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Kolbeinn Tumason (Kolb)

13th century; volume 4; ed. Guðrún Nordal;

VII. Jónsvísur (Jónv) - 5

This edition is currently in preparation. The biography below may represent a superseded edition, notes and/or an interim or draft version. Do not cite this material without consulting the volume and skald editors.

Kolbeinn Tumason (1173-1208) was a member of the Ásbirningar family and the most powerful chieftain in northern Iceland around 1200. In order to cement his position, Kolbeinn used his influence to ensure the election of his wife’s cousin Guðmundr Árason as bishop of Hólar, the episcopal seat in Skagafjörður, in 1201. Guðmundr, however, proved to be a staunch advocate of ecclesiastical independence from secular chieftains and thus he and Kolbeinn soon came into conflict with one another. Guðmundr excommunicated Kolbeinn several times between 1205 and 1207; in 1208 Kolbeinn mounted an attack on Guðmundr and his supporters at Víðines (Hjaltadalur), in the course of which Kolbeinn was killed (Gunnar Karlsson 1975, 34-5; Magnús Stefánsson 1975, 118-29).

Kolbeinn lived at Víðimýrr in Skagafjǫrðr, where he had a church dedicated to the Virgin and S. Peter. Although he was not in orders, Kolbeinn was a man of some education, as his poetry reveals. It also reveals his deeply religious nature, notwithstanding his opposition to Guðmundr Árason. In addition to several lvv (Kolb LvIV) and three sts composed immediately before his death, which are variously quoted in Stu, GBp or TGT, Kolbeinn is said to have been the author of a poem in praise of Mary, of which, however, no trace remains (GBpA, 457 n. 1, 491 n. 2; GBpB, 569-70). Five sts from a poem in honour of S. John (Kolb Jónv) have been preserved in Jón4. ‘It is no doubt [John] the Evangelist’s Association with [Mary] which led him to compose poetry in his honour’ (Cormack 1994, 42).

Jónsvísur (‘Vísur about John the Apostle’) — Kolb JónvVII

Beatrice La Farge 2007, ‘ Kolbeinn Tumason, Jónsvísur’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 223-7. <> (accessed 22 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Kolbeinn Tumason: 1. Jónsvísur (AII, 37, BII, 45-6)

in texts: Jón4

SkP info: VII, 223-7

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


1 Angrfellir, vast ǫllum
einn postolum hreinni
heilags Krists í hæstu,
happskeytr, fǫruneyti.
Unni engum manni
jafnheitt friðar veitir
þýðr sem þér ok móður
— þats minniligt — sinni.
Lucky-shooting sorrow-feller [APOSTLE], you were alone purer than all the Apostles in the highest company of holy Christ. The friendly granter of peace [= God (= Christ)] loved no-one as ardently as you and his mother — that is worthy of remembrance.
2 Miðr gekt einn an aðrir
ǫðlings frá píningu,
svikbannandi, sunnu,
snjallr, postolar allir,
þvít drengr í styr strǫngum
stótt þú hjá kvǫl dróttins
blíð ok bragnings móðir
byrstrandar grátandi.
Courageous one, you who bans falsity [APOSTLE], alone fled from the torment of the king of the sun [= God (= Christ)] less than all the other Apostles, for you, a valiant man in the hard battle, and the weeping gentle mother of the ruler of the wind-beach [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ) > = Mary] stood close by at the torture of the Lord.
3 Sjalfr kallaði sællar
sólknarrar þik harri
son Máríe særir
sundhyrs, í kvǫl bundinn.
Ráð fal ræsir lýða
risnu kendr á hendi,
díks, áðr dauðann tœki,
dagrennir, þér hennar.
The lord of the sun-ship [SKY/HEAVEN] himself [= God (= Christ)], bound in torment, called you the son of the blessed Mary, wounder of strait-fire [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]. The impeller of peoples [= God (= Christ)], known for his munificence, placed her wellbeing in your hands before he took death, mover of the day of the ditch [(lit. ‘day-mover of the ditch’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN].
4 Kœnn, lé*zt þú hag hreinnar
hǫfðingi, drótningar,
hafs meðan hyrþǫll lifði,
hugat blíðliga síðan.
Þér var hón, sem hárar
hildingr skipa vildi
(ykr lofar) éla þekju,
(ǫll þjóð) í stað móður.
Wise chieftain, you let the circumstances of the pure queen be attended to kindly thereafter, as long as the fir sapling of the fire of the sea [(lit. ‘sea’s fire-fir sapling’) GOLD > WOMAN = Mary] lived. She was in the position of a mother to you, as the warlord of the high thatch of snowstorms [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)] wanted it arranged; all people praise you.
5 Frami gengr hátt, sás himna
herteitir þér veitir,
snardeilandi sólar
sunds, á margar lundir.
Hárs á hvern veg meiri
hyrbjóðr, an kyn þjóðar,
Alda garðs, með orðum
yðra dýrð geti skýrða.
That distinction which the gladdener of the host of the heavens [(lit. ‘host-gladdener of the heavens’) ANGELS > = God (= Christ)] grants you rises high in many ways, speedy distributer of the sun of the sound [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]. The high offerer of the fire of the fence of Alden <island> [(lit. ‘high fire-offerer of the Alden-fence’) SEA > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] is greater in every way than the family of people [MANKIND] are able to expound your glory with words.
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated