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Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson (Refr)

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

3. Poem about Gizurr gullbrárskáld (Giz) - 3

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).

Poem about Gizurr gullbrárskáld — Refr GizIII

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, Poem about Gizurr gullbrárskáld’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 254.

stanzas:  1   2   3 

Skj: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson: 2. Et digt om Gizurr Gullbrárskáld, o. 1031 (AI, 319, BI, 295)

in texts: Flat, Hkr, LaufE, ÓH, ÓHHkr, Skm, SnE

SkP info: III, 254

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


These three stanzas about Gizurr gullbrárskáld ‘Gold-eyelash poet’ (Refr Giz) are preserved at different places in Óláfs saga helga (ÓHHkr and ÓH; st. 1) and SnE (Skm; sts 2-3). Guðbrandur Vigfússon (CPB II, 166) was the first to assign them to a poem about Gizurr gullbrárskáld on the basis of their content. The first stanza is found in ÓHHkr and ÓH in the context of the battle of Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir, 29 August 1030). Though the stanza itself does not mention Gizurr’s death, it is inserted into the prose narrative about his death. The poem about Gizurr is thus likely an erfidrápa ‘memorial drápa’. Stanzas 2 and 3 appear at different locations in Skm (SnE), and st. 3 is also found in LaufE. Both helmingar describe how Refr learned to compose poetry from the poem’s addressee (who must have been a poet himself), and that is why they have been connected with the putative poem about Gizurr (for Gizurr gullbrárskáld or svarti ‘the Black’ (Gizsv), see his Biography in SkP I). In the past, the two half-stanzas have tentatively been regarded as a single stanza (SnE 1848-87, III, 209), but this is doubtful because st. 3 differs metrically from st. 2 – it is composed in the verse-form alhent ‘completely rhymed’, in which each line contains two pairs of aðalhendingar (see SnSt Ht 44 and SnE 2007, 21).

Stanza 1 is transmitted in ms. (the main ms. for this edition) of Hkr as well as in the ÓH mss Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325VII, 325V, Flat, Tóm. Stanza 2 is found in mss R (main ms.), , W, U and B of Skm. Stanza 3 is also preserved in mss R (main ms.), , W, U and B, as well as in mss 2368ˣ and 743ˣ of LaufE.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated