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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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 21 January 2022)

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, 883

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — BjHall Kálffl 4I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 4’ 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. 883.

Áttu Engla dróttni,
ógnrakkr, gjafar þakka,
jarls niðr; komtu yðru
ótála vel máli.
Þér lét fold, áðr fœrir
— frest urðu þess — vestan,
— líf þitt esa lítit —
Lundúna gramr fundna.

Áttu þakka {dróttni Engla} gjafar, {ógnrakkr niðr jarls}; komtu ótála máli yðru vel. {Gramr Lundúna} lét fold fundna þér, áðr fœrir vestan; frest urðu þess; líf þitt esa lítit.

You have {the lord of the English} [= Knútr] to thank for gifts, {battle-bold descendant of a jarl} [= Kálfr]; you undoubtedly advanced your case well. {The lord of London} [= Knútr] said that land was found for you before you travelled from the west; there was delay in this; your life is not insignificant.

Mss: Holm2(60v), 321ˣ(228), Bæb(3ra), 68(59v), 61(118vb), 325V(72rb-va), 325VII(34r), Bb(191vb-192ra), Flat(120rb), Tóm(148v) (ÓH); Kˣ(441v) (Hkr); FskAˣ(188), 301ˣ(69r) (Fsk, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] Áttu: allt átt þú 61;    Engla: Englands 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    dróttni: dróttin Bb, dróttinn Flat    [2] ‑rakkr: ‑rakk Flat;    gjafar: gjafir 321ˣ, Bæb, 68, 61, Flat, í guði 325VII    [3] jarls: ‘i’ 325VII, ok Bb;    niðr: vinr 325V;    komtu: so Bæb, 68, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, ‘cotv’ Holm2, komt 321ˣ, ‘kottu’ 61    [5] Þér: ótála vel máli þér 321ˣ, þar Bb;    fold áðr: foldar Tóm;    fœrir: fœrit 325V, FskAˣ, 301ˣ, fœri Flat    [7] líf: lið Bb, FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    þitt esa lítit: á lítli stundu FskAˣ, af litli stundu 301ˣ;    esa (‘era’): ‘e(t)a’(?) 321ˣ    [8] Lundúna: Lundúnu 61, 325VII, Bb;    fundna: so 68, Kˣ, FskAˣ, 301ˣ, om. Holm2, snúnat 321ˣ, Bæb, fundit 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, fenginn 325VII, fundi Tóm

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Hallbjarnarson gullbrárskáld, Kalfsflokkr 4: AI, 394-5, BI, 364, Skald I, 182Fms 5, 32, Fms 12, 97, ÓH 1941, I, 508 (ch. 179), Flat 1860-8, II, 318-19; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 427, IV, 161-2, ÍF 27, 334-5, Hkr 1991, II, 497 (ÓHHkr ch. 183); Fsk 1902-3, 180 (ch. 28), ÍF 29, 199 (ch. 34). 

Context: ÓH-Hkr relates that, on arrival at Knútr’s court, Kálfr is offered a future jarldom on his return to Norway and overall rule of the country in exchange for opposition to King Óláfr. The king gives him fine gifts when they part. For Fsk see Context to st. 3 and Note to [All] below.

Notes: [All]: Stanzas 3/5-8 and 4/5-8 form a unitary stanza in Fsk.  — [1, 3] áttu; komtu yðru ‘you have; you advanced your’: Unusually, the enclitic pron. -tu ‘you’ is syllabic, occupying a metrical position, in both these lines; átt and komt would have been expected. Also unusual is the switch from the grammatically sg., familiar 2nd pers. form komtu to the grammatically pl., formal form yðru ‘your’, since this occurs in consecutive words here, although such mixing of forms is not generally uncommon (cf. Note to st. 1/5). — [1] dróttni Engla ‘the lord of the English [= Knútr]’: Knútr reigned over England from 1016; see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. — [3] niðr jarls ‘descendant of a jarl [= Kálfr]’: In a genealogy of Kálfr’s family, the Arnmœðlingar, attached to Fsk (ÍF 29, 371), his grandfather is referred to as ‘Arnmóðr jarl’. Kálfr himself is referred to in Hkr as a lendr maðr ‘landed man, district chieftain’ and a hǫfðingi ‘chieftain’. — [4] ótála ‘undoubtedly’: See Note to st. 3/2 above. — [5, 8] lét fold fundna þér ‘said that land was found for you’: On the basis of the stanza alone, the reference to ‘land’ being ‘found’ for Kálfr could be taken to mean the grant of an estate in England, but Kálfr’s departure from England, his defence of land in Norway against Óláfr in st. 5/1-2, and the prose context make it clear that the reference is to a promise of rule in Norway. The sense of lét remains elusive. The most obvious interpretation is ‘had (land found for you)’, and this would be compatible with the first helmingr. However, lét could mean ‘said’, and this is assumed here, resulting in a more cynical view of the sincerity of Knútr’s promises (cf. ÍF 27, 335 n. which has kvaðst hafa fundið ‘said he had found’). This accords with the statement about delay in l. 6 (see Note) and is spelt out clearly in the prose sources, e.g. in ÍF 27, 411 where Kálfr is said to regret the trap he had fallen into at Knútr’s urging, since all the promises he had made, including a jarldom and government over all Norway, had been broken. — [6] frest urðu þess ‘there was delay in this’: I.e. in the fulfilment of Knútr’s promise of land. Frest is n. pl., hence the pl. verb urðu, lit. ‘were, came about’. Hkr 1893-1901, Skj B and Skald emend urðu to urðut, giving the opposite meaning ‘there was no delay in this’, in order to avoid the contradiction with the stanza’s statement that Kálfr did receive gifts from the king (see Hkr 1893-1901, IV). But the original reading could express an ironically understated comment that the king’s promises never materialised, or simply that conditions had to be met before the promised lands were handed over.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated