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Runic Dictionary

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Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson (BjHall)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Alison Finlay;

Kálfsflokkr (Kálffl) - 8

Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson (BjHall) is mentioned only in the passages in the kings’ sagas in which stanzas from Kálfsflokkr, his sole surviving poem, are cited. He is generally identified, however, with the Icelander Bjarni Hallbjarnarson named in Þorgríms þáttr Hallasonar, which is preserved in Hulda-Hrokkinskinna (H-Hr; Fms 6, 32; ÍF 9, 298-303). He is there said to be the son of Hallbjǫrn skefill ‘Scraper’ of Laxárdalur in Skagafjörður, northern Iceland, and to have a brother called Þórðr, neither of whom is known elsewhere. The þáttr represents Bjarni, early in the reign of King Magnús Óláfsson (1035-47), presenting a poem to Kálfr Árnason, which includes praise of his deeds at the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad, 1030), and being killed immediately by Þorgrímr Hallason, a follower of King Óláfr; see further Biography of Kolgrímr litli ‘the Small’ (KolgrII), and Kolg ÓlII. This cannot be true according to the evidence of the stanzas printed below, however, since those representing Kálfr’s loss of the friendship of King Magnús and his campaigning in Orkney must have been composed as late as the mid 1040s. It seems most likely that the author of the þáttr knew of a poem by Bjarni in honour of Kálfr, but was not familiar with its content.

In the U redaction of Skáldatal ‘biarni gvllbraskalld’ is listed as a poet of Kálfr Árnason, and also included among the poets of Óláfr Tryggvason (r. c. 995-c. 1000), which must be a mistake: in the 761aˣ redaction this poet is simply named Bjarni skáld (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 269).

Bjarni’s nickname (recorded both with and without inflectional ‑(a)r-; see Lind 1920-1, 123) suggests that Bjarni was identified as the poet of someone, presumably a woman, nicknamed gullbrá ‘Gold-eyelash’. The same nickname gullbrá or gullbráskáld is also associated with the elusive Gizurr svarti (Gizsv; see his Biography in this volume).

my abbr.

Kálfsflokkr (‘Flokkr about Kálfr’) — BjHall KálfflI

Alison Finlay 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr’ 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. 877.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

Skj: Bjarni Hallbjarnarson gullbrárskáld: Kalfsflokkr, o. 1050 (AI, 393-6, BI, 363-5)

SkP info: I, 879

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — BjHall Kálffl 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 1’ 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. 879.

Vast, þars vígs bað kosta
vápndjarfr Haralds arfi,
— kynnisk kapp þitt mǫnnum —
Kalfr, við Bókn austr sjalfa.
Gôtuð Gríðar sóta
gólig fǫng til jóla;
kenndr vast fyrstr at fundi
flettugrjóts ok spjóta.

Kalfr, vast austr við Bókn sjalfa, þars {vápndjarfr arfi Haralds} bað kosta vígs; kapp þitt kynnisk mǫnnum. Gôtuð {sóta Gríðar} gólig fǫng til jóla; vast kenndr fyrstr at {fundi flettugrjóts ok spjóta}.

Kálfr, you were east off Bokn itself, where {the weapon-bold heir of Haraldr} [= Óláfr] commanded battle to be waged; your bravery becomes known to men. You provided {the steed of Gríðr <giantess>} [WOLF] with splendid provisions for Christmas; you were seen to be first at {the meeting of split stone and of spears} [BATTLE].

Mss: Holm2(58r), 321ˣ(219), 73aˣ(179v-180r), 68(57v), Holm4(56ra), 61(116vb), 75c(39r), 325V(69rb), 325VII(32r), Bb(189va), Flat(119rb), Tóm(147r), 325XI 2 b(1ra) (ÓH); Kˣ(433v) (Hkr); FskAˣ(184), 301ˣ(67v) (Fsk, ll. 1-4)

