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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bjarni ...ason (Bjarni)

12th century; volume 3; ed. Edith Marold;

Fragments (Frag) - 5

Skj info: Bjarni ason (el. a sk)., Islandsk skjald, 12. årh.(?) (AI, 542, BI, 523).

Skj poems:
Brudstykker af digte

Nothing is known about the life of the skald Bjarni …ason (Bjarni) who is credited in SnE and LaufE with four helmingar and one couplet. His patronymic is either not given or is rendered variously as ‘.a.son’ in SnE (W(169)), or ‘A: s(on)’ (LaufE 1979, 354) or ‘A. sk.’ (743ˣ(88v)), the latter of which could be interpreted as Bjarni A(patronymic) skáld (SnE 1848-87, II, 631). Bjarni ‘ason’ could be identical with a Bjarni skáld who composed poetry in honour of the Norwegian king Óláfr Tryggvason (d. 1000) according to Skáldatal A (SnE 1848-87, III, 253) and the Bjarni who is referred to in Hst Rst 34/8I along with Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ‘Troublesome-poet’ Óttarsson (Hfr). Conceivably, he could also be the same Bjarni who flung a horn in the face of Hákon jarl (HaukrV Ísldr 16IV). But he is not identical with Bjarni gullbrárskáld ‘Gold-eyelash Poet’ Hallbjarnarson (BjHall), who is also named as a skald of Óláfr Tryggvason in Skáldatal B (SnE 1848-87, III, 261, 274), because that skald is known to have composed poetry for the Norwegian magnate Kálfr Árnason, staying with him during the winter of 1050/51. Hence the lifetime of Bjarni gullbrárskáld cannot be congruent with that of the Bjarni of Skáldatal A (SnE 1848-87, III, 495-8; LH I, 544).

Fragments — Bjarni FragIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘ Bjarni ...ason, Fragments’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 20. <> (accessed 17 January 2022)

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Skj: Bjarni ason (el. a sk).: Brudstykker af digte (AI, 542, BI, 523); stanzas (if different): 4

in texts: LaufE, LaufE, SnE, SnEW

SkP info: III, 20

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


The fragments edited here (Bjarni Frag 1-5) are preserved at various locations in ms. W of Skm (SnE) and in mss of LaufE (papp10ˣ, 2368ˣ, 743ˣ, 742ˣ, 1496ˣ). Three of the fragments (1, 4, 5) seem to cohere: they deal with the torture of two men, one of whom has been blinded. He is referred to as fylkir ‘ruler’. Fragment 4 addresses a man in direct speech who seems to be an executioner, and Frag 5 is about a man whom a woman unties from the wheel and releases from an unspecified place ‘above’. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SnE 1848-87, III, 196) was the first to suggest that the two men in Frag 1, 4 and 5 are the Norwegian kings Magnús blindi ‘the Blind’ (Frag 1) and Sigurðr slembidjákn ‘Fortuitous Deacon(?)’ (Frag 5) (see their Biographies in SkP II, lxxxvi-lxxxvii, xc). If this is correct, these fragments could be dated to a time after 1139 (the death of Sigurðr slembidjákn). Although the blinded man who is called fylkir ‘ruler’ in st. 1 indeed may be Magnús blindi, the details about Sigurðr slembidjákn’s death given in the prose sources (HSona ch. 12, ÍF 28, 319-20; ÍF 24, 208-9) do not agree with what is told in the stanzas, however (see Introduction to Frag 5 below). Hence the only thing that can be said about sts 4 and 5 is that their theme is torture and that they possibly have to do with the twelfth-century Norwegian civil wars. Fragment 2 appears to be dealing with battle and Frag 3 describes a journey at sea; their contexts cannot be established with any certainty.

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