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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Liðs 4I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Poems, Liðsmannaflokkr 4’ 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. 1020.

Anonymous PoemsLiðsmannaflokkr

Þóttut mér, es þáttak,
Þorkels liðar dvelja
— sôusk eigi þeir sverða
sǫng — í folk at ganga,
áðr an †hauðr† á heiði
hríð víkingar kníðu
— vér hlutum vápna skúrir —
— varð fylkt liði — harða.

Liðar Þorkels þóttut mér dvelja at ganga í folk, es þáttak — þeir sôusk eigi {sǫng sverða} —, áðr an víkingar kníðu harða hríð á †hauðr† heiði; vér hlutum skúrir vápna; liði varð fylkt.

Þorkell’s followers did not seem to me to delay in going into the engagement, when I saw [them] — they did not fear {the song of swords} [BATTLE] —, before the vikings pressed a hard onslaught on … heath; we came in for showers of weapons; the company was formed into battle order.

Mss: Flat(186vb) (Flat); DG8(73r) (ÓHLeg)

Readings: [5] áðr an: so DG8, áðan er Flat;    hauðr: so DG8, ‘haurd’ Flat    [6] kníðu: ‘knyðu’ DG8    [7] skúrir: ‘sku’ DG8    [8] fylkt: so DG8, ‘fylgr’ Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 220, Skj BI, 210, Skald I, 110, NN §§1109, 2772; Flat 1860-8, III, 238, ÓH 1941, II, 684; ÓHLeg 1922, 11, ÓHLeg 1982, 50-1.

Context: As for st. 1.

Notes: [All]: This stanza appears to contain a description of a battle which, to judge from the later stanzas, must be in the vicinity of London. The battle fought at Brentford, Essex in 1016 and reported in the ASC (s. a.) is a possible candidate, since in that case the heiði ‘heath’ (l. 5) could be identified as the large heath at Hounslow near Brentford. But the actions of 1015 and 1016 appear from the ASC (s. a.) to have been so numerous that firm identification is precluded. — [1] þóttut ‘did not seem’: With this stanza comes an abrupt switch to pret. narration. — [1] þáttak ‘I saw’: 1st pers. sg. pret. indic. of þekkja ‘notice, recognise’. — [2] Þorkels ‘Þorkell’s’: Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’, a jarl and war-lord whom Norse tradition, notably Jvs, makes the brother of Sigvaldi Strút-Haraldsson, jarl of Jómsborg; see also Introduction, and Keynes (1980, 216-22); see Note to st. 5/1 on the nickname. — [5] á hauðr heiði ‘on … heath’: Both the Flat reading ‘haurd’ (normalised hǫrð f. nom. sg. ‘hard’) and the DG8 reading ‘haudr’ (normalised hauðr n. ‘land’) are difficult to accommodate in the helmingr. (a) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B emends to hjǫrs, hence hríð hjǫrs ‘storm of the sword [BATTLE]’. (b) Kock in Skald and NN §2772 emends to Hǫðs (the battle-god Hǫðr). (c) However, hríð can stand alone in the sense ‘battle’ or ‘onslaught, phase in a battle’ as in st. 5/8 (and cf. Note to Edáð Banddr 6/2), and if it does so here, the readings ‘haudr’ and ‘haurd’ might instead represent the first element in a cpd p. n. *hau(r)ð(r)-heiði, separated by tmesis in order to accommodate the name within regular dróttkvætt metre (cf., e.g., Hfr Óldr 2/7, 8 Heiðabý(r) and Gade 1995a, 214). But whether a p. n. is intended and what name it might represent remains unclear (CPB II, 107; Poole 1987, 287; Townend 1998, 33). (d) The Flat readings ‘er’ (normalised es) and ‘haurd’ (hǫrð) give Áðr es harða hǫrð hríð á heiði; víkingar kníðu ‘Earlier, there is a very hard battle on the heath; vikings pressed on’. Knýja ‘strike, press on’ can be intransitive, and the collocation hǫrð hríð ‘hard battle’ also occurs in sts 5/7, 8 and 6/3, 4; the adv. harða ‘very’ could be normalised to the older form harðla. However, the pres. tense es ‘is’ would be anomalous in this stanza and would sit awkwardly with áðr ‘before’.


  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. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  6. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  7. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  8. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  9. ÓHLeg 1982 = Heinrichs, Anne et al., eds and trans. 1982. Olafs saga hins helga: Die ‘Legendarische Saga’ über Olaf den Heiligen (Hs. Delagard. saml. nr. 8II). Heidelberg: Winter.
  10. Poole, Russell. 1987. ‘Skaldic Verse and Anglo-Saxon History: Some Aspects of the Period 1009-1016’. Speculum 62, 265-98.
  11. ASC [Anglo-Saxon Chronicle] = Plummer, Charles and John Earle, eds. 1892-9. Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1952.
  12. ÓHLeg 1922 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert, ed. 1922. Olafs saga hins helga efter pergamenthåndskrift i Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, Delagardieske samling nr. 8II. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 47. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  13. Townend, Matthew. 1998. English Place-Names in Skaldic Verse. English Place-Name Society extra ser. 1. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society.
  14. Keynes, Simon. 1980. The Diplomas of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’ (978-1016): A Study in Their Use as Historical Evidence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  15. Internal references
  16. Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyjólfr dáðaskáld, Bandadrápa 6’ 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. 464.
  17. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Óláfsdrápa 2’ 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. 393.

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