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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 The biography below may represent a superseded edition, notes and/or an interim or draft version. Do not cite this material without consulting the volume and skald editors.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, 833

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

20 — Þorm Lv 20I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 20’ 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. 833.

Þér munk eðr, unz ǫðrum,
allvaldr, náir skǫldum,
— nær vættir þú þeirra? —
þingdjarfr, fyr kné hvarfa.
Braut komumk vér, þótt veitim
valtafn frekum hrafni,
— víksk eigi þat, vága
viggruðr — eða hér liggjum.

Munk eðr hvarfa fyr kné þér, þingdjarfr allvaldr, unz náir ǫðrum skǫldum; nær vættir þú þeirra? Vér komumk braut, þótt veitim valtafn frekum hrafni, eða liggjum hér; þat víksk eigi, {{vága vigg}ruðr}.

I shall still pace about before your knee, assembly-bold mighty ruler, until you get other skalds; when do you expect them? We shall come away even if we provide corpse-prey for the greedy raven, or we shall lie here; that will not fail, {bush {of the steed of the waves}} [(lit. ‘steed-bush of the waves’) SHIP > SEAFARER = Óláfr].

Mss: Holm2(65r), 972ˣ(496va-497va), J2ˣ(220v), 321ˣ(247), Bæb(4va), 68(64r), Holm4(60ra), 61(122vb), 75e 4(1ra), 325V(78va), 325VII(36r), Bb(196rb), Flat(123rb), Tóm(153r) (ÓH); Kˣ(458v-459r) (Hkr); DG8(100v) (ÓHLeg); Hb(89r), 142ˣ(104) (ll. 1-4), 142ˣ(103) (ll. 5-8), 566aˣ(28r), papp4ˣ(128v) (Fbr); 761bˣ(536v marg)

Readings: [1] Þér: nær DG8, ‘ytr’ 142ˣ(104), yðr 761bˣmarg;    munk (‘mvn ec’): mun 321ˣ    [2] all‑: al‑ Flat, Tóm, 142ˣ(104), alls papp4ˣ;    náir: so J2ˣ, Bæb, 68, Holm4, 61, 75e 4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Hb, 142ˣ(103), 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, náit Holm2, 972ˣ, Tóm, Kˣ, DG8;    skǫldum: skaldi 75e 4, skalda 325V    [3] nær: nærr 61, ‘cnǽr’ 325VII, mér papp4ˣ;    vættir: veitir Holm4;    þú þeirra: ‘[…]’ 75e 4, þú þróttar 325VII    [4] ‑djarfr: ‑djarfir Kˣ;    fyr: so 972ˣ, J2ˣ, Bæb, 68, 61, Bb, Hb, 142ˣ(104), papp4ˣ, um Holm2, Holm4, 75e 4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, DG8, 566aˣ;    hvarfa: hvarfla Bb, Flat, 142ˣ(104), 566aˣ    [5] Braut: brott 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, Bb, Hb, burt 325V;    komumk: ‘kommz’ Holm4, komum DG8;    vér: om. 75e 4;    þótt veitim: þótt veittim 972ˣ, þótt veitum 325V, Tóm, papp4ˣ, ‘þott veiteím’ Bb, þó veitim Flat, en vættir Hb, ef veitum 142ˣ(103), 566aˣ, 761bˣmarg    [6] ‑tafn: ‑fall 75e 4    [7] víksk: so J2ˣ, ‘vizk’ Holm2, 321ˣ, 68, Holm4, 61, 75e 4, 325VII, Bb, Kˣ, 142ˣ(103), víst 972ˣ, Flat, DG8, 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, ‘vínnz’ Bæb, veizt 325V, Tóm, vex Hb, ‘vikz’ ‘vist’ and ‘vizk’ 761bˣmarg;    eigi: eigum Flat, 142ˣ(103), 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, 761bˣmarg, eigu DG8;    þat: þér Bb, þeir DG8, þar Hb, því 142ˣ(103), var papp4ˣ;    vága: unga DG8    [8] vigg‑: víg‑ 68, Bb, papp4ˣ;    ‑ruðr: ‑runnr 61, ‑roðr Tóm;    hér: so Bæb, 68, Holm4, 325V, Tóm, Kˣ, DG8, Hb, 142ˣ(103), 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, þar Holm2, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, 75e 4, Bb, Flat, ‘har’ 325VII

Editions: Skj: Þórmóðr Bersason Kolbrúnarskáld, 2. Lausavísur 20: AI, 286-7, BI, 265, Skald I, 136; Fms 5, 61, Fms 12, 99, ÓH 1941, I, 548 (ch. 205), Flat 1860-8, II, 343-4; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 348, VI, 109, Hkr 1868, 478 (ÓHHkr ch. 220), Hkr 1893-1901, I, 464, IV, 164-5, ÍF 27, 363, Hkr 1991, II, 517 (ÓHHkr ch. 208); ÓHLeg 1849, 69, 119, ÓHLeg 1922, 84, ÓHLeg 1982, 194-5; Hb 1892-6, 412-13, Fbr 1852, 109, Fbr 1925-7, 208 (ch. 24), ÍF 6, 265, 264 (ch. 24), Loth 1960a, xlix, l, 155 (ch. 17), ÍS II, 841, 845-6 (ch. 24); Gaertner 1907, 312, 311, 344-5, 341-2, Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 73-4.


In ÓH and Hkr, Þormóðr before the battle reiterates his determination to remain with King Óláfr, and he wonders aloud about the whereabouts of the king’s skald Sigvatr Þórðarson (who was at this time in Rome with Óttarr svarti). In ÓHLeg, the stanza follows Lv 19. In Fbr, the king responds briefly to the second helmingr of the preceding vísa (Lv 20/5-8; see Note to Lv 20/8), saying it is true that the men assembled will either come through the battle or lie here afterwards. Then the poet delivers the vísa (i.e. Lv 20/1-4 + 15/5-8).

Notes: [All]: In the mss of Fbr, ll. 5-8 are found instead as ll. 5-8 of Lv 19. In their place stand ll. 5-8 of Lv 15. Gaertner (1907, 341-2) seems to be alone in his belief that the arrangement in Fbr is correct. Certainly the arrangement in ÓH is correct if Finnur Jónsson is right that ok Finni is the original reading in Lv 15/6 (to which see the Note), as seems most probable. Finnur (1932-3) also points out that the clause in Lv 15/7-8 exhorting men to board ships is not pertinent to the present context, where seafaring is irrelevant. — [1] eðr ‘still’: This older form of enn (the reading of the mss), used in verse only, is required by the skothending, as first noted by Jón Þorkelsson (1884, 71); also Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson (Nj 1875-8, II, 563). — [4] þingdjarfr ‘assembly-bold’: The sense is ‘bold in legal assemblies’. Grammatically, the word could instead refer to the poet himself. — [5] þótt veitim ‘even if we provide’: Fbr 1852, 109 and ÍF 6 read, with Hb, en veitum ‘but we shall provide’ (indic. rather than subj.), and indeed, this makes for clearer sense. Yet the ms. evidence strongly favours the present reading. — [7-8] vága viggruðr ‘bush of the steed of the waves [(lit. 'steed-bush of the waves’) SHIP > SEAFARER = Óláfr]’: The vocative is construed here with the intercalary clause. An intercalary occupying the third line of a helmingr and the beginning of the fourth is common in Þormóðr’s poetry; see Note to Lv 23/7-8. Previous eds have generally construed the vocative with the first clause of the helmingr, though ÍS is an exception. — [8] eða liggjum hér ‘or we shall lie here’: I.e. ‘lie dead’. (a) This edn, like most others, assumes that the alternative is vér komumk braut ‘we shall come away’ in l. 5, with þat víksk eigi ‘that will not fail’ an intercalary clause, an arrangement that is encouraged by the Context provided in Fbr (see above). The helmingr thus states ‘we shall either live or die’: not a very acute observation, in Finnur Jónsson’s view (1932-3), yet a plausible variant on the theme of ‘victory or death’, in which the þótt-clause may imply that if the skald’s side get away alive it will not be before they have slain some of the enemy. (b) Under the other main arrangement, the alternative to eða hér liggjum is þat víksk eigi. The point is then that either they will show their mettle on the battlefield by feeding the ravens on their enemies’ corpses or they will die trying. The alternative to dying is thus not simply living, but acting boldly (and, as a result, living).

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