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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hjǫrtr Lv 1II

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Hjǫrtr, Lausavísur 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. 344-6.


Þrøngvir gulli
gramr fast saman;
veitir Sýrar
sonr fáskonar.
Land skyldi lítit
laf-Hamðir hafa;
þá myndi hauldum
Haraldr svara.

Gramr þrøngvir gulli fast saman; {sonr Sýrar} veitir fáskonar. Laf-Hamðir skyldi hafa lítit land; þá myndi Haraldr svara hauldum.

The ruler gathers gold forcefully; {Sýr’s son} [= Haraldr] gives away little. Laf-Hamðir (‘Slouch-Hamðir’) should get little land; then Haraldr might answer the men.

Mss: 326bˣ(22v-23r) (Hb)

Readings: [3] Sýrar: ‘[…]’ 326bˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 403, Skj BI, 372, Skald I, 185; Hb 1892-6, 331-2, Fellows Jensen 1962, 38 (Hem).

Context: Upon their return from Russia, Hjǫrtr and his fellow travellers go before King Haraldr and greet him, but the king is too busy talking to Tostig Godwineson (Tósti) to pay any attention to them. Hjǫrtr then recites this st. to comment on the situation.

Notes: [3] Sýrar ‘Sýr’s’: This word is conjectural, but it makes sense both in terms of metre and context (Sigurðr sýr ‘Sow’ was Haraldr’s father), and cf. geitarson ‘a goat’s son’ in st. 2/7 below as well as SnH Lv 11. The word was first suggested by Gudbrand Vigfusson (1887-94, I, 368). — [4] fáskonar ‘little’: Lit. ‘in few ways’. The gen. of konr lit. ‘descendant, son’ used adverbially with the meaning ‘manner, way, kind’. This adv. could be compounded with proclitic adjectives or pronouns in the gen. (here fás ‘of few’). — [5-6]: Although syntactically transparent, the sense of these two ll. is obscure. The identity of ‘laf-Hamðir’ is not clear, and the interpretation depends on the meaning of the verb hafa ‘get, possess’. See the discussion below. — [6] laf-Hamðir ‘(“Slouch-Hamðir”)’: The meaning of this epithet is not immediately transparent, but it must be a derogatory term either for Haraldr (so Hb 1892-6, 331 n. a) or for Tostig (so LP: laf-Hamðir). Laf- is derived from the verb lafa ‘hang, dangle, slouch’ (see lafhræddr ‘terror-stricken’ in Lv 3/6 below), and Hamðir is a legendary hero (see Ghv; Hamð). Skj B suggests the translation den bukkeskæggede(?) ‘the one with a goat-beard(?)’, and in Hb (1892-6) Finnur proposes tentatively that the word could be a scribal error for lofðungr ‘ruler’. That is unlikely because of the internal rhyme (-af- : -af-). In the present edn, the epithet is taken to refer to Haraldr (see the discussion of hafa ‘get’ (l. 6 below)). In keeping with the adj. lafhræddr in Lv 3/6, it may refer to his lack of initiative. For Tostig’s mission to Haraldr’s court, see Gade 2004. — [6] hafa ‘get’: The identity of laf-Hamðir ‘Slouch-Hamðir’ (l. 6) hinges on the meaning of the verb hafa ‘get, obtain’ or ‘possess’ (see Fritzner: hafa 6 and 8). Tostig arrives at Haraldr’s court and promises him the sovereignty in England if Haraldr will agree to embark on the expedition to the west. If their campaign is successful, Tostig and his brothers will hold England as a fief and pay tribute to Haraldr (see the similar offer made to Sveinn Úlfsson of Denmark; Fellows Jensen 1962, 35). If Hjǫrtr wishes that Tostig will only offer Haraldr a small part of England (lítit land ‘little land’ (l. 5), then laf-Hamðir is Haraldr. But if hafa is taken in the meaning ‘possess’, the poet hopes that Tostig (= laf-Hamðir) will only have a small country to barter with, so that Haraldr will lose interest in the conversation and pay attention to his men. The prose of Hem, which is similar in the Hr and Hb versions, settles that issue. According to the þáttr, the following verbal exchange ensues between Haraldr and Hjǫrtr after Hjǫrtr has recited the st. (Hb 1892-6, 332): hversu litið segir konvngr. eigi meira segir Hiortr en þu mættir liggia a ‘“how little”, says the king. “Not more,” says Hjǫrtr, “than you can lie on”’. Not only does Hjǫrtr specify that Haraldr is the one who should get little land (see also andvani alls Englands ‘bereft of all England’ in Lv 3/7-8 below), but his answer echoes Harold Godwineson’s offer to Haraldr at the fatal battle of Stamford Bridge (ÍF 28, 187): Sagt hefir hann þar nǫkkut frá, hvers hann mun honum unna af Englandi: sjau fóta rúm eða því lengra sem hann er hæri enn aðrir menn ‘He has said something about how much of England he will grant him: an area of seven feet or so much more as he is taller than other men’. — [7] hauldum ‘the men’: Lit. ‘the freeholders’. For this word, see Note to Anon Nkt 15/2.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  5. 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.
  6. Gade, Kari Ellen. 2004. ‘Morkinskinna and 25th September 1066’. In Hoff et al. 2004, 211-23.
  7. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  8. Fellows Jensen, Gillian, ed. 1962. Hemings þáttr Áslákssonar. EA B 3. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  9. Hb 1892-6 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1892-6. Hauksbók udgiven efter de Arnamagnæanske håndskrifter no. 371, 544 og 675, 4° samt forskellige papirshåndskrifter. Copenhagen: Det kongelige nordiske oldskrift-selskab.
  10. Internal references
  11. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Anonymous Poems, Nóregs konungatal 15’ 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, p. 771.
  12. Not published: do not cite ()
  13. Not published: do not cite ()
  14. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sneglu-Halli, Lausavísur 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. 331-2.
  15. Not published: do not cite (HemII)

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