Viking nuggets of poetry

Viking nuggets of poetry

This is a topic I know very little about but I find terribly fascinating. As a Roman historian I find myself in the ‘superior’ position to judge other cultures and to find them inferior. With regard to the Viking culture, until recently I thought that it was a primitive sort of civilisation, based on a militarised society that was solely interested in war, plunder, rapes etc. At least, this is the image I got from 1950s and 1960s movies!

Imagine my surprise when I noticed the following announcement from the University of Notingham!

“They (Vikings) are most famous for being violent invaders of foreign shores but a new book by a University of Nottingham Viking expert shows they were also poetry lovers with a wicked sense of humour!

‘Viking Poetry of Love and War’ by Professor Judith Jesch, of the University’s Centre for the Study of the Viking Age, is the first collection in English with extracts from the full range of Viking poetry published in the UK.

The colourful volume published today by the British Museum, is an accessible introduction to the broad poetry ranges of the Vikings, from the highly formal to the light-hearted and bawdy. The selection is taken from a variety of sources from the 10th to the 13th centuries, from runes (carvings on wood, bone and stone), oral tradition and medieval manuscripts.”

One of the poems by Viking poet Egill Skallagrimsson is included in the announcement and I copy it here to give you an idea of the exciting texts that have been published:

‘I’ve a crick in my neck,

and tend to fall on my head,

my trouser-snake is soft,

and my hearing’s gone away.’

I will not dare analyse this poem, since it is crystal clear what it is referring to. For the full announcement check out the Nottingham University website:


Economic historian and numismatic consultant

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