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Runic Dictionary

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Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld (Þorm)

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

I. Lausavísur (Lv) - 21

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 The biography below may represent a superseded edition, notes and/or an interim or draft version. Do not cite this material without consulting the volume and skald editors.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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 22 January 2022)

stanzas:  10   11   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); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 12 | 13 | 14

SkP info: I, 838

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

23 — Þorm Lv 23I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 23’ 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. 838.

Ǫrt vas Ôleifs hjarta;
óð framm konungr — blóði
rekin bitu stôl — á Stiklar
stǫðum, kvaddi lið bǫðvar.
Élþolla sák alla
Jǫlfuðs nema gram sjalfan
— reyndr vas flestr í fastri
fleindrífu — sér hlífa.

Hjarta Ôleifs vas ǫrt; konungr óð framm á Stiklarstǫðum, kvaddi lið bǫðvar; stôl rekin blóði bitu. Sák {alla {Jǫlfuðs él}þolla} hlífa sér nema gram sjalfan; flestr vas reyndr í {fastri fleindrífu}.

Óláfr’s heart was energetic; the king pressed forward at Stiklestad, rallied his host to battle; steel weapons inlaid with blood bit. I saw {all the firs {of the storm of Jǫlfuðr <= Óðinn>}} [(lit. ‘storm-firs of Jǫlfuðr’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] shelter themselves except the leader himself; most were tested in {the ceaseless missile-blizzard} [BATTLE].

Mss: Holm2(69r), 972ˣ(541va), J2ˣ(229r), 321ˣ(262), 73aˣ(204v), Holm4(65ra), 61(126vb), 325V(82vb), 325VII(39r), Bb(200va), Flat(125vb), Tóm(157r) (ÓH); Kˣ(475v) (Hkr); DG8(101v-102r) (ÓHLeg); Hb(89v), 142ˣ(105), 566aˣ(30r), papp4ˣ(129v) (Fbr); 761bˣ(547v marg)

Readings: [1] vas Ôleifs: hefir Áleifr 142ˣ, 566aˣ, 761bˣmarg    [2] framm: om. Bb, Tóm, DG8;    konungr: gramr 61, Bb, Tóm, DG8;    blóði: góði J2ˣ, í blóði 61, Flat, papp4ˣ, í vals blóði Bb, í valblóði Tóm, í styr í blóði DG8, blóði and góði 761bˣmarg    [3] rekin: ‘rekium’ 972ˣ, rekinn J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 61, 325V, 142ˣ, 566aˣ;    bitu: eru Kˣ;    stôl: om. Flat;    á: om. 73aˣ, Flat;    Stiklar‑: stikla 73aˣ, 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, DG8, Hb, 142ˣ, 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, 761bˣmarg    [4] kvaddi lið bǫðvar: í vǫll at æðru DG8;    kvaddi: kvaddisk 61, 325VII, Tóm, Hb, kveðisk 142ˣ, kvôðusk 566aˣ, kvaddi and kvaddisk 761bˣmarg;    bǫðvar: boðnar Tóm, bǫrva Hb    [5] Él‑: sel‑ 73aˣ, Ý‑ DG8;    sák (‘sa ec’): leit 61, leit ek Flat, papp4ˣ, frá ek Kˣ    [6] Jǫlfuðs: jalmflóðs J2ˣ, alms 321ˣ, ‘jalfvedrs’ 73aˣ, 325V, almveðrs Holm4, 325VII, Flat, 566aˣ, papp4ˣ, jalmveðrs 61, Tóm, ‘jalm vodrs’ Bb, ‘iolfaðrs’ DG8, ‘ialfads’ Hb, ‘jalfauðs’ 142ˣ, ‘ialfauþs’, ‘ialm‑floþs’ and ‘ialm‑veþrs’ 761bˣmarg;    nema: ‘mema’ Hb;    gram: ‘garrm’ or ‘grarm’ Bb    [7] reyndr: ‘reindr’ 73aˣ, ‘reinnd’ papp4ˣ;    vas (‘var’): ‘va’ 972ˣ, mun 321ˣ, varð Holm4, DG8, verðr 325VII, Hb, verða papp4ˣ;    flestr: hverr Bb, um flest Flat, flestir papp4ˣ;    fastri: ‘fazti’ 73aˣ    [8] hlífa: ‘liva’ DG8

Editions: Skj: Þórmóðr Bersason Kolbrúnarskáld, 2. Lausavísur 23: AI, 287-8, BI, 266, Skald I, 136, NN §§713, 942, 2481H, 2988D; Fms 5, 91, Fms 12, 102-3, ÓH 1941, I, 583 (ch. 233), Flat 1860-8, II, 364; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 375-76, VI, 114-15, Hkr 1868, 497 (ÓHHkr ch. 246), Hkr 1893-1901, I, 501, IV, 171-2, ÍF 27, 390-1, Hkr 1991, II, 538 (ÓHHkr ch. 233); ÓHLeg 1849, 72, 120, ÓHLeg 1922, 87, ÓHLeg 1982, 200-1; Hb 1892-6, 415, Fbr 1852, 111, Fbr 1925-7, 213 (ch. 24), ÍF 6, 271-2 (ch. 24), Loth 1960a, l-li, 156-7 (ch. 17), ÍS II, 842, 848 (ch. 24); Gaertner 1907, 312, 347, Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 76-7.

