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Runic Dictionary

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Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson (Refr)

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

2. From a poem about Þorsteinn (Þorst) - 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).

From a poem about Þorsteinn — Refr ÞorstIII

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, From a poem about Þorsteinn’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 250.

stanzas:  1   2   3 

Skj: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson: 3. Af et digt om en Þórsteinn (AI, 320, BI, 296); stanzas (if different): 4

in texts: LaufE, Skm, SnE

SkP info: III, 250

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

The three dróttkvætt stanzas in SnE (Skm) edited here (Refr Þorst) are generally assumed to be from a poem about a man called Þorsteinn, because this name appears in all three of them. SnE gives ‘Refr’ as the poet. Stanzas 2 and 3 are also found in LaufE. Þorsteinn is possibly a son of Snorri goði ‘the Priest’ Þorgrímsson (de Vries 1964-7, I, 262; SnE 1998, I, 161-2; LH I, 599). Other men called Þorsteinn for whom Refr could have composed a praise poem are the following: Refr’s neighbour Þorsteinn Gíslason, Þorsteinn Kuggason and Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallsson (Guðmundur Þorláksson 1882, 101). The content of sts 1 and 2 indicates that they belong to the beginning of the poem. Two other stanzas, Refr Frag 1 (CPB II, 167; SnE 1848-87, III, 543) and Refr Frag 5 (Skj; Skald; SnE 1998, I, 161-2), have been assigned to this poem in the past, but since the assignment is not well justified, they have been treated as fragments in the present edition. The mss relevant for this edition are the SnE mss R (main ms.), , W, U for all stanzas, and B for st. 1, A and C for st. 2 and A for st. 3; the LaufE ms. 2368ˣ for sts 2 and 3, and 743ˣ for st. 3.

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