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Runic Dictionary

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Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson (Refr)

11th century; volume 3; ed. Edith Marold;

1. Ferðavísur (Ferðv) - 5

Hardly anything is known about the life of Hofgarða-Refr (Refr). He came from a family long residing in Western Iceland (the farm Hofgarðar lies on the south side of Snæfellsnes). The family seems to have held a goðorð ‘chieftaincy’ in that district, because Refr’s great-grandfather Helgi Hofgarðagoði ‘Priest of Hofgarðar’ is mentioned in Eyrbyggja saga (Eb ch. 16, ÍF 4, 30) as a witness in a legal dispute between Snorri goði ‘the Priest’ Þorgrímsson and Arnketill goði ‘the Priest’ Þórólfsson. His mother was Steinunn Refsdóttir or Dálksdóttir, who is known for the stanzas she composed about the shipwreck of the missionary Þangbrandr (Steinunn LvV). In the stanzas she credits Þórr, whom she considers more powerful than Christ, with the shipwreck. From this one might infer that the family only hesitantly converted to Christianity. Nothing in Refr’s poetry indicates he was a Christian; on the contrary, it is clear that he considers poetry a gift from Óðinn (Refr Giz 2 and 3; see Kuhn 1983, 305; ARG I, 262; Kreutzer 1977, 190). His name, Hofgarða-Refr, indicates that he lived on his family’s farm. He was a foster-son of the skald Gizurr gullbrár ‘Gold-eyelash’ (who may be the same as Gizurr svarti ‘the Black’, Gizsv), who was killed at the battle of Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir; 29 July 1030), and in whose memory he composed several stanzas (on Gizurr, see his Biography in SkP I). In Skáldatal Refr is listed as a skald honouring the kings Óláfr inn helgi (S. Óláfr) Haraldsson (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 274) and his son, Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson (SnE 1848-87, III, 254, 262, 275), as well as the Norwegian magnate Hárekr ór Þjóttu ‘from Tjøtta’ Eyvindarson and his son Einarr fluga ‘Fly’ (SnE 1848-87, III, 269, 285). Refr’s surviving oeuvre consists of the following poems and stanzas: the above mentioned ‘Poem about Gizurr gullbrárskáld’ (Refr Giz, three extant stanzas); three stanzas ‘From a poem about Þorsteinn’ (Refr Þorst, possibly for a son of Snorri goði ‘the Priest’ Þorgrímsson); a poem about a sea-voyage, called Ferðavísur by modern editors (Refr Ferðv, five extant stanzas); five fragments on various subjects (Refr Frag).

Ferðavísur (‘Stanzas about journeys’) — Refr FerðvIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, Ferðavísur’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 243.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson: 4. Et rejsedigt, Ferðavísur (AI, 320-1, BI, 296-7)

in texts: LaufE, Skm, SnE

SkP info: III, 243

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

These five dróttkvætt stanzas called Ferðavísur ‘Stanzas about journeys’ (Refr Ferðv) are all found in SnE and LaufE, where they are attributed to a Refr. Guðbrandur Vigfússon (CPB II, 166-8) was the first to suggest that they belonged to one poem, and he also gave this poem its modern title, Ferðavísur. These stanzas share a common theme, namely, depictions of seafaring describing the voyage of a ship battling high wind and waves. It is characteristic of these stanzas that they use congruent images carried through several stanzas. Ships are treated as animate beings in the grip of animate destructive forces. Kuhn (1977b, 149) believed that the stanzas are related to the storm stanzas of Helgakviða Hundingsbana I (e.g. HHund I 28-30), and he dated them to the reign of Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great), i.e. to between 1014 and 1035. It is possible that the fifth stanza refers to the legendary tradition surrounding Ǫrvar-Oddr, however, and if that is correct, all the stanzas collected here may come from a poem about Ǫrvar-Oddr’s Bjarmaland voyage (see Notes to st. 5 [All] and st. 5/4).

This edition makes use of the following mss: R (main ms.) and of SnE for all stanzas, with st. 2 appearing twice in these mss; the SnE mss W and U for sts 1-3; ms. B (supplemented by 744ˣ) for sts 1-3 and 5; mss A and C for sts 2, 4 and 5. Stanzas 2, 3 and 4 are also transmitted in mss 2368ˣ and 743ˣ of LaufE.

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