Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Leið 12VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Leiðarvísan 12’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 151-2.

Anonymous PoemsLeiðarvísan

Án megu engir dýnu
otrs, þeirs skírn hafa hlotna,
— gótts meiðum þrif þýðask —
þat —kaup hafa skatnar.
Orð munu eigi verða
órbrennd, þaus goð kenndi;
mjǫks sá*rvita sœkir
sanns dulðr, ef hyggr annat.

{Engir skatnar {dýnu otrs}}, þeirs hafa hlotna skírn, megu hafa þat án kaup; gótts meiðum þýðask þrif. Orð, þaus goð kenndi, munu eigi verða órbrennd; {sœkir {sá*rvita}} [e]s mjǫk dulðr sanns, ef hyggr annat.

{No chieftains {of the feather-bed of the otter}} [GOLD > MEN], who have received baptism, may have that [baptism] without a bargain; it is good for men to acquire well-being. The words that God taught will never be destroyed; {the attacker {of the wound-flame}} [SWORD > WARRIOR] has the truth very much concealed from him, if he thinks otherwise.

Mss: B(10v), 624(87), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [1] megu: mega B, 624    [3] meiðum: so 624, 399a‑bˣ, ‘[...]eidum’ B    [4] hafa: so 624, ‘hafe’ B    [6] ór‑: ‘ꜳ’ 624    [7] sá*rvita: ‘sa er vita’ B, ‘sa ꜹ̣ṛvita’ 624

Editions: Skj AI, 620, Skj BI, 625, Skald I, 304, NN §1261; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 60, Rydberg 1907, 6, Attwood 1996a, 63, 173.

Notes: [1-2] dýnu otrs ‘of the feather-bed of the otter [GOLD]’: Skj B emends to launa otrs ‘of the reward of the otter’, presumably on the grounds that it is more in keeping with the myth of the slaying of Otr, son of Hreiðmarr and brother of Fáfnir and Reginn, which is recounted in Reg (NK 173-9), and in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 45-6). Gold-kennings alluding to this myth usually rely on the idea of ransom or payment, in that the mound of gold served as the blood-price of the slain Otr (see LP: otr). There are, however, several gold-kennings with the base-word dýna ‘pillow, feather-bed’ (LP: dýna), usually taken as a reference to the myth of Otr’s brother, Fáfnir, who took the ransom gold after slaying Hreiðmarr and, as Snorri explains: fór upp á Gnitaheiði ok gerði sér þar ból ok brásk í orms líki ok lagðisk á gullit ‘went up on to Gnita-heath and made himself a lair there and turned into a serpent and lay down on the gold’ (SnE 1998, I, 46; Faulkes 1987, 101) until his death at the hands of Sigurðr. The poet of Leið appears to have generalised this kenning-type from Fáfnir to Otr, though somewhat inappropriately in terms of the legend, for the carcass of Otr is not said to have been lying on the gold. Instead, according to both Reg (NK, 174, prose interpolation) and Skm (SnE 1998, I, 45), the pelt is first stuffed with gold, then covered by it. Although, as Kock (NN §1261) implies, it is possible that the stuffed carcass may have rested on a layer of gold before being covered, this hardly justifies the use of dýna. Otrs alliterates correctly with both án and engir (l. 1) and rhymes with hlotna (l. 2), and there is no reason to emend it on metrical grounds. In LP: Dýna, Finnur Jónsson suggested that dýnu shold be taken as gen. of Dýna, the ON name for the river Dvina, and that Dýnu otrs ‘of the otter of the Dvina’ is a ship-kenning. This is not paralleled elsewhere in the corpus, and is unconvincing. — [4] hafa ‘have’: Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s emendation of B’s ‘hafe’ to accord with 624’s hafa is adopted by Skj B and by Rydberg, as well as here. Kock (NN §1261) suggests emendation to megu fara ‘are able to go, i.e. can survive’, construing engir skatnar dýnu otrs megu fara án þat kaup ‘no distributers of the feather-bed of the otter can survive without that reward’, the kaup ‘reward’ in question being skírn (l. 2) ‘baptism’. — [7] sá*rvita ‘wound-flame [SWORD]’: Although B’s reading ‘sa er vita’ is clear, it does not make sense. The 624 copyist attempts to reproduce B’s letter-forms, indicating his uncertainty about the phrase using points beneath the text. Sveinbjörn Egilsson suggests, in a marginal note to the 444ˣ transcript of B, that the text should be emended to sárvita gen. sg. of sárviti ‘wound-flame’. Sveinbjörn’s emendation is adopted by Rydberg, Skj B, Kock and here.


  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. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  7. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. Faulkes, Anthony, trans. 1987. Snorri Sturluson. Edda. Everyman’s Library. London and Rutland, Vermont: J. M. Dent & Sons and Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc. Rpt. with new chronology and synopsis 2005.
  9. NK = Neckel, Gustav and Hans Kuhn (1899), eds. 1983. Edda: Die Lieder des Codex Regius nebst verwandten Denkmälern. 2 vols. I: Text. 5th edn. Heidelberg: Winter.
  10. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  11. Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1844. Fjøgur gømul kvæði. Boðsrit til að hlusta á þá opinberu yfirheyrslu í Bessastaða Skóla þann 22-29 mai 1844. Viðeyar Klaustri: prentuð af Helga Helgasyni, á kostnað Bessastaða Skóla. Bessastaðir: Helgi Helgason.
  12. Internal references
  13. Not published: do not cite (FrisII)
  14. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  15. Katrina Attwood 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Leiðarvísan’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 137-78.
  16. Not published: do not cite ()

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