Readings: [1] þars (‘þar er’): ‘þarr’ 75c, þá er 325VII, þar 325XI 2 b, ‘[…]’ Kˣ;    bað: batt 68, 325V, Flat    [2] vápndjarfr: vígdjarfr 61, ‘[…]pndiar[…]’ 325XI 2 b, vinreifr FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    Haralds arfi: með Ôleifi FskAˣ    [3] kynnisk: ‘kunnþu’ 75c, ‘kunn(þu)’(?) 325XI 2 b    [4] Kalfr: kálf Flat, om. Tóm;    Bókn: ‘bukn’ 73aˣ, FskAˣ, ‘bo[…]’ Tóm, ‘buenn’ or ‘bucnn’ 301ˣ;    austr: of 325VII    [5] Gríðar: griða Tóm, ‘g[…]ðar’ 325XI 2 b    [6] gólig fǫng til jóla: ‘goli[…]til[…]’ 325XI 2 b    [7] vast (‘vartv’): nær 321ˣ, ‘[…]tu’ Kˣ;    fyrstr: fyrst 321ˣ, 61, Kˣ;    at: á 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Kˣ;    fundi: falli 61, 75c, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, 325XI 2 b    [8] flettugrjóts: ‘flett[…]otz’ Kˣ;    ok: eða 61, ‘[…]’ Tóm;    spjóta: ‘[…]a’ 325XI 2 b

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Hallbjarnarson gullbrárskáld, Kalfsflokkr 1: AI, 393-4, BI, 363, Skald I, 181; Fms 5, 17, Fms 12, 96, ÓH 1941, I, 487 (ch. 173), Flat 1860-8, II, 311; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 409, IV, 158, ÍF 27, 320-1, Hkr 1991, II, 486-7 (ÓHHkr ch. 177); Fsk 1902-3, 176 (ch. 28), ÍF 29, 195-6 (ch. 33).

Context: In ÓH-Hkr, King Óláfr heads north after the death of Erlingr Skjálgsson at Bókn (Bokn). He has learned of an uprising from Agðir, Rogaland and Hǫrðaland (Agder, Rogaland and Hordaland) but is supported by chieftains including the Árnasynir; this and st. 2 are cited as evidence of their support. In Fsk the context is briefer but the purpose of the citation similar. 

Notes: [All]: Stanzas 1/1-4 and 2/3-6 form a unitary stanza in Fsk. — [All]: The battle at Bókn (Bokn) took place in December 1027 or 1028. It is also commemorated in Sigv Erlfl, which specifies the location við þrǫm Bóknar ‘off the coast of Bokn’ (st. 3/4); for the site see Note to l. 4 below and Jesch (2001a, 207). — [2]: The FskAˣ reading vinreifr með Ôleifi ‘friend-happy with Óláfr’ seems to be a version of st. 5/2 vígreifr fyr Ôleifi and is unlikely to be the more original reading. — [4] Bókn ‘Bokn’: A pair of islands (Vestre Bokn and Austre Bokn) in Boknafjorden, Rogaland, Norway. Útsteinn, mentioned in st. 2/4, is in the same fjord. — [5] gôtuð ‘you provided’: The pl. form gôtuð contrasts with the sg. vast ‘you were’ in ll. 1 and 7, as well as sg. þitt ‘your' in l. 3, but may have been chosen for metrical reasons. Such variation between pl. or formal forms and sg. or familiar ones is common in skaldic poetry; cf. Note to st. 4/1, 3. — [6] gólig ‘splendid’: Góligr is a word of uncertain origin and meaning, but possibly related to góðr ‘good’ (so Noreen, ANG §292, followed by ÍF 27). — [6] jóla (gen. pl.) ‘Christmas’: Since the poem was composed after the reign of Óláfr Haraldsson, the reference is presumably to Christmas rather than the pre-Christian Yule; the seasonal reference is apposite, given the timing of the battle in late December. — [7] fyrstr ‘first’: The reading fyrst found in , 321ˣ and 61 gives an adverbial sense: ‘you were first seen ...’. — [8] flettugrjóts (gen. sg.) ‘of split stone’: Fletta appears to derive from *flinta- and to mean ‘slate, stone that can be split’ (AEW: fletta 1; LPflettugrjót); cf. ModIcel. flettigrjót (ÍO: flettugrjót); see also Note to ÞjóðA Magnfl 9/1II. As part of the determinant of the kenning, this particular kind of stone represents stones in general, used as missiles in battle.

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