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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Krm 4VIII

Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Krákumál 4’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 724.

Anonymous PoemsKrákumál

Hjuggu vér með hjörvi.
Heðins kvánar varð auðit,
þá er vér Helsingja heimtum
til heimsala Óðins.
Lögðum upp í Ívu;
oddr náði þá bíta;
öll var unda gjálfri
á sú roðin heitu.
Grenjaði brandr við brynjur
bensildr; klufuz skildir.

Hjuggu vér með hjörvi. {Kvánar Heðins} varð auðit, þá er vér heimtum Helsingja til {heimsala Óðins}. Lögðum upp í Ívu; þá náði oddr bíta; öll sú á var roðin {heitu gjálfri unda}. Brandr grenjaði við brynjur, {bensildr}; skildir klufuz.

We hewed with the sword. {The woman of Heðinn <legendary hero>} [= Hildr (hildr ‘battle’)] was at hand when we brought the people of Hälsingland to {the dwellings of Óðinn <god>} [= Valhǫll]. We proceeded up the Ífa <river>; then the sword-point managed to bite; that whole river was reddened by {a hot surge of wounds} [BLOOD]. The sword roared on coats of mail, [as did] {wound-herrings} [ARROWS/SPEARS]; shields were cloven.

Mss: 1824b(79r), 6ˣ(86v) (Ragn); R702ˣ(29r), LR(200-201), R693ˣ(6r)

Readings: [1] Hjuggu vér með hjörvi: abbrev. as ‘Hiug. ver med h᷎.’ 1824b, Hjuggum vér með hjörvi 6ˣ, LR, R693ˣ, abbrev. as ‘H. v. m. h.’ R702ˣ    [2] Heðins kvánar: so R702ˣ, LR, R693ˣ, ‘heidíns kvanarr’ 1824b, ‘Heidnis kvanar’ with ‘Hiedins’ in margin 6ˣ;    auðit: ‘andit’ LR, R693ˣ    [3] vér: om. 6ˣ, R702ˣ, LR, R693ˣ;    Helsingja: ‘helsingin’ LR    [4] heimsala: heimsala with ‘Heimdala’ in margin 6ˣ    [5] Ívu: so R702ˣ, LR, R693ˣ, ‘modo’ 1824b, ‘moþo’ with ‘ifu’ in margin 6ˣ    [6] oddr: so R702ˣ, LR, R693ˣ, ‘fiodr’ 1824b, ‘fiødur’ with ‘Oddur’ in margin 6ˣ    [8] á sú (‘asv’): ‘A su’ with ‘asuer W’ in margin 6ˣ, ‘a̋sver’ R702ˣ, ‘asuer’ LR, ‘Asver’ R693ˣ    [9] Grenjaði (‘Greniade’): so R693ˣ, ‘Greíníarr’ 1824b, Gveimar with ‘grenia þa’ in margin 6ˣ, grenjar R702ˣ, ‘greniada’ LR;    við: í R702ˣ, LR, R693ˣ;    brynjur: ‘brynu’ LR    [10] bensildr klufuz skildir (‘bens hilldr klufuzt skillder’): ‘Bens hilldur klufust skillder’ with ‘Bensilldur klufu skilldi Worm’ written below line 6ˣ, bensildr klufu skildi R702ˣ, LR, ‘Bensildur klaufu skýldi’ R693ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 642, Skj BI, 649-50, Skald I, 317; Rafn 1826, 4-5, 99-103, Pfeiffer 1860, 124, CPB II, 341, Wisén 1886-9, I, 62, Krm 1891, I, 225, Finnur Jónsson 1893b, 86, Finnur Jónsson 1905, 153.

