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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Ótt Hfl 10I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 10’ 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. 753.

Óttarr svartiHǫfuðlausn

Atgǫngu vannt, yngvi,
ætt siklinga mikla;
blíðr hilmir, rautt breiða
borg Kantara of morgin.
Lék við rǫnn af ríki
— rétt, bragna konr, gagni —
(aldar, frák, at aldri)
eldr ok reykr (of beldir).

Yngvi, vannt ætt siklinga mikla atgǫngu; blíðr hilmir, rautt breiða Kantaraborg of morgin. Eldr ok reykr lék við rǫnn af ríki; {konr bragna}, rétt gagni; frák, at of beldir aldri aldar.

King, you made a great attack on the race of princes; gracious ruler, you reddened broad Canterbury in the morning. Fire and smoke played against the houses mightily; {kinsman of chieftains} [RULER], you gained victory; I heard that you harmed the life of people.

Mss: (227r) (Hkr); Holm2(7r), J1ˣ(141r), J2ˣ(122v), 325VI(6va), 73aˣ(20v), 78aˣ(19v), 68(6r), 61(80ra), 75c(3r), 325V(8vb), 325VII(2r), Bb(126vb-127ra), Flat(80rb), Tóm(96v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] vannt: vatt J1ˣ, vann 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    yngvi: ‘iyngvi’ Bb    [2] ætt: átt Tóm;    siklinga: siglinga Bb    [3] blíðr: blíð 73aˣ;    rautt (‘rꜹðtu’): tóktu Holm2, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, 61, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, tóku 78aˣ;    breiða: bæði 325VI, 78aˣ    [4] Kantara‑: ‘kantera’ 75c, Flat, ‘cantera’ 325VII;    morgin: corrected from ‘morgon’ Holm2    [5] Lék: lét 325VI, 68, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Tóm;    af: ok 325VI, 78aˣ, of 68    [6] konr: vinr J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, konungr Bb    [7] aldar: aldir Holm2, 61, aldr 325V    [8] reykr: reyk 325VI;    of: so 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325VII, at þú Kˣ, Holm2, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, 61, Bb, at 75c, 325V, Flat, Tóm;    beldir: beldi 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm

Editions: Skj AI, 293, Skj BI, 270, Skald I, 138, NN §2218C; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 21, IV, 110-11, ÍF 27, 20 (ÓHHkr ch. 15); ÓH 1941, I, 46 (ch. 24), Flat 1860-8, II, 20.

Context: Óláfr and his army sack Kantarabyrgi (Canterbury).

Notes: [All]: For the battle at Canterbury, see also Sigv Víkv 8. — [3] rautt ‘you reddened’: The majority (ÓH) reading tókt ‘you took’ is equally possible in the context. — [3] breiða ‘broad’: As Jesch (2001a, 61) notes, Óttarr also collocates this adj. with the noun borg in Ótt Knútdr 5/5-6: í breiðri | borg Hemminga ‘in broad Hemingbrough’, ‘suggesting certainly that Óttarr liked an easy alliteration but possibly also that large towns were still an imposing sight to Scandinavians’. — [4] borg Kantara ‘Canterbury’: The ASC (s. a. 1011) records the capture of Canterbury by Þorkell’s army, including the martyrdom of Archbishop Ælfheah there, about which Óttarr and Sigvatr are silent, to judge from the extant poetry. The p. n. (OE Cantwaraburh ‘the stronghold of the Cantware, people of Kent’) has been slightly remodelled by Norse speakers, poetry and prose having alternative forms, and, here and in Sigv Víkv 8/6, the metre has encouraged mild tmesis for metrical reasons. See further Townend (1998, 46-9). — [5] af ríki ‘mightily’: See LP: ríki 1 for parallels. — [8] of beldir ‘you harmed’: There is a problem here in that no ms. reads of beldir. Those that read beldir have at þú rather than of, while those that read of have beldi (presumably an impersonal 3rd pers. sg. form). The best mss seem to point to a reading of at beldir (with þú a later, hypometrical addition), but this seems unlikely since the conj. at is already present in l. 7. The reading favoured here is also adopted in Skj B, Skald and ÍF 27. On the verb bella see NN §2218 .


  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. 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.
  6. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  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. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  10. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  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. Townend, Matthew. 1998. English Place-Names in Skaldic Verse. English Place-Name Society extra ser. 1. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society.
  13. Internal references
  14. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH)’ 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, pp. clxxvi-clxxix.
  15. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  16. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Knútsdrápa 5’ 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. 772.
  17. Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 8’ 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. 545.

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