Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson (Þjsk)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Kate Heslop;

I. 4. Lausavísur (Lv) - 7

Skj info: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, (Ásgeirs son rauðfeldar) Islandsk skjald, sidste halvdel af 10. årh. (AI, 141-3, BI, 132-4).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonardrápa
2. Drape om Sven tveskæg
3. Jarlsníð
4. Lausavísur

Þorleifr jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s poet’ (Þjsk), son of Ásgeirr rauðfeldr ‘Red-cloak’, was born at Brekka in Svarfaðardalur in northern Iceland in the mid to late tenth century, and must have been alive c. 970-c. 995. It is impossible to be more definite about his dates as neither Svarfdœla saga nor Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds (ÞorlJ) in Flat, the only narrative sources, has a consistent chronology (ÍF 9, xcii, xcvii). Many sources mention Þorleifr as a skald: Ldn (ÍF 1, 254), both versions of Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266), Sneglu-Halla þáttr (ÍF 9, 285-6), ÓTOdd (ÍF 25, 191), and HaukrV Ísldr 18IV. Some stanzas are attributed to Þorleifr in Hkr, ÓT, TGT and FoGT, but the bulk of the poetry attributed to him and almost all the biographical information about him is preserved only in ÞorlJ (ÍF 9, 312-29).

According to ÞorlJ, Þorleifr flees Iceland for Norway as a young man, but soon leaves for Denmark after a dispute over trading rights ends with Hákon jarl Sigurðarson burning his ship and executing his crew (Lv 5). He is said to have composed a forty-stanza encomium for King Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ of Denmark (Drápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg; Sveindr), but only the stef ‘refrain’ is extant. While staying with Sveinn, he visits Norway and gets his revenge on Hákon by performing a níð poem (Jarlsníð; Jarl) which causes the jarl’s hair to fall out; one stanza is cited in ÞorlJ. After this Sveinn gives Þorleifr his byname, jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’ poet’ and speaks a stanza about the níð (Svtjúg Lv). However, the þáttr’s use of the genitive plural jarla ‘of jarls’ may be incorrect, for TGT calls him jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s poet’, Skáldatal lists him as a skald of Hákon but not Eiríkr (and the U version calls him ‘Hákonarskáld’), and Þorleifr is not known to have composed poetry about any other jarl (Nj 1875-8, II, 283-4; ÍF 9, xcvii n. 1; see Almqvist 1965-74, I, 197 for a contrary view). The names of poet and þáttr therefore appear with alternation of jarls- and jarla- in printed sources, and the present edition uses jarls- for the poet and jarla- for the þáttr. Þorleifr subsequently returns to Iceland and settles at Höfðabrekka in Myrdalur in the south of the country. He is, according to ÞorlJ, assassinated at the Alþingi by an enchanted wooden golem, a trémaðr with a man’s heart which Hákon has created with the help of his tutelary goddesses, Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr and Irpa (cf. Lv 6). Þorleifr’s burial mound at Þingvellir is said to have still been visible at the time the þáttr was composed, probably in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century (Harris 1993, 672). Much of this narrative is clearly fictional, and there is reason to suspect the genuineness of most of the stanzas attributed to Þorleifr in ÞorlJ (see Notes to Sveindr and Lv 5 and 6). However, widespread references in reliable sources put Þorleifr’s activity as a skald, his association with Hákon, and his composition of níð about the jarl beyond doubt.

Lausavísur — Þjsk LvI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, 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. 375.

 1a   1b   2   3   4   5   6 

Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson: 4. Lausavísur (AI, 142-3, BI, 133-4)

in texts: Flat, Ldn, Svarfd, ÞorlJ

SkP info: I, 375

notes: 1 Ldn; 2-4 Svarfd; 5-6 ThorlJ.

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

1a Belg hjó fyr mér
Bǫggvir snǫggvan
en fyr Óláfi
ál ok verju.
Svá skal verða,
ef vér lifum *,
við bǫl búinn
Bǫggvir hǫggvinn.
Bǫggvir slashed my hairless bag and Óláfr’s strap and cloak. Likewise Bǫggvir, ready for evil, must be killed if we live.
1b Belg hjó fyr mér
Bǫggvir snǫggvan
en fyr Óláfi
ál ok verju.
Svá skal verða,
ef vér lifum,
við bǫl búinn
Bǫggvir hǫggvinn.
Bǫggvir (‘Instigator of Evil’) sliced a hairless bag for me and a strap and cloak for Óláfr. Likewise Bǫggvir, ready for evil, must be killed, if we live.
2 Rauðk á randa gœði
rítorm* sakar vítis;
meiðr, í malma veðri,
mens, tók sverð at gre*nja.
Svall hættliga * (hringa
hnitsólar) áfitjar
felli-Guðr meðal fjalla
(fetils trolli hlóðk þolli).
I reddened the shield-serpent [SWORD] on the promoter of the shield [WARRIOR = Klaufi] for the sake of punishment; tree of the necklace [MAN = Ásgeirr], the sword began to shriek in the storm of weapons [BATTLE]. The felling-Guðr <valkyrie> [= Guðr (guðr ‘battle’)] increased dangerously between the mountains of the river-meadow; I cut down the tree of the sun of the crash of swords [(lit. ‘tree of the swords’ crash-sun’) BATTLE > SHIELD > WARRIOR] with the troll of the sword-strap [SWORD].
3 Kvaðat sendir mik mundu
mundhyrs rekask undan;
dyggrs, sás drgt mun eggja
dolgs, minn rúni, sinna.
Ok bǫðreyndan b*endi
blóðorm of kné góðan
hræva gífrs með hreifum
heggr ok bítr á skeggi.
The distributor of hand-fire [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = Karl?] did not say I would be able to escape; my confidant, who will strongly incite his followers to battle, is steadfast. And the cherry-tree of the troll-woman of corpses [AXE > WARRIOR = Karl?] bent the good, battle-tested blood-serpent [SWORD] across his knees with his hands and chews on his beard.
4 Hér sitk ok hvet hvassan
hlymbrand jǫru randar,
meðan óvinir órir
oss leiða* matreiður.
Eigum bernskligt báðir
ból, þats lítt nýtr sólar,
— oss hlægir þat eigi —
út of hellisskúta.
Here I sit and sharpen the keen fire of the din of the shield [(lit. ‘shield’s din-fire’) BATTLE > SWORD] for battle, while our enemies make food preparation difficult for us. We both have a childlike lair out among the caves in the cliffs that gets little sun; that does not cheer us.
5 Hrollir hugr minn illa;
hefr drengr skaða fengit
sér * á sléttri eyri,
svarri, báts ok knarrar.
Enn, þeims upp réð brenna
ǫldu fíl fyr skaldi,
hverr veit, nema kol knarrar
kǫld fýsi mik gjalda?
My mind shivers badly; the man has [I have] suffered damage to boat and ship on the level gravel-spit, lady. But who knows but that the cold coals of the ship might urge me to repay the one who had the elephant of the wave [SHIP] burned up [as an act] against the skald [me]?
6 Hvarf inn hildardjarfi
— hvat varð af Þorgarði? —
villumaðr á velli
vígdjarfr refilstíga.
Farit hefr Gautr at grjóti
gunnelds inn fjǫlkunni;
síðan mun hann í helju
hvílask stund ok mílu.
The battle-bold false one, slaughter-bold, vanished on secret paths on the plain; what became of Þorgarðr? The sorcerous Gautr <= Óðinn> of war-flame [SWORD > WARRIOR] has gone into the ground; now he will linger in Hell for a while and a bit.
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