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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, ‘ 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 5 August 2021)

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, 886

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — BjHall Kálffl 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 6’ 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. 886.

Hafa lézt unga jǫfra
erfð, sem til réð hverfa;
satts, at sitja knátti
Sveinn at Danmǫrk einni.
Kennduð, Kalfr, til landa
kappfúsum Magnúsi
— olluð ér, þvís stillir
jǫrð of fekk — ór Gǫrðum.

Lézt unga jǫfra hafa erfð, sem réð hverfa til; satts, at Sveinn knátti sitja at Danmǫrk einni. Kalfr, kennduð kappfúsum Magnúsi til landa ór Gǫrðum; ér olluð, þvís stillir of fekk jǫrð.

You allowed the young prince [Magnús Óláfsson] to have the inheritance that came his way; it is true that Sveinn was able to rule only in Denmark. Kálfr, you conducted the spirited Magnús to his lands from Russia; you brought it about that the ruler gained the country.

Mss: Holm2(73v), 321ˣ(279), 73aˣ(214v), Holm4(69ra), 61(129vb), 325V(88va), 325VI(41va), 325VII(41r) (l. 1), Bb(205va), Flat(127ra), Tóm(160v) (ÓH); Kˣ(497v), 39(13ra), F(37vb), J2ˣ(241r), E(3v-4r) (Hkr); FskAˣ(201), 301ˣ(73v-74r) (Fsk, ll. 5-8, 1-4)

Readings: [2] sem til réð: réð sem til Tóm;    sem: enn 61;    hverfa: ‘[…]erf[…]’ 325V    [3] satts at (‘satt er at’): ‘[…]tt at’ 325V, satt var at F, settisk FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    sitja: sína 73aˣ, snarr ept FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    knátti: kunni 61, Tóm, mