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Runic Dictionary

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Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld (Þorm)

11th century; volume 5; ed. R. D. Fulk;

I. Lausavísur (Lv) - 33

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 The biography below may represent a superseded edition, notes and/or an interim or draft version. Do not cite this material without consulting the volume and skald editors.

Þormóðr Bersason’s (Þorm) story is told in Fóstbrœðra saga ‘Saga of the Sworn Brothers’ (Fbr), and on its witness he may be supposed to have been born c. 998 and to have died of a wound received in the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. The saga, however, is untrustworthy as to particulars, as the author seems to have derived most of his information about the poet from the poetry available to him. According to the saga, in childhood he and his friend Þorgeirr Hávarsson each swore that he would avenge the killing of the other if he lived. The latter, at the age of fifteen, avenged the killing of his father, initiating a string of thirteen killings commemorated in Þormóðr’s poem celebrating his sworn brother, ÞorgeirsdrápaDrápa about Þorgeirr’ (Þorgdr). Even though their friendship ended when Þormóðr was about fifteen, Þormóðr travelled to Greenland after Þorgeirr was killed (c. 1024), to take vengeance on the perpetrator Þorgrímr trolli (‘Troll’? see Note to Fbr 29/1) and three of his sons. The poet earned his nickname kolbrúnarskáld ‘Coal-brow’s Poet’ for having composed poetry in praise of Þórbjǫrg kolbrún Glúmsdóttir, though none of these survive (probably for reasons of a moral nature; see Boyer 1990, 80). According to Þormóðar þáttr (Þorm; see Þorm Lv 10-11I) he served King Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great) in Denmark before returning to Norway, where he spent the last part of his short life in the service of the king, Óláfr Haraldsson (S. Óláfr). According to a memorable passage in Hkr, on the morning of the battle of Stiklestad he recited Bjarkamál in fornu (Anon Bjark 1-2III) to rouse the king’s troops. For further biographical information, see Finnur Jónsson (1932-3, 31-3), ÍF 6, lii-lxx and Schach (1993).

Lausavísur — Þorm LvV (Fbr)

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 820.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25 

cross-references:  17 = Anon (Vǫlsa) 11I 

for reference only:  18x   19x   20x   21x   22x   23x   24x   25x 

Skj: Þórmóðr Bersason Kolbrúnarskáld: 2. Lausavísur (AI, 281-8, BI, 260-6)

SkP info: I, 834

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

21 — Þorm Lv 21I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 21’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 834.

Á sér, at vér vôrum
vígreifr með Ôleifi;
sár fekk’k, Hildr, at hvôru,
hvítings, ok frið lítinn.
Skínn á skildi mínum;
skald fekk hríð til kalda;
nær hafa eskiaskar
ǫrvendan mik gǫrvan.

Á sér, at vér vôrum, vígreifr, með Ôleifi; {Hildr hvítings}, fekk’k at hvôru sár ok lítinn frið. Skínn á skildi mínum; skald fekk til kalda hríð; {eskiaskar} hafa gǫrvan mik nær ǫrvendan.

It can be seen that we were [I was], war-happy, with Óláfr; {Hildr <valkyrie> of the bright drinking-horn} [WOMAN], I got, at all events, a wound and little peace. It shines on my shield; the skald got too cold a blizzard; {spear-ash-trees} [WARRIORS] have made me nearly left-handed.

Mss: Hb(89r-v), 142ˣ(104-105), 566aˣ(29r-v), papp4ˣ(129v), Flat(125vb) (Fbr); DG8(101v) (ÓHLeg); 761bˣ(489v)

Readings: [1] Á: þat papp4ˣ    [2] ‑reifr: ‑reifir 142ˣ, 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, Flat;    með: so all others, ‘m’ Hb    [3] Hildr: heldr all;    at hvôru: ‘enn hvoru’ 142ˣ, ‘en hvoru’ 566aˣ, 761bˣ, ‘atvaro’ DG8    [4] hvítings: hvít brúðr 142ˣ, 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, Flat, DG8, 761bˣ;    ok: enn 142ˣ, 566aˣ, 761bˣ    [5] Skínn: so Flat, ‘skin’ all others    [6] fekk: hlaut 142ˣ, 566aˣ, 761bˣ;    kalda: stríða 142ˣ, 761bˣ    [7] nær: nærr 566aˣ, 761bˣ;    eski‑: so 142ˣ, papp4ˣ, æski‑ Hb, 566aˣ, Flat, DG8, eski with æski in margin 761bˣ;    ‑askar: ærar DG8    [8] ǫrvendan: erendan 142ˣ, 566aˣ, ‘eyrendan’ Flat, órændan DG8, ‘errendan’ 761bˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórmóðr Bersason Kolbrúnarskáld, 2. Lausavísur 21: AI, 287, BI, 265, Skald I, 136, NN §712; Hb 1892-6, 414, Fbr 1852, 110, Flat 1860-8, II, 363-4, Fbr 1925-7, 211-12, ÍF 6, 270 (ch. 24), Loth 1960a, 156 (ch. 17), ÍS II, 841-2, 848 (ch. 24); ÓHLeg 1849, 72, 120, ÓHLeg 1922, 87, ÓHLeg 1982, 200-1; Gaertner 1907, 312, 345-6, Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 74-5.