Context: In ÓH (excluding Flat) and Hkr, the poet listens to the talk around him, and he hears some praise the valour of the king above all, while others rate the prowess of other men no less. He speaks this vísa. In Flat, the stanza follows Lv 21. The woman tending the men asks who bore himself best in battle, and the poet responds. In ÓHLeg and Fbr, the stanza follows Lv 22 (see Context); the same woman asks further how the king bore himself in battle, and Þormóðr replies.

Notes: [All]: On the differences between the prose contexts of this and the following vísur in Fbr and Hkr, see Wolf (1965, 464-7). — [2] blóði ‘with blood’: (a) On the present interpretation, rekin blóði is assumed to be an unusual variant on the application of rekinn to costly decoration on weapons, but it is not unparalleled: cf. dreyrrekin ‘blood-inlaid’ (Anon Darr 2/5V (Nj 54)) and the problematic blóðrekinn (HHund I 9/8 (NK 131); see LP: blóðrekinn). So also Skj B and Gordon (1957, 127, 239). (b) Blóði can alternatively be construed with óð ‘advanced’, leaving an intercalary rekin bitu stôl ‘inlaid swords bit’, as in ESk Geisl 43/7VII (see NN §942); so Skald (and NN §713A, reading í blóði, though see also NN §2481H), ÍF 6 and ÍS. A similar construction is found in Steinn Óldr 3/4II, though vaða there takes the acc. blóð, while here it could be intransitive, and a prepositional sense of blóði is conceivable (see NN §2988D). — [3-4] á Stiklarstǫðum ‘at Stiklestad’: Gaertner (1907), Jón Helgason (1968, 48), and ÍS group this phrase with the intercalary clause rather than with the clause preceding it. Von See (1977b, 484) observes that if Þormóðr had actually composed this vísa so soon after the battle, it is unlikely that he would have referred to the p. n. by which the battle came to be known to history. However, it is conceivable that the stanza helped to determine the traditional name of the battle. As to the form of the name, variation between Stikla- and Stiklar- already occurs widely in the medieval mss, and hence also in modern normalisations. The conjectured derivation of the p. n. from a river-name *Stikl, perhaps ‘leaping one’, would suggest gen. sg. -ar as the original form, early reduced to -a- (Rygh et al. 1897-1936, XV, 122; Sandnes and Stemshaug 1990, 298). — [4] kvaddi lið bǫðvar ‘rallied his host to battle’: (a) The idiom is kveðja e-n e-s ‘summon sby to sth.’ (see CVC: kveðja), and here Óláfr, understood from konungr in l. 2, is taken as the subject (so ÍF 6; Ulset 1975, 92; ÍS). This has the advantage of assuming that the dramatic focus remains on the king. (b) Alternatively, lið ‘host’ in l. 4 could be subject, hence ‘the host called forth battle’ (so Skj B). (c) The variant kvaddisk occurs in mss of both ÓH and Fbr, and is adopted in Fbr 1852, and by Gaertner (1907), who interprets the clause to mean ‘the host came to blows’, on the basis of the observation that kveðjask means ‘greet one another’. Yet it is hard to see how the verb could be so used in the sg., even though lið is collective. Finnur Jónsson (1932-3) says that with kvaddisk the clause should mean ‘the troop incited itself to battle’ (though in Hb 1892-6 he took it to mean ‘the troop was summoned to battle’). — [7-8] í fastri fleindrífu ‘in the ceaseless missile-blizzard [BATTLE]’: The prepositional phrase is here grouped with the intercalary. Hkr 1893-1901, Skj B, Skald, Gordon (1957, 127), Ulset (1975, 92) and ÍS (but not Gaertner 1907 or Jón Helgason 1968, 48) instead group it with the main clause. Yet the pattern of devoting the third line of a helmingr and the beginning of the fourth to an intercalary is highly characteristic of Þormóðr’s verse (see Introduction to Þorm ÞorgdrV), and this arrangement lends symmetry and incisiveness to the structure of the helmingr. The somewhat critical hlífa sér ‘shelter themselves’ which is the entire point of the helmingr (so valiant was the king that, as the author of Fbr tells us, he bore neither shield nor coat of mail to battle) is thus lent force by its isolation in final position, and the placing of the reason why the men shelter themselves (the missile storm) in the intercalary ties the two clauses attractively. Of course, it may be that fleindrífu is no more than a kenning for ‘battle’ (as LP: fleindrífa has it), but the helmingr is richer if the cpd’s more literal sense is kept in mind.

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