This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Runic Dictionary

login: password: stay logged in: help

Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (Bersi)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Diana Whaley;

2. Lausavísa (Lv) - 1

Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (or simply Torfuson; Bersi) is named from his mother, an otherwise unknown female skald Torfa, from Miðfjörður, Húnavatnsþing, northern Iceland. He is introduced as skáld gótt ‘a fine poet’ in Grettis saga (ÍF 7, 42); his birth would be placed c. 985-90 (LH I, 564). Bersi travelled abroad with Grettir Ásmundarson, gained the favour of Sveinn jarl Hákonarson (ÍF 7, 86) and seemingly fought with Sveinn at the battle of Nesjar (1016; see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume for rulers and battles of the period). He is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 258, 281, 282) as a skald to Sveinn and to Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great), but no court poetry for them by him survives (though see Bersi Ólfl 2). Some time after Nesjar he was taken captive by Óláfr Haraldsson, composed his flokkr (below) and found favour with the king. He is then named in the excerpts (articuli) from Styrmir Kárason’s Lífssaga among Óláfr’s Icelandic hirðmenn ‘retainers’ (see his Lv below). He went on a pilgrimage to Rome with Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) and, learning of the king’s death (1030) as he left Rome, returned to S. Peter’s church in extreme anguish, died and was buried there (ÓH 1941, II, 830, in an interpolation).

Lausavísa — Bersi LvI

Diana Whaley 2012, ‘ Bersi Skáld-Torfuson, Lausavísa’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 795. <> (accessed 4 July 2022)

stanzas:  1 

Skj: Bersi Skáldtorfuson: 2. Lausavísa, o. 1025 (AI, 277, BI, 256); stanzas (if different): [v]

in texts: Flat, Hkr, ÓH, ÓHHkr, ÓHLeg, ÓHÆ

SkP info: I, 795

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


This stanza (Bersi Lv) is something of a cause célèbre for its three-way attribution: to Bersi in Styrmir Kárason’s Articuli in Flat(187rb); to Óttarr svarti in ÓHÆ and ÓHLeg; and to Sigvatr in the Separate (ÓH) and Hkr (ÓHHkr) versions of Óláfs saga helga (jointly ÓH-Hkr below). The attribution to Sigvatr may be a piece of rationalization on the part of Snorri Sturluson, based on the knowledge that Sigvatr mentioned a fine sword presented by the king in Sigv ErfÓl 27 (Fidjestøl 1982, 23). If the stanza is by Bersi, and if the ruler apostrophised is King Óláfr, the reference in l. 6 to long-term service suggests a date well after Bersi’s Óláfsflokkr (Bersi Ólfl) and his winning of the king’s favour; Skj suggests c. 1025. Within the stanza, too, there are a few important textual divergences, especially between ÓHÆ, ÓHLeg and Flat(187rb) on the one hand and ÓH-Hkr on the other, which makes the printing of a single text somewhat problematic. The mss used are listed below. It may be noted that the text in J2ˣ was copied from K and hence belongs to the Hkr redaction, unlike most stanzas from Óláfs saga helga in J2ˣ, which belong to the ÓH redaction.

© 2008-