OLD NORSE COURT POETRY 187
Examples from Old Norse court poetry and references to the sagas
have in most cases been omitted. Such examples are easily accessible
in Finnur Jónsson 1920:321-635, Jón Helgason 1953:101-158, Jan de
Vries 1964:99-207, 226-294, and Peter Hallberg 1975:105-172.
2.0 The themes of poems composed at the courts, in most cases in
the dróttkvætt metre, can be divided into several groups. The most
(1) The munificence of chiefs.
(2) Voyages and battles.
In what follows poems dealing largely with these themes will be
called court poetry. Most of it is considered to be the work of court
poets who spent some time at the courts or were members of a chief's
retinue.2 Court poetry constitutes the largest part of all extant scaldic
Court poetry is by no means an exclusively Scandinavian phenom-
enon. In the Middle Ages and later it was known elsewhere in Europe,
e. g. in France and in Ireland.4 Outside Europe it is found for instance
in India and in Africa. For a deeper understanding of court poetry it
is of importance that scholars have been able to study it as a living
tradition in several African societies, both in West and in East Africa.
The genre is everywhere remarkably similar.
Finnegan, for instance, has this to say about African court poetry
1 A more detailed classification is given by Jón Helgason 1953: 111-158.
2 The court poets are listed in the Skáldatal, finished around the year 1265,
which records 146 names.
3 This fact does not prove that this was always the case, as it is possible that
the transmission of court poetry was particularly good, cf. Jón Helgason 1953:
116. The reason could be the secondary function or purpose it gradually acquired,
see 4.0 below.
4 There is a noteworthy difference between the virtues extolled by the scalds
and by Central and South European poets in the Middle Ages. The former con-
centrated mainly on military prowess whereas the latter dealt with a more com-
plicated set of virtues, including education (cf. on "Herrscherlob", Curtius 1965:
184-186). This, no doubt, reflects differences in social structure. A similar differ-
ence appears in the descriptions of heroes in the Icelandic sagas and in translated