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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bersi Ólfl 1I

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Bersi Skáld-Torfuson, Flokkr about Óláfr helgi 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. 791.

Bersi Skáld-TorfusonFlokkr about Óláfr helgi
12

Hróðrs batt heilan líða
hagkennanda þenna,
en snarrœki slíku
svarat unnum vér gunnar.
Orð seldum þau elda
úthauðrs boða trauðir
knarrar hapts, sem keyptak,
kynstórs, at við brynju.

Batt {þenna hagkennanda hróðrs} líða heilan, en vér unnum svarat slíku {snarrœki gunnar}. Trauðir hapts seldum þau orð {kynstórs boða {elda {úthauðrs knarrar}}}, sem keyptak at {við brynju}.

You bade {this skilled conveyor of praise} [POET = me] to fare well, and we [I] managed to reply in kind {to the keen cultivator of battle} [WARRIOR = you, Óláfr]. Reluctant for hindrance, we [I] sold those words {to the kin-mighty offerer {of the fires {of the outlying land of the ship}}} [SEA > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = you, Óláfr] just as I had bought [them] from {the tree of the mail-shirt} [WARRIOR = you, Óláfr].

Mss: (253r) (Hkr); Holm2(13r), R686ˣ(26r), J1ˣ(159v), J2ˣ(135v), 325VI(11rb), 75a(1va), 73aˣ(35v), 78aˣ(33r), 68(12r), 61(84vb), Holm4(5ra), 325V(16va), 325VII(5r), Bb(135rb), Flat(83vb), Tóm(102v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Hróðrs: hróðr Holm2, Bb, ‘Horþar’ R686ˣ, ‘Hroðuss’ 325VI, ‘Hloðr’ 68;    batt (‘baðtu’): bað R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm, bar 325VII;    líða: borða Tóm    [2] ‑kennanda: ‑kennandi Holm2, 325V, Bb, ‘kennannanda’ Flat    [3] snarrœki: so J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, Holm4, Bb, snarreki Kˣ, ‘snarøki’ Holm2, snarlæti 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ, snar rœkinn 61, sjá rekkr of 325V, svanbræði 325VII, ‘suarræde’ Flat, svaraði Tóm;    slíku: ‘slito’ R686ˣ    [4] svarat unnum: ‘svartvnno’ 68, ‘suarann unn’ 325VII;    svarat: svarar 325V;    unnum: unnu 73aˣ, 61, Holm4, Bb    [5] Orð: auð 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ;    seldum: héldum við Tóm;    þau: vér Holm2, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ    [6] úthauðrs: úthauðs or úthauðrs Holm2, út haugs J1ˣ, úthaugs J2ˣ, ‘vravðs’ or ‘vtavðs’ 325VI, ‘ythavðs’ 75a, úthauðs 78aˣ, út hauðr 325VII, ‘vt hredrs’ Bb;    boða: blóða Bb, bjóða Tóm;    trauðir: rauða Tóm    [7] knarrar: knarrir J1ˣ, knarra Tóm;    hapts: ‘haptzt’ R686ˣ, ‘hap⸜d⸝z’ 325VI, ‘kaptz’ 78aˣ, happs 68, Flat, ‘kaps’ 325VII, hefsk Tóm;    keyptak (‘ec keypta’): keyptu 73aˣ    [8] ‑stórs: ‑stór 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, ‘‑s(to)ra’(?) 325V;    at við: á vit 73aˣ, 68, 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, vítt 325V

Editions: Skj AI, 275-6, Skj BI, 255, Skald I, 131, NN §684; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 73-4, IV, 123, ÍF 27, 65-6, Hkr 1991, I, 294-5 (ÓHHkr ch. 50); Fms 4, 101, Fms 12, 80, ÓH 1941, I, 95 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 45.

Context: ÓH-Hkr describes how Bersi (not previously mentioned) is fighting in the fore-stem of Sveinn jarl’s ship in his battle at Nesjar against King Óláfr Haraldsson (1016). He is distinctive – handsome and well armed – and King Óláfr recognises him; they exchange shouted greetings. The three stanzas of Ólfl are then cited, with the explanation that Bersi composed a flokkr for Óláfr after he had come into his power and was sitting in fetters.

Notes: [6] boða ‘offerer’: This weak m. noun, and hence the warrior-kenning of which it is the base-word, is construed here as dat. sg., the indirect object of seldum ‘we [I] sold’ (l. 5). It could alternatively be gen. sg. qualifying þau orð (l. 5), hence ‘those words of the offerer ...’. — [6, 7] trauðir hapts ‘reluctant for hindrance’: Trauðir ‘reluctant’ is n. pl. qualifying vér ‘we [I]’, even though the reference is to the skald alone. (a) It is here construed, as in Skj B, with hapts, gen. sg. of hapt n., though this makes for a disjointed word order. The speaker’s reluctance must relate to the incident described retrospectively in the stanza, his exchange of greetings with King Óláfr, but the precise nature of the reluctance is uncertain. Hapt could mean ‘stasis, hindrance’ or ‘fetter’ (LP: hapt 1), perhaps referring to Bersi’s fear of being captured, which later materialised, or else to the rapidity with which he returned the king’s greeting (so Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV, translating uden tøven ‘without delay’). (b) Trauðir could stand alone, referring to the speaker’s reluctance to return the greeting, in which case hapts (which has clearly baffled some scribes) would appear to have its alternative sense ‘deity’ and to be part of the man-kenning in ll. 5-7. This is the analysis preferred by Kock (Skald and NN §684, followed in ÍF 27), reading boði elda úthauðrs hapts knarrar ‘offerer of the fires of the outer land of the deity of the ship [SEAFARER > SEA > GOLD > GENEROUS RULER]’. This departs from normal kenning usage in several ways, however. Although hapt knarrar ‘deity of the ship’ resembles a known pattern of kenning (see Meissner 278), such kennings denote ‘man’ rather than specifically ‘seafarer’, and even if ‘seafarer’ is correct there do not appear to be other sea-kennings on the pattern ‘land of the seafarer’. ‘Sea’ is normally determined by names of sea-kings or maritime terms of various sorts, not by words for sailors (Meissner 95-7). Further, hapt is not otherwise recorded as a base-word, and when used in the sense ‘gods’ it is normally pl.

References

  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. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 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. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  11. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  13. Internal references
  14. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  15. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Bersi Skáld-Torfuson, Flokkr about Óláfr helgi’ 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. 790.
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