Context: After the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad), a woman binding wounds asks Þormóðr whether he is of the king’s party or the farmers’, and he replies.

Notes: [2] vígreifr ‘war-happy’: The adj. is here grouped with the clause in which it is embedded, since vér ‘we’ has sg. reference (so Gaertner 1907, 345; Kock, NN §712A; ÍF 6). Skj B construes this with the subject of the next clause, presumably because it is sg. The form in most Fbr mss is in fact pl. vígreifir. — [3, 4] Hildr hvítings ‘Hildr <valkyrie> of the bright drinking-horn [WOMAN]’: (a) Hvítings, the reading of Hb, appears to be correct, and accordingly it seems best to emend heldr to Hildr, as adopted in Skj B, which yields a well-paralleled kenning (cf. Meissner 406, 418). Indeed, scribal alteration of ‘hildr’ to ‘heldr’ is natural enough before at hvôru ‘at all events’. (b) Boer (1899a, 156-7) achieves a similar meaning by the more radical emendation of at vér ‘that we’ in l. 1 to Vôr, at, in which the goddess-name Vôr forms the base-word of a woman-kenning, used in direct address. (c) It is possible to retain ms. heldr ‘rather’ (so earlier Fbr 1852; Gaertner 1907) and to read, with all the mss but Hb, hvít brúðr ‘fair lady’ (vocative) for hvítings. This makes sense of the passage, but paleographically it is implausible. As Finnur Jónsson (1932-3) points out, it is difficult to see why a scribe in the ms. tradition of Hb should have changed hvít brúðr to hvítings, as this makes the meaning of the passage obscure if heldr is correct. (d) A further possibility avoiding emendation of heldr is to interpret hvítings as a sword rather than a drinking horn (both meanings are attested: see LP: hvítingr) and make it depend on sár, hence ‘sword-wound’ (so also Kock, NN §712B; ÍF 6). We can be fairly certain, though, that this was not the version known to the writer of Fbr, since he tells us that before he was pierced by an arrow, Þormóðr had received no wound (ÍF 6, 268; ÓHLeg (1982, 198) says æigi stor sar ‘not serious wounds’). — [5] skínn á skildi mínum ‘it shines on my shield’: Skínn in its normal sense gives ‘It shines on my shield’, i.e. ‘My shield shines’ (so Finnur Jónsson, Skj B; 1932-3). Contextually a more likely sense would be ‘You can see from the condition of my shield what a hard fight I had’ (so ÍF 6, n.), but skína is not recorded in the sense ‘show’. Note that it is remarked in Fbr that Þormóðr had no shield or mail-shirt in the battle (ÍF 6, 267); ÓHLeg (1982, 198) says that he gave away his shield shortly before the arrow struck him. — [6] hríð ‘blizzard’: The word can also refer to a phase or attack in a battle. — [7, 8] nær ǫrvendan ‘nearly left-handed’: No very satisfactory explanation has been devised for this expression. (a) Lines 7-8 seem to say that Þormóðr’s opponents in battle have nearly made him left-handed, this being the usual interpretation of ǫrvendr (e.g. LP), though according to Fbr (as confirmed by Þorm Lv 5V (Fbr 23)) he has been left-handed ever since his encounter with Kolbakr (see Þorm Lv 1V (Fbr 8), Context). Finnur Jónsson (Hb 1892-6, 414; Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 75) suggests that the meaning may be that the poet’s other (left) arm has been so wounded that it also has been rendered useless, though this is not how the author of Fbr understood it, since, as noted above, he says that Þormóðr was unwounded before the arrow struck him. A further possibility is that he means they have forced him to fight nearly as well with his left hand as if he had been born left-handed. There is, at all events, an odd degree of logic perceptible in this: Þormóðr’s complaint in the preceding clause is that his shield shows how hard he was pressed, and thus we can imagine the weariness of his right hand, in which he would have held the shield, since he has been forced since his encounter with Kolbakr to wield his sword with the left. The derivation of ǫrv- is disputed (see ÍO: örvhendur), but certainly it did not originally mean ‘left’, and probably the cpd instead simply denoted using the less dominant, weaker, or merely ‘other’ hand. If used in such an original sense here, the word is both appropriate (since Þormóðr’s favoured hand has for long been his left) and witty, referring to the opposite of the hand it usually refers to. (b) Sveinbjörn Egilsson in LP (1860): örvendr, followed by Gaertner (1907, 346), takes the clause to mean ‘they have nearly killed me’ (cf. CVC: örendr ‘dead, having breathed one’s last’).

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