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Sigrdrífumál (also known as Brynhildarljóð) is the conventional title given to a section of the Poetic Edda text in Codex Regius.

It follows Fáfnismál without interruption, and it relates the meeting of Sigurðr with the valkyrja Brynhildr, here identified as Sigrdrífa ("driver to victory"). Its content consists mostly of verses concerned with runic magic and general wisdom literature, presented as advice given by Sigrdrífa to Sigurðr. The metre is fornyrðislag, except for the first stanza.

The end is in the lost part of the manuscript but it has been substituted from younger paper manuscripts. The Vǫlsunga saga describes the scene and contains some of the poem.

Etymology

The compound sigr-drífa means "driver to victory" (or "victory-urger", "inciter to victory") It occurs only in Fáfnismál (stanza 44) and in stanza 4 of the Sigrdrífumál. In Fáfnismál, it could be a common noun, a synonym of valkyrja, while in Sigrdrífumál it is explicitly used as the name of the valkyrja whose name is given as Hildr or Brynhildr in the Prose Edda. Bellows (1936) emphasizes that sigrdrifa is an epithet of Brynhildr (and not a "second Valkyrie").

Contents

Sigrdrífa giving Sigurðr a drinking horn. Illustration on the U 1163.

The Sigrdrífumál follows the Fáfnismál without break, and editors are not unanimous in where they set the title. Its state of preservation is the most chaotic in the Eddaic collection. Its end has been lost in the Great Lacuna of the Codex Regius. The text is cut off after the first line of stanza 29, but this stanza has been completed, and eight others have been added, on the evidence of the much later testimony of paper manuscripts.

The poem appears to be a compilation of originally unrelated poems. However, this state of the poem appears to have been available to the author of the Vǫlsunga saga, which cites from eighteen of its stanzas.

The basis of the text appears to be a poem dealing with Sigurðr's finding of Brynhildr, but only five stanzas (2-4, 20-21) deal with this narrative directly. Stanza 1 is probably taken from another poem about Sigurðr and Brynhildr. Many critics have argued that it is taken from the same original poem as stanzas 6-10 of Helreið Brynhildar.

In stanzas 6-12, Brynhildr teaches Sigurðr the magic use of the runes. To this has been added similar passages on rune-lore from unrelated sources, stanzas 5 and 13-19. This passage is the most prolific source about historical runic magic which has been preserved.

Finally, beginning with stanza 22 and running until the end of the preserved text is a set of counsels comparable to those in Loddfáfnismál. This passage is probably an accretion unrelated to the Brynhildr fragment, and it contains in turn a number of what are likely interpolations to the original text.

The valkyrja's drinking-speech

The first three stanzas are spoken by Sigrdrífa after she has been awoken by Sigurðr (stanza 1 in Bellows 1936 corresponds to the final stanza 45 of Fáfnismál in the edition of Jonsson 1905).

What is labelled as stanza 4 by Bellows (1936) is actually placed right after stanza 2, introduced only by Hon qvaþ ("she said"), marking it as the reply of the valkyrja to Sigmundr's identification of himself in the second half of stanza 1.

The following two stanzas are introduced as follows:

Sigurþr settiz niþr oc spurþi hana nafns. Hon toc þa horn fult miaþar oc gaf hanom minnisveig:
"Sigurth sat beside her and asked her name. She took a horn full of mead and gave him a memory-draught."

Henry Adams Bellows stated in his commentary that stanzas 2-4 are "as fine as anything in Old Norse poetry" and these three stanzas constituted the basis of much of the third act in Richard Wagner's opera Siegfried. This fragment is the only direct invocation of the Norse gods which has been preserved, and it is sometimes dubbed a "pagan prayer".[1]

The first two stanzas are given below in close transcription (Bugge 1867), in normalized Old Norse (Jonsson 1905) and in the translations by Thorpe (1866) and of Bellows (1936):

Heill dagr

heilir dags synir
heil nott oc nipt
oreiþom ꜹgom
litiþ ocr þinig
oc gefit sitiondom sigr

Heilir ęsir
heilar asynior
heil sia in fiolnyta fold
mal oc manvit
gefit ocr męrom tveim
oc lęcnishendr meþan lifom


(ed. Bugge 1867)[2]

Heill dagr,

heilir dags synir,
heil nótt ok nipt;
óreiðum augum
lítið okkr þinig
ok gefið sitjöndum sigr.

Heilir æsir,
heilar ásynjur,
heil sjá in fjölnýta fold,
mál ok mannvit
gefið okkr mærum tveim
ok læknishendr, meðan lifum.


(ed. Jonsson 1905)[3]

Hail Dag,

Hail Dag's sons,
Hail Nat and Nipt!
Look down upon us
With benevolent eyes
And give victory to the sitting!

Hail Asas,
Hail Asynjes,
Hail bounteous earth!
Words and wisdom
give to us noble twain,
and healing hands in life!


(Thorpe 1866)[4]

Hail, day!

Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter[5] now!
Look on us here
with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win.

Hail to the gods!
Ye goddesses, hail,
And all the generous earth!
Give to us wisdom
and goodly speech,
And healing hands, life-long.


(Bellows 1936)[6]

Runic stanzas

Stanzas 5-18 concern runic magic, explaining the use of runes in various contexts.