Notes: [2] kvánar Heðins ‘the woman of Heðinn <legendary hero> [= Hildr (hildr ‘battle’)]’: The allusion is to Hildr, the legendary instigator of the everlasting fight between her abductor, Heðinn Hjarrandason, and her father Hǫgni; the story of the fight, known as Hjaðningavíg ‘the battle of Heðinn’s followers’, is told in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 72), and is alluded to in RvHbreiðm Hl 45-6III and elsewhere (see Chesnutt 1968, 130-1; cf. also Gizsv Lv/6I and Hfr ErfÓl 24/4I). Cf. Note to st. 10/7 and first Note to st. 13/4 below. The name Hildr also occurs as a valkyrie-name and as a poetic common noun for ‘battle’. Through the device ofljóst, lit. ‘excessively clear’, the kenning for Hildr is to be understood here as ‘battle’. — [2] varð auðit ‘was at hand’: The line as whole means ‘battle was vouchsafed’, i.e. ‘battle took place’. — [3] Helsingja ‘the people of Hälsingland’: The area in question extended in the Viking Age northwards from the modern province of Hälsingland (located in central Sweden just north of Gästrikland in the south-east of the Norrland region), round the Gulf of Bothnia, and southwards as far as the river Oulu in what is now Finland (Orling 1995, 116-17). — [4] heimsala Óðins ‘the dwellings of Óðinn <god> [= Valhǫll]’: Valhǫll, where the god Óðinn, also known as Valfǫðr ‘Father of the Slain’, welcomes all who fall in battle, is described in Gylf (SnE 2005, 21, 32-4). Cf. st. 28, Note to l. 9, below, and also sts 25 and 29, and Notes there. — [5] upp í Ívu ‘up the Ífa <river>’: This name is spelt Ífu by Rafn (1826), Pfeiffer (1860), Wisén (1886-9) and Valdimar Ásmundarson (Krm 1891). The combination of adv. and prep. indicates, together with the word á ‘river’ in l. 8, that a river is here in question, although it cannot be identified. A river of the same name, also unidentified, is mentioned in OStór 7/8, and may also be referred to in Egill Lv 26/1V (Eg 33); see Note there. Bugge (in Rygh 1897-1936, VIII, 179), sees Ífa f. as related to the word ýr m. ‘yew (tree)’, and as originally the name of the river, now named Frøysåna, that runs past the farms named Ivedal and Iveland in the Iveland county of the Nedenes province (now Aust-Agder) in south-eastern Norway, the first element in these two farm names being formed, according to Bugge, from Ífu, the gen. sg. of the river-name. Olsen on the other hand (in Rygh 1897-1936, X, 56-7), sees these two farm names, and Ivesdal in Stavanger (now Rogaland), as more probably containing nouns (ívi n. or ívir m.) referring to yew-trees as such. He also derives Ífing f., the name of the mythical river which, according to Vafþr 16/1-3, divides the realm of the gods from that of the giants, and which never freezes, from the same root. An alternative possibility, mentioned by Olsen (cf. also ÍO: Ífa, Ífing), is that the river-names are related to MHG ifer, ModGer. Eifer ‘zeal, fervour’, and that the idea of a river with a fiercely flowing current lies behind them. The ‘modo’, ‘moþo’ readings of 1824b and give the form móðu (acc. sg. of móða f. ‘(large, sluggish) river’). However, this reading can be excluded because it does not provide a second alliterating stave on the fifth syllable of an odd line (Gade 1995a, 4). — [7-8]: Noteworthy here is the reversal at the end of the couplet of the order in which qualifying adj. and noun are placed at the beginning (öll … á, gjálfri … heitu ‘whole ... river, surge ... hot’), giving an impression, when the lines are read in sequence, of criss-cross chiastic patterning (adj./noun, noun/adj.). As de Vries (1964-7, II, 40 n. 68), notes, these two lines seem to show the influence of ESk Elfv 1/4-5II, which, when read in sequence, show the same positioning of noun and adj., though without the chiastic ordering: Elfr varð unda gjalfri | eitrkǫld roðin heitu ‘The bitter-cold Götaälv was reddened by the hot surge of wounds [BLOOD]’, i. e. Elfr … eitrkǫld, gjálfri … heitu ‘Götaälv ... bitter-cold, surge ... hot’ (noun/adj., noun/adj.). — [10] bensildr ‘wound-herrings [ARROWS/SPEARS]’: Without disputing the glossing of this kenning as ‘swords’ in the case of RvHbreiðm Hl 11/4III, its other skaldic occurrence  (cf. de Vries 1938, 722 n. 78), the present ed. prefers in this instance to follow LP in taking it to refer to arrows or spears, thus crediting the poet with avoiding any hint of repetition from the previous line, where the word brandr ‘sword’ occurs. — [10] skildir klufuz ‘shields were cloven’: This edn follows the wording of the main ms. and construes skildir klufuz as a separate clause, while understanding bensildr ‘wound-herrings [ARROWS/SPEARS]’ as in apposition to brandr ‘the sword’ (l. 7). The alternative reading of the other mss requires skildi (dat. sg.) ‘shield’ to be emended to the acc. pl. skjöldu, to give the clause bensildr klufu skjöldu ‘wound-herrings [ARROWS/SPEARS] clove shields’. This appears to be the reading of all previous eds apart from Rafn (1826) and CPB, who follow 1824b (cf. ). Those eds who adopt the alternative reading appear to have understood skildi as an unrecorded form of the acc. pl. ‘shields’, except in the cases of Wisén (1886-9) and Finnur Jónsson (1893b), who spell skjöldu here.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. 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.
  4. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  5. 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.
  6. Vries, Jan de. 1964-7. Altnordische Literaturgeschichte. 2 vols. 2nd edn. Grundriss der germanischen Philologie 15-16. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  7. Wisén, Theodor, ed. 1886-9. Carmina Norrœnæ: Ex reliquiis vetustioris norrœnæ poësis selecta, recognita, commentariis et glossario instructa. 2 vols. Lund: Ohlsson.
  8. Finnur Jónsson. 1893b. Carmina Norrœna: Rettet Tekst. Copenhagen: Nielsen & Lydiche.
  9. ÍO = Ásgeir Blöndal Magnússon. 1989. Íslensk orðsifjabók. Reykjavík: Orðabók Háskólans.
  10. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  11. SnE 2005 = Snorri Sturluson. 2005. Edda: Prologue and Gylfaginning. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  12. Pfeiffer, Friedrich. 1860. Altnordisches Lesebuch. Leipzig: T. O. Weigel.
  13. Chesnutt, Michael. 1968. ‘An Unsolved Problem in Old Norse-Icelandic Literary History’. MS 1, 122-37.
  14. Vries, Jan de. 1938. Een skald onder de troubadours. Ledeburg, Gent: N. V. Drukkerij Erasmus.
  15. Finnur Jónsson. 1905. ‘Krákumál’. Oversigt over det Kgl. Danske videnskabernes selskabs forhandlinger 1905, 151-83.
  16. Krm 1891 = 2nd edn (pp. 225-8) of Krm as ed. in Valdimar Ásmundarson 1885-9, I.
  17. Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1826. Krakas Maal eller Kvad om Kong Ragnar Lodbroks Krigsbedrifter og Heltedød efter en gammel Skindbog og flere hidtil ubenyttede Haandskrifter med dansk, latinsk og fransk oversættelse, forskjellige Læsemaader, samt kritiske og philologiske Anmærkninger. Copenhagen: Jens Hostrup Schultz; London: John and Arthur Arch.
  18. Orrling, Carin, ed. 1995. Vikingatidens ABC. Revised edn. Borås: Statens Historiska Museum.
  19. Internal references
  20. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  21. Not published: do not cite (GylfIII)
  22. Not published: do not cite (RunVI)
  23. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Einarr Skúlason, Elfarvísur’ 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. 565-7.
  24. Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1001.
  25. Not published: do not cite (Egill Lv 26V (Eg 33))
  26. Not published: do not cite ()
  27. Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Erfidrápa Óláfs Tryggvasonar 24’ 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. 434.
  28. Peter Jorgensen (ed.) 2017, ‘Orms þáttr Stórólfssonar 7 (Ásbjǫrn, Ævikviða 4)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 611.

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