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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, 882

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — BjHall Kálffl 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 3’ 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. 882.

Austr réð allvaldr rísta
ótála haf stáli;
varð at vitja Garða
vígmóðr Haralds bróðir.
Enn of íðnir manna
emkak tamr at samna
skrǫkvi; at skilnað ykkarn
skjótt lézt Knút of sóttan.

Allvaldr réð ótála rísta haf austr stáli; {vígmóðr bróðir Haralds} varð at vitja Garða. Enn emkak tamr at samna skrǫkvi of íðnir manna; at skilnað ykkarn lézt skjótt Knút of sóttan.

The mighty ruler undoubtedly set about carving the ocean eastwards with the prow; {the battle-weary brother of Haraldr} [= Óláfr] had to make his way to Russia. But I am not ready to gather false stories about people’s actions; after your parting you quickly went to seek out Knútr.

Mss: Holm2(60r), J2ˣ(212v-213r), 321ˣ(228), 73aˣ(184v), 68(59v), 61(118va-b), 325V(72rb), 325VII(33v), Bb(191vb), Flat(120ra), Tóm(148v) (ÓH); Kˣ(441r-v) (Hkr); FskAˣ(188), 301ˣ(68v-69r) (Fsk, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] ‑valdr: ‑vald 325V;    rísta: hrista 325V, Flat    [2] haf: ‘har’ 321ˣ, hug‑ 68, ‘háf‑’ 325VII    [4] víg‑: haug‑ 68;    bróðir: bróður 325VII    [5] of: vér 321ˣ    [6] emkak (‘emca ec’): emka ok 321ˣ, einka ek Bb, Flat, Tóm, einka er FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    tamr: samr 68, Bb, þarfr 61;    at: om. J2ˣ;    samna: sanna 68, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [7] skrǫkvi: so J2ˣ, 68, 61, 325V, ‘screyci’ Holm2, skrauti 321ˣ, ‘skinki’ 73aˣ, ‘skrævki’ 325VII, ‘skryki’ Bb, ‘skroki’ Flat, ‘skaurka’ Tóm, ‘scrꜹki’ Kˣ, skræki FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    at: um 321ˣ, 73aˣ, ‘eat’ Bb, ek at Flat, ek Kˣ;    skilnað: skilnuð 68, Bb;    ykkarn: okkarn 68, ‘yckannar’ 325V, ykkvan Tóm    [8] lézt (‘lez tv’): lettu 68, lét Flat;    Knút of sóttan: Knútr af sátum 73aˣ

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Hallbjarnarson gullbrárskáld, Kalfsflokkr 3: AI, 394, BI, 363, Skald I, 182Fms 5, 31Fms 12, 97ÓH 1941, I, 507 (ch. 179), Flat 1860-8, II, 318; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 426, IV, 161, ÍF 27, 334, Hkr 1991, II, 496 (ÓHHkr ch. 183); Fsk 1902-3, 180 (ch. 28), ÍF 29, 198-9 (ch. 34).


In ÓH-Hkr, King Óláfr has gone into exile in Russia, and Kálfr has sworn allegiance to King Óláfr’s opponent Hákon jarl (ÓH 1941, I, 500, 505; ÍF 27, 328, 332). The following spring, Kálfr sails to England to join King Knútr, who has just arrived there from Denmark. The more concise Fsk narrative reaches a slightly later point, where Knútr promises Kálfr authority in Norway, before the stanza is cited (and see Note to [All] below).

Notes: [All]: Stanzas 3/5-8 and 4/5-8 form a unitary stanza in Fsk. — [1] austr ‘eastwards’: The adv. is used elsewhere for Garðar or Garðaríki (Russia), e.g. Hfr Óldr 4/4, Anon Krm 3/6VIII. — [2] ótála ‘undoubtedy’: This word occurs in the skaldic corpus only here and in st. 4/4. LP: ótála relates it to ‘pair’, a word occurring only in a þula of terms for numbers of people in SnE (1998, I, 106), and interprets it as ‘certainly, without doubt’; cf. adv. tálaust (n. of adj. tálauss), with the same sense. — [2] stáli ‘the prow’: More precisely, the stem-post, part of the ship’s prow (Jesch 2001a, 150). — [4] vígmóðr ‘battle-weary’: This interpretation fits Óláfr’s situation as he flees Norway; -móðr n. in cpd adjectives can alternatively mean ‘courageous’ (see LP: 1. móðr, 2. móðr). — [4] bróðir Haralds ‘brother of Haraldr [= Óláfr]’: Óláfr Haraldsson, whose half-brother became Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-ruler’ Sigurðarson. The kenning may suggest a time of composition for the poem during the reign of Haraldr (1046-66). Cf. also st. 7/4 and Note. — [5-7] enn emkak tamr at samna skrǫkvi of íðnir manna ‘but I am not ready to gather false stories about people’s actions’: The unusually emphatic assertion of the reliability of the poet’s account may simply focus attention on the telling moment of Kálfr’s abandonment of his allegiance to Óláfr, or it may perhaps indicate some controversy about Kálfr’s actions, particularly in light of the poem’s composition some years after the events recorded. Indeed, the narrative in ÓH-Hkr does not entirely follow the stanza’s assertion that Kálfr went immediately to Knútr, instead indicating that he first visited his estates, and pledged allegiance to Hákon jarl Eiríksson. — [7] skrǫkvi; at skilnað ykkarn: It is necessary to assume elision of skrǫkvi at here, to produce a regular line of six syllables, but elision does not normally cross syntactic boundaries in skaldic poetry before the thirteenth century, and it is possible that the original reading was acc. skrǫk rather than dat. skrǫkvi, though no ms. has this form.

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