In stanza 5, Sigrdrífa brings Sigurðr ale which she has charmed with runes:


Biór fori ec þer / brynþings apaldr!
magni blandinn / oc megintíri;
fullr er hann lioþa / oc licnstafa,
godra galdra / oc gamanrvna.


Beer I bring thee, tree of battle,
Mingled of strength and mighty fame;
Charms it holds and healing signs,
Spells full good, and gladness-runes.


Stanza 6 advises to carve "victory runes" on the sword hilt, presumably referring to the t rune named for Týr:[7]


Sigrúnar þú skalt kunna,
ef þú vilt sigr hafa,
ok rísta á hialti hiǫrs,
sumar á véttrimum,
sumar á valbǫstum,
ok nefna tysvar Tý


Victory runes you must know
if you will have victory,
and carve them on the sword's hilt,
some on the grasp
and some on the inlay,
and name Týr twice.[8]


The following stanzas address Ølrunar "Ale-runes" (7), biargrunar "birth-runes" (8), brimrunar "wave-runes" (9), limrunar "branch-runes" (10), malrunar "speech-runes" (11), hugrunar "thought-runes" (12). Stanzas 13-14 appear to have been taken from a poem about the finding of the runes by Óðinn. Stanzas 15-17 are again from an unrelated poem, but still about the topic of runes. The same holds for stanzas 18-19, which return to the mythological acquisition of the runes, and the passing of their knowledge to the æsir, elves, vanir and mortal men.


Allar váro af scafnar / þer er váro a ristnar,
oc hverfðar viþ inn helga mioþ / oc sendar a viþa vega;
þer ’ro meþ asom / þer ’ro meþ alfom,
sumar meþ visom vanom / sumar hafa mennzkir menn.


Þat ero bocrunar / þat ero biargrunar
oc allar alrunar / oc metar meginrunar
hveim er þer kná oviltar / oc ospilltar
ser at heillom hafa;
niottu, ef þu namt,
unz riufaz regin.


18. Shaved off were the runes that of old were written,
And mixed with the holy mead, And sent on ways so wide;
So the gods had them, so the elves got them,
And some for the Wanes so wise, And some for mortal men.


19. Beech-runes are there, birth-runes are there,
And all the runes of ale. (And the magic runes of might;)
Who knows them rightly and reads them true,
Has them himself to help;
(Ever they aid, till the gods are gone.)[9]


Gnomic stanzas

Stanzas 20-21 are again in the setting of the frame narrative, with Brynhildr asking Sigurðr to make a choice. They serve as introduction for the remaining part of the text, stanzas 22-37 (of which, however, only 22-28 and the first line of 29 are preserved in Codex Regius), which are gnomic in nature. Like Loddfáfnismál, the text consists of numbered counsels, running from one to eleven. The "unnumbered" stanzas 25, 27, 30, 34 and 36 are considered interpolations by Bellows (1936).

Editions and translations

  • Benjamin Thorpe (trans.), The Edda of Sæmund the Learned, 1866
  • Sophus Bugge, Sæmundar Edda, 1867 (edition of the manuscript text)
  • Henry Adams Bellows (1936) (translation and commentary)
  • Guðni Jónsson, Eddukvæði: Sæmundar-Edda, 1949 (edition with normalized spelling)
  • W. H. Auden and P. B. Taylor (trans.), The Elder Edda: A Selection, 1969

Videos

References

  1. Steinsland & Meulengracht 1998:72
  2. Sophus Bugge, Sæmundar Edda (1867). Cursive type indicates expansions from scribal abbreviations.
  3. ed. ed. Finnur Jonsson (1905), 320ff.
  4. Benjamin Thorpe (trans.), Rasmus B. Anderson (ed.), The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigufsson, Norroena Society (1906).
  5. Bellow's translation "her daughter" is based on the interpretation of the text as referring to Jǫrð. Sophus Bugge (1867) has argued against this interpretation, as the Earth is addressed directly in the following stanza. The literal meaning of nipt is "female relative" more generally and may refer to a sister, daughter or sister's daughter. The translation by Benjamin Thorpe renders the word as a proper name, as Nipt.
  6. Henry Adams Bellows, The Poetic Edda (1936)
  7. Enoksen, Lars Magnar. Runor: Historia, tydning, tolkning (1998) ISBN: 91-88930-32-7
  8. Jansson; 1987: p.15
  9. Bellows (1936). In brackets are the lines considered "spurious additions" to stanza 19 by this editor, who however cautions that "the whole stanza is chaotic."

Sources

  • Steinsland, G. & Meulengracht Sørensen, P. (1998): Människor och makter i vikingarnas värld. ISBN: 91-7324-591-7
  • Einar G. Pétursson, Hvenær týndist kverið úr Konungsbók Eddukvæða?, Gripla 6 (1984), 265-291
  • Einar G. Pétursson, Eddurit Jóns Guðmundssonar lærða: Samantektir um skilning á Eddu og Að fornu í þeirri gömlu norrænu kölluðust rúnir bæði ristingar og skrifelsi: Þættir úr fræðasögu 17. aldar, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi, Rit 46 (1998), vol I, pp. 402–40: introduction to Jón's commentary on the poem Brynhildarljóð (Sígrdrífumál) in Völsunga saga; vol. II, 95-102: the text of the commentary.
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