34> (accessed 22 September 2021)
  24. (forthcoming), ‘ Snorri Sturluson, Skáldskaparmál’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=112> (accessed 22 September 2021)
  25. Not published: do not cite (RloðVIII)
  26. Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘ 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. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=1130> (accessed 22 September 2021)
  27. Not published: do not cite ()
  28. Not published: do not cite ()
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