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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Keth Lv 20VIII (Ket 36)

Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2017, ‘Ketils saga hœngs 36 (Ketill hœngr, Lausavísur 20)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 590.

Ketill hœngrLausavísur

Dregz þú nú, Dragvendill,         við krás arnar;
mætir þú meingöldrum;         máttir þú eigi bíta.
Mik þess eigi varði,         at hrøkkva mundi
eggjar eitrherðar,         þótt Óðinn deyfði.

Þú dregz nú, Dragvendill, við {krás arnar}; þú mætir meingöldrum; þú máttir eigi bíta. Mik varði þess eigi, at eitrherðar eggjar mundi hrøkkva, þótt Óðinn deyfði.

You are drawn now, Dragvendill <sword>, for {the delicacies of the eagle} [CORPSES]; you meet harmful spells; you are unable to bite. It did not occur to me that poison-hardened edges would give way, although Óðinn blunted [them].

Mss: 343a(57v), 471(56r) (Ket)

Readings: [3] þú: om. 471    [4] máttir þú: máttu 471    [7] eitr‑: eitri 471    [8] þótt: þó 471

Editions: Skj AII, 286, Skj BII, 307, Skald II, 163, NN §2397; FSN 2, 137, FSGJ 2, 178-9, Anderson 1990, 58, 107; Edd. Min. 84.

Context: The single combat now commences. Ketill’s first two strikes at Framarr’s shoulders do not wound him, and Ketill addresses his sword Dragvendill in this and the following stanza. In the saga this stanza is introduced by the words: Ketill kvað vísu ‘Ketill spoke a stanza’.

Notes: [1-2]: Since l. 2 contains no word that alliterates with any word in l. 1, some eds have introduced or suggested emendations to provide l. 2 with a word beginning with <d> to alliterate with dregz and Dragvendill. They also differ in their interpretation of the meaning of the lines: Skj B emends to Dregsk nú Dragvendill, | deila krás arnar ‘Fly now, Dragvendill, to strike apart the delicacies of the eagle’; Edd. Min. 84 n. suggests Dregsk þú nú, Dragvendill, | við drífu járna ‘You draw back, Dragvendill, from the storm of swords’, but does not print this in the main text; Skald has Dregsk nú, Dragvendill, | við dagkrás arnar ‘You are drawn now, Dragvendill, for the breakfast [lit. ‘day-delicacy’] of the eagle’ (cf. NN §2397). Kock is surely correct in his interpretation of dregz as a reference to the drawing of the sword Dragvendill from its scabbard, but there is no need to emend the line, which makes perfect sense, despite the lack of an alliterating word in l. 2. — [1] Dragvendill: According to Ket ch. 3, Ketill hœngr acquired the sword Dragvendill, along with three arrows, after he had killed the Saami leader Gusi (FSGJ 2, 164). This name appears as the name of a sword in a lausavísa attributed to Egill Skallagrímsson (Egill Lv 35/2V (Eg 64)). According to Eg (ch. 61, ÍF 2, 195), Egill’s friend Arinbjǫrn gave him the sword, and in the M (Möðruvallabók) version of the saga its provenance is named: Þórólfr Skallagrímsson gave it to Arinbjǫrn, and was himself given it by his father Skallagrímr, who in turn received it from his own brother Þórólfr. Þórólfr got it from Grímr loðinkinni, Ketill hœngr’s son, and it is stated that Ketill had used it in single combats. It is further stated that Dragvendill was the sharpest of all swords. Ironically, the first half-stanza of the lausavísa attributed to Egill resembles this stanza in that there as well Dragvendill is said not to ‘bite’ as it should, because Atli the Short had dulled its blades by magic (ch. 65, ÍF 2, 209-10).  This sword name is recorded in two variants, dragvendill, as here and in some mss of Eg, and dragvandill, as in the M-text of Eg and Þul Sverða 1/4III. On the etymology of the name, see Note to Þul Sverða 1/4III. — [3] meingöldrum ‘harmful spells’: The cpd meingaldr ‘harmful spell’ is only attested here. — [5] mik varði þess eigi ‘it did not occur to me’: The verb vara ‘expect’ is used impersonally with the acc. of the person who expects and the gen. of what is expected (LP: 2. vara). Several eds emend the line to produce regular alliteration with l. 6. Thus Skj B and Skald emend l. 5 to hins mik eigi varði and Mik hins ei varði respectively (with little change to the meaning), whilst Guðni Jónsson (FSGJ) and the eds of Edd. Min. emend to Hæng þess eigi varði ‘It did not occur to Hœngr [= me]’. — [7] eitrherðar ‘poison-hardened’: This cpd adj. occurs only here and in Bret, likewise applied to a sword (cf. Fritzner, ONP: eitrherða ‘temper with poison’); the blades of swords are said to be ‘mixed with poison’ (eitrblandinn) in HjǪ 20/5; cf. Brot 19/5-8. — [8] þótt Óðinn deyfði ‘although Óðinn blunted [them]’: For Óðinn’s power to blunt swords by means of sorcery, see Hávm 148/4-6.


  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. FSN = Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. 1829-30. Fornaldar sögur nordrlanda. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  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. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. ONP = Degnbol, Helle et al., eds. 1989-. A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose / Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog. 1-. Copenhagen: The Arnamagnæan Commission.
  9. ÍF 2 = Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar. Ed. Sigurður Nordal. 1933.
  10. FSGJ = Guðni Jónsson, ed. 1954. Fornaldar sögur norðurlanda. 4 vols. [Reykjavík]: Íslendingasagnaútgáfan.
  11. Edd. Min. = Heusler, Andreas and Wilhelm Ranisch, eds. 1903. Eddica Minora: Dichtungen eddischer Art aus den Fornaldarsögur und anderen Prosawerken. Dortmund: Ruhfus. Rpt. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
  12. Anderson, Sarah M. 1990. ‘The Textual Transmission of Two Fornaldarsögur: Ketils saga høings and Gríms saga loðinkinna’. Ph.D. thesis. Cornell University…
  13. Internal references
  14. (forthcoming), ‘ Anonymous, Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar’ in Tarrin Wills, Kari Ellen Gade and Margaret Clunies Ross (eds), Poetry in Sagas of Icelanders. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 5. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <> (accessed 24 September 2021)
  15. Not published: do not cite (EgillV)
  16. 2017, ‘ Anonymous, Ketils saga hœngs’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 548. <> (accessed 24 September 2021)
  17. 2017, ‘ Unattributed, Breta saga’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38. <> (accessed 24 September 2021)
  18. Not published: do not cite (GrímlVIII)
  19. Not published: do not cite (KethVIII)
  20. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Sverða heiti 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 790.
  21. Not published: do not cite ()
  22. Not published: do not cite (Egill Lv 35V (Eg 64))
  23. Not published: do not cite ()
  24. Richard L. Harris (ed.) 2017, ‘Hjálmþés saga ok Ǫlvis 20 (Margerðr, Lausavísa 1)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 513.

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