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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Liðs 1I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Anonymous Poems, Liðsmannaflokkr 1’ 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. 1016.

Anonymous PoemsLiðsmannaflokkr

Gǫngum upp, áðr Engla
ættlǫnd farin rǫndu
morðs ok miklar ferðir
malmregns stafar fregni.
Verum hugrakkir hlakkar;
hristum spjót ok skjótum;
leggr fyr órum eggjum
Engla gnótt á flótta.

Gǫngum upp, áðr {stafar {malmregns}} ok miklar ferðir morðs fregni ættlǫnd Engla farin rǫndu. Verum hugrakkir hlakkar; hristum spjót ok skjótum; gnótt Engla leggr á flótta fyr eggjum órum.

Let us go ashore, before {the staves {of the metal-rain}} [BATTLE > WARRIORS] and large militias of killing learn that the ancestral lands of the English are traversed with the shield. Let us be brave-minded in battle; let us brandish spears and shoot [them]; an ample number of the English takes to flight before our blades.

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

Readings: [1] Gǫngum: gengum DG8    [2] farin: farim DG8    [4] ‑regns: ‘rengs’ DG8;    stafar: so DG8, ‘skafar’ Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 422, Skj BI, 391, Skald I, 194; Flat 1860-8, III, 238, ÓH 1941, II, 684; ÓHLeg 1922, 11, ÓHLeg 1982, 48-9.


In ÓHLeg, the stanzas are said to have been composed by Óláfr at the end of Knútr’s campaign, at a point where the Danish king has won the submission of all England except London, whose garrison is stubbornly resisting him. Óláfr comes to his aid with a stratagem that delivers the city into his hands. In the Styrmir extract in Flat, there is an introductory sentence (see below) but no narrative.

Notes: [All]: In ÓHLeg, the stanzas are introduced, Þenna flocc orte Olafr æftir atlaguna ‘Óláfr composed this flokkr after the attack’. Following the stanzas is the sentence, Ðenna flocc ortte Olafr hinn hælgi, þa er hann var með Knuti kononge ‘S. Óláfr composed this flokkr when he was with King Knútr’ (ÓHLeg 1982, 48, 54). In Styrmir’s version, the stanzas are preceded by the sentence, Þenna flock orti Olafr konungr eftir er hann hafdi vnnit Lundunaborg ‘King Óláfr composed this flokkr after he had conquered London’ (Flat 1860-8, III, 237). — [1] gǫngum ‘let us go’: DG8 gives the pret. form gengum ‘we went’, but the 1st pers. pl. imp. form is required, to match verum ‘let us be’ (l. 5) and hristum ... ok skjótum ‘let us brandish ... and shoot’ (l. 6). On skaldic exhortations to battle using 1st pers. pl. imp., see Note to Þorf Lv 2 [All]. — [2] farin ‘traversed’: Fregni plus p. p. implies an inf. verb ‘to be’, hence fregni ættlǫnd farin ‘learn the ancestral lands [to be] traversed’, i.e. ‘learn that the ancestral lands are traversed’. DG8’s farim ‘let us go’ erroneously supplies a finite verb for this line. — [3] miklar ferðir ‘large militias’: Two interpretations of this phrase are possible. (a) It coordinates with, and duplicates, stafar malmregns ‘staves of the metal-rain [BATTLE > WARRIORS]’, i.e. is part of the subject of fregni ‘learn’ (as assumed above). (b) It coordinates with ættlǫnd farin rǫndu ‘ancestral lands traversed with the shield’, i.e. is part of the object of fregni ‘learn’ (so Skj B). Option (b) might seem the more attractive if we see the speaker as naturally emphasising the might of his own side rather than that of the opposition. But other passages in the flokkr do in fact lay emphasis on English prowess and stern resistance. If option (a) is correct, we could see the word ferðir ‘militias, troops’ as chosen in allusion to OE fyrd, which is cognate (AEW: ferð) and the standard term for the (levied) home army. The well-known Viking tactic of staging surprise landings before the fyrd could be alerted would then be testified to at first hand in this helmingr. — [5] hlakkar ‘in battle’: Literally ‘of battle’. Hlǫkk, etymologically ‘tumult’ (AEW: hlǫkk), is both a valkyrie-name and a heiti which, although not included in the þulur of battle-heiti, functions as a term for ‘battle’ in kennings and occasionally alone, as here (see LP: hlǫkk). — [7] leggr ‘takes to’: The pres. tense here is indic. (cf. st. 2/1 ferr ‘goes’), giving the impression of narration simultaneous with the events described (Poole 1991, 107-9; cf. Ashdown 1930, 206).


  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. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  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. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Poole, Russell. 1991. Viking Poems on War and Peace: A Study in Skaldic Narrative. Toronto Medieval Texts and Translations 8. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.
  11. Ashdown, Margaret. 1930. English and Norse Documents Relating to the Reign of Ethelred the Unready. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  12. Internal references
  13. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Legendary Saga of S. Óláfr / Helgisaga Óláfs konungs Haraldssonar (ÓHLeg)’ 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. clxxiii.
  14. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Flateyjarbók (Flat)’ 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. clxi-clxii.
  15. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorfinnr munnr, Lausavísur 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. 847.

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