Goeres Erin Michelle, The King is dead, long live the King
Goeres Erin Michelle, The King is dead, long live the King : commemoration in skaldic verse of the Viking Age, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2010, (dir. H. O’Donoghue, Université d’Oxford)
This thesis examines the function of commemorative skaldic verse at the Viking-age court. The first chapter demonstrates that the commemoration of past kings could provide a prestigious genealogical record that was used to legitimize both pagan and early Christian rulers. In the ninth and early tenth centuries, poets crafted competing genealogies to assert the primacy of their patrons and of their patrons’ religions. The second chapter looks at the work of tenth-century poets who depict their rulers’ entrances into the afterlife. Such poets interrogate the role public speech and poetic discourse play in the commemoration of the king, especially during the political turmoil that follows his death. A discussion follows of the relationship between poets and their patrons in the tenth and eleventh centuries: although this relationship is often praised as one of mutual trust and reliance, the financial aspects of the relationship were often juxtaposed uneasily with expressions of emotional attachment. The death of the patron caused a crisis in these seemingly contradictory bonds between poet and patron. The final chapter demonstrates the dramatic development in the eleventh century of deeply emotional commemorative verse as poets become adopted into their patrons’ families through such Christian ceremonies as baptism and marriage. In these verses poets express their grief after the death of the king and record the performances of public mourning on the part of the kings’ followers. As the petty warlords of the Viking age adapted to medieval models of Christian kingship, the role of the skald changed too. Formerly serving as a propagandist and retainer in the king’s service, a skald documenting the lives of kings at the end of the Viking age could occupy an almost infinite number of roles, from kinsman and friend to advisor and hagiographer.