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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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SnSt Ht 37III

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Snorri Sturluson, Háttatal 37’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1145.

Snorri SturlusonHáttatal

Vann (kann virðum banna
vald) gjald (hǫfundr aldar)
ferð verð fólka herði
fest mest, sás bil lestir.
Hátt þrátt — hǫlða áttar
hrauð auð jǫfurr rauðum —
(þat) gat þengill skatna
þjóð (stóð af gram) bjóða.

Verð ferð vann {herði fólka} fest mest gjald; {hǫfundr aldar}, sás lestir bil, kann banna virðum vald. {Þengill skatna} gat þrátt bjóða þjóð hátt; jǫfurr hrauð rauðum auð áttar hǫlða; þat stóð af gram.

The deserving crowd had to guarantee the greatest payment {to the strengthener of battles} [WARRIOR]; {the judge of men} [RULER = Skúli], who destroys hesitation, prevents people from using power. {The lord of chieftains} [RULER] obstinately taught men manners; the prince wasted the red wealth of the clan of freeholders; that [command] issued from the ruler.

Mss: R(48v), Tˣ(51r), W(144), U(53r) (SnE)

Readings: [3] herði: hirði W    [4] fest: flest W;    sás (‘sa er’): sú er U;    lestir: ‘lestet’ W    [5] þrátt: hrátt W;    áttar: ættar W    [8] af: of W, um U

Editions: Skj AII, 62, Skj BII, 71, Skald II, 40, NN §1311; SnE 1848-87, I, 648-9, II, 389, III, 120, SnE 1879-81, I, 6, 78, II, 17, SnE 1931, 232, SnE 2007, 19; Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 23-4.

Context: The dróttkvætt variant is inn dýri háttr ‘the ornate verse-form’. Each line contains three aðalhendingar in positions 1, 2, and 5. The syllabic structure of the even lines is that of regular dróttkvætt. The odd lines are similar to skjálfhent ‘tremble-rhymed’ (st. 35) in that the alliteration falls in positions 1 and 3, and the heavy syllable in position 2 contains internal rhyme (aðalhending).

Notes: [All]: The heading in is 30. For the metre, see also RvHbreiðm Hl 17-18. It is not used elsewhere in the extant corpus of skaldic poetry. — [All]: Owing to the metrical restrictions, the word order of this stanza is very convoluted, and earlier eds have tried to solve the problems this produces in different ways. — [1-4]: The present edn follows Konráð Gíslason (1895-7), Skj B and SnE 2007. Kock (NN §1311) somewhat unsuccessfully tried to simplify the word order by taking verð (l. 3) as a noun (vederlag ‘compensation’) and vald (våld ‘violence’) and gjald (hämnd ‘vengeance’) (l. 2) as the objects of banna (‘forbid’): Ferð vann fest mest verð herði fólka; hǫfundr aldar, sás lestir bil, bannar virðum vald, gjald translated as Mängden lovade det största vederlag åt örlogsjälten – landets styresman förbjuder männen, dådsnabb, våld och hämnd ‘The crowd promised the greatest compensation to the hero of the fleet – the ruler of the land forbids the men, quick in action, violence and vengeance’. Aside from the fact that gjald and vald are not attested in the meanings ‘vengeance’ and ‘violence’ (Fritzner: gjald; vald), this interpretation forces an awkward, asyndetic construction (vald, gjald ‘violence [and] vengeance’). — [1, 4] vann ... fest ‘had to ... guarantee’: Vinna ‘cause sth. to be done’ with the p. p. of the weak verb festa ‘guarantee, pledge’. — [2] hǫfundr ‘the judge’: Altered to hǫfuð ‘head’ in R (R*). Hǫfundr ‘judge’ is a fairly uncommon word (Fritzner: höfundr). It is an old pres. part. of the strong verb hefja ‘lift, elevate, begin’. — [3] verð ferð ‘the deserving crowd’: The sense is that the farmers deserved to be punished for their disobedience. — [4] sás lestir bil ‘who destroys hesitation’: Meaning that Skúli does not hesitate to act. — [5-8]: The main controversy in this helmingr is the placement of áttar hǫlða ‘of the clan of freeholders’ (l. 5). (a) In the present edn it qualifies rauðum auð ‘the red wealth’ (l. 6). The stanza describes the events that occurred in 1214 when Skúli and Ingi forced the rebellious farmers of Trøndelag to submit to Ingi. As st. 36 above shows, part of the dealings took place at the legal assembly when people were forced to swear allegiance and pay compensation. Skúli was hardly ‘generous’ in this situation (see the comments below); rather, he exacted payment from the farmers and destroyed their wealth in the real sense of the word. (b) Skj B (followed by SnE 2007) offers the following interpretation of this helmingr: Þengill skatna gat bjóða þrátt þjóð hǫlða áttar hátt; þat stóð af gram; jǫfurr hrauð rauðum auð translated as Mændenes fyrste kunde byde bøndernes skare kraftig, hvorledes de skulde opføre sig; det udgik fra fyrsten; han viste sig meget gavmild ‘The lord of men told the crowd of farmers powerfully how they should behave; that issued from the lord; he showed himself to be very generous’. The problems here are the unparalleled þjóð hǫlða áttar lit. ‘people of the clan of freeholders’ (Skj B: bøndernes skare ‘crowd of farmers’) and the concept alluded to in ‘he showed himself to be very generous’ (so also SnE 2007; but see comments in (a) above). (c) Kock (NN §1311) takes hátt (ädelt ‘nobly’) (l. 5) as an adv. modifying hrauð ‘wasted’ and construes áttar hǫlða ‘of the clan of freeholders’ with jǫfurr ‘prince’ (l. 6). He also adopts the W, U variant of ‘around’ (l. 8). In Kock’s interpretation, the helmingr reads as follows: Hátt, þrátt hrauð jǫfurr hǫlða áttar rauðum auð, þat gat þengill skatna bjóða, þjóð stóð of gram translated as Ädelt, ivrig ödelade folkets furste röda guldet: sådant bjöd oss kämpars hövding – skaran stod omkring sin drott! ‘Nobly, eagerly, the lord of the people destroyed the red gold; thus the chieftain of heroes commanded us – the crowd stood around their leader!’. That reading requires an unattested adv. hátt ‘nobly’ as well as the unparalleled jǫfurr hǫlða áttar ‘the prince of the clan of freeholders’. It also results in another awkward asyndetic construction (hátt, þrátt ‘nobly, eagerly’) and it is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the content (see SnE 2007, 60). (d) Following SnE 1848-87, Konráð Gíslason (1895-7) connects áttar hǫlða ‘of the clan of freeholders’ (l. 5) with gram ‘ruler’ (l. 8) and þrátt ‘obstinately’ (l. 5) with hrauð ‘wasted’ (l. 6) which forces an unprecedented four-part line (l. 5). He also suggests that áttar hǫlða ‘of the clan of freeholders’ (l. 5) may qualify hátt ‘manners’ (l. 5), which is certainly possible: Þengill skatna gat þrátt bjóða þjóð hátt áttar hǫlða ‘The lord of chieftains obstinately taught men the manners of the clan of freeholders’. This would mean that Skúli taught the freeholders to behave according to rank. — [8] af ‘from’: Altered to of ‘around, above’ in R (R*).


  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. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. 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.
  7. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  8. Konráð Gíslason. 1895-7. Efterladte skrifter. 2 vols. I: Forelæsninger over oldnordiske skjaldekvad. II: Forelæsninger og videnskablige afhandlinger. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  9. SnE 2007 = Snorri Sturluson. 2007. Edda: Háttatal. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2nd edn. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  10. SnE 1879-81 = Möbius, Theodor, ed. 1879-81. Hattatal Snorra Sturlusonar. 2 vols. Halle an de Saale: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses.
  11. Internal references
  12. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl and Hallr Þórarinsson, Háttalykill 17’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1024.

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