Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson (Þjsk)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Kate Heslop;

I. 3. Drápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg (Sveindr) - 1

Skj info: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, (Ásgeirs son rauðfeldar) Islandsk skjald, sidste halvdel af 10. årh. (AI, 141-3, BI, 132-4).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonardrápa
2. Drape om Sven tveskæg
3. Jarlsníð
4. Lausavísur

Þorleifr jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s poet’ (Þjsk), son of Ásgeirr rauðfeldr ‘Red-cloak’, was born at Brekka in Svarfaðardalur in northern Iceland in the mid to late tenth century, and must have been alive c. 970-c. 995. It is impossible to be more definite about his dates as neither Svarfdœla saga nor Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds (ÞorlJ) in Flat, the only narrative sources, has a consistent chronology (ÍF 9, xcii, xcvii). Many sources mention Þorleifr as a skald: Ldn (ÍF 1, 254), both versions of Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266), Sneglu-Halla þáttr (ÍF 9, 285-6), ÓTOdd (ÍF 25, 191), and HaukrV Ísldr 18IV. Some stanzas are attributed to Þorleifr in Hkr, ÓT, TGT and FoGT, but the bulk of the poetry attributed to him and almost all the biographical information about him is preserved only in ÞorlJ (ÍF 9, 312-29).

According to ÞorlJ, Þorleifr flees Iceland for Norway as a young man, but soon leaves for Denmark after a dispute over trading rights ends with Hákon jarl Sigurðarson burning his ship and executing his crew (Lv 5). He is said to have composed a forty-stanza encomium for King Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ of Denmark (Drápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg; Sveindr), but only the stef ‘refrain’ is extant. While staying with Sveinn, he visits Norway and gets his revenge on Hákon by performing a níð poem (Jarlsníð; Jarl) which causes the jarl’s hair to fall out; one stanza is cited in ÞorlJ. After this Sveinn gives Þorleifr his byname, jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’ poet’ and speaks a stanza about the níð (Svtjúg Lv). However, the þáttr’s use of the genitive plural jarla ‘of jarls’ may be incorrect, for TGT calls him jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s poet’, Skáldatal lists him as a skald of Hákon but not Eiríkr (and the U version calls him ‘Hákonarskáld’), and Þorleifr is not known to have composed poetry about any other jarl (Nj 1875-8, II, 283-4; ÍF 9, xcvii n. 1; see Almqvist 1965-74, I, 197 for a contrary view). The names of poet and þáttr therefore appear with alternation of jarls- and jarla- in printed sources, and the present edition uses jarls- for the poet and jarla- for the þáttr. Þorleifr subsequently returns to Iceland and settles at Höfðabrekka in Myrdalur in the south of the country. He is, according to ÞorlJ, assassinated at the Alþingi by an enchanted wooden golem, a trémaðr with a man’s heart which Hákon has created with the help of his tutelary goddesses, Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr and Irpa (cf. Lv 6). Þorleifr’s burial mound at Þingvellir is said to have still been visible at the time the þáttr was composed, probably in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century (Harris 1993, 672). Much of this narrative is clearly fictional, and there is reason to suspect the genuineness of most of the stanzas attributed to Þorleifr in ÞorlJ (see Notes to Sveindr and Lv 5 and 6). However, widespread references in reliable sources put Þorleifr’s activity as a skald, his association with Hákon, and his composition of níð about the jarl beyond doubt.

Drápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg — Þjsk SveindrI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Drápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Brepols, Turnhout, p. 373.

 1 

Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson: 2. Drape om Sven tveskæg (AI, 141, BI, 133); stanzas (if different): [v]

in texts: Flat, ÞorlJ

SkP info: I, 373

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

This stanza from Þorleifr’s drápa about Sveinn (Þjsk Sveindr) is preserved only in ÞorlJ (ÍF 9, 218), where it is said to be a stef ‘refrain’ from a forty-stanza drápa Þorleifr composed about King Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ of Denmark (Svtjúg; see skald Biography and ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume). According to ÞorlJ the drápa was enthusiastically received and well rewarded, but no other trace of it survives; nor is Þorleifr listed as Sveinn’s skald in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267). If genuine, the stanza belongs to the early 990s, but doubts about its placement in the careers of Þorleifr and Sveinn (see Note to l. 4) and about some of its kennings (see Note to l. 2) have led to suspicions that it is not by Þorleifr, but instead a rather later production. The stanza is also indubitably Christian (see Notes to ll. 1 and 2), and there is no indication that Þorleifr was anything other than pagan (cf. Þjsk Hák 1/5), though he could conceivably have converted during his stay in Denmark.

The mss used in the edition below are Flat as the main ms., 4867ˣ and 563aˣ (see the entry for ÞorlJ in ‘Sources’ in Introduction to this volume).

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