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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Halli XI Fl 1II

Russell Poole (ed.) 2009, ‘Halli stirði, Flokkr 1’ 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. 338-9.

Halli stirðiFlokkr

Norðr lykr gramr, sás gerðir
grund, frá Eyrarsundi
— hrafngœlir sparn hæli
hǫfn — langskipa stǫfnum.
Rísta golli glæstir
gjalfr, en hlýður skjalfa,
hvasst und her fyr vestan
Hallandi framm brandar.

Gramr, sás gerðir grund, lykr stǫfnum langskipa norðr frá Eyrarsundi; {hrafngœlir} sparn hǫfn hæli. Brandar, glæstir golli, rísta gjalfr hvasst framm und her fyr vestan Hallandi, en hlýður skjalfa.

The king, who surrounds his territory, locks up [the land] with the stems of the longships north of Øresund; {the raven-gladdener} [WARRIOR] kicked against the harbour with his keel. The stems, encrusted with gold, cut the ocean-surge keenly forwards under the army to the west of Halland, and the wash-strakes tremble.

Mss: (567r), 39(28va), F(50ra), E(23r), J2ˣ(287r) (Hkr); H(59r), Hr(43rb) (H-Hr)

Readings: [1] Norðr: Nú E;    lykr: om. Hr;    gramr: gram Hr;    gerðir: ‘geyrðir’ F, ‘giordi’ Hr    [3] hrafn‑: ‘har’ H;    ‑gœlir: gelr H, Hr;    sparn: hátt yfir H, Hr;    hæli: so 39, F, E, J2ˣ, ‘holi’ Kˣ, heila H, Hr    [4] lang‑: so all others, lǫg‑ Kˣ    [5] Rísta: ristu H, Hr    [6] hlýður: súðir H, Hr;    skjalfa: sjalfa H    [7] und: var H, Hr;    her: heldr H, Hr    [8] Hallandi: Halland Hr;    framm: framit Hr;    brandar: branda H, brandi Hr

Editions: Skj AI, 401, Skj BI, 370, Skald I, 184, NN §3092; ÍF 28, 159 (HSig ch. 71), F 1871, 234, E 1916, 81; Fms 6, 331 (HSig ch. 88).

Context: Stanza 1 is introduced as follows in Hkr (ÍF 28, 159): En er várar, safnar hvárrtveggi konunga liði miklu ok skipum til þessarar ferðar ok segir skáldit í einum flokki frá ferð þeira konunganna ‘And when spring comes, each of the kings assembles a large following and ships for this journey and the skald speaks in a flokkr about the journey of the kings’. Stanzas 1 and 2 are cited in uninterrupted succession in this source. H-Hr reads similarly (Fms 6, 330) but adds Ok enn kvað hann ‘And again he said’ between the sts.

Notes: [1, 4] lykr stǫfnum langskipa ‘locks up [the land] with the stems of the longships’: The verb is most probably from lykja ‘lock up (a gap), seal, join, weld’ (cf. CVC: lykja; Fritzner: lykja), though it could possibly instead be interpreted as lýkr 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of lúka ‘lock’ (so Skald). The verb recurs with the same possible meanings in st. 2/8. Haraldr appears to be the subject of this st. — [3-4] hrafngœlir sparn hǫfn hæli ‘the raven-gladdener [WARRIOR] kicked against the harbour with his keel’: Kock (NN §3092) and Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 28, 159) explain hæli as a reference to part of the keel, the kjalarhæll ‘keel-heel’, rejecting the explanation in Skj B, where langskipa ‘of the longships’ (l. 4) is taken to govern stǫfnum ‘with the stems’ (l. 4). It is also possible, however, that the gen. pl. noun was interpreted as apo koinou, i.e. as qualifying both the preceding and the following noun. Also at play is a metaphor from horsemanship. The exchange of diction between sea and land transportation seen here is bolder than the norm and evidently led to confusion in H-Hr, where the entire l. hrafngœlir sparn hæli ‘the raven-gladdener kicked with his keel’ is replaced by a conventional ‘raven’ topos, hrafn (‘har’ H) gelr hátt yfir heila ‘the raven screams loudly over [men’s] heads’. — [5, 8] brandar, golli glæstir ‘the stems, encrusted with gold’: The meaning of brandr has not been fully established. Suggested is ‘curved gunwale fore and aft’ (Foote and Wilson 1970, 234; cf. Jesch 2001a, 147) but while mast-tops apparently would be gilded (Jesch 2001a, 161) it is dubious whether such decoration would have been applied to the timbers of the hull. That may favour a pars pro toto interpretation of brandr as ‘ships’ (Jesch 2001a, 147). — [6] hlýður skjalfa ‘the wash-strakes tremble’: The hlýða appears to have been a light plank (or strake) that when necessary could be mounted above the main planks of the hull to hinder heavy seas from spilling into the vessel (Jesch 2001a, 141-3). The reported trembling of the wash-strakes could reflect the lightness of their calibre and construction, as equally the sheer impetus of the ship on its course. Interspersed commentary on the sometimes tempestuous voyage that brings the leader or the skald to battle can be inferred to have been a standard ingredient in praise-poetry. Further examples are seen in later sts of this flokkr.


  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. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  7. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  8. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  9. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  10. F 1871 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1871. Fríssbók: Codex Frisianus. En samling af norske konge-sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  11. E 1916 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1916. Eirspennill: AM 47 fol. Nóregs konunga sǫgur: Magnús góði – Hákon gamli. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske historiske kildeskriftskommission.
  12. Internal references
  13. 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].
  14. 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].
  15. Not published: do not cite (HSigII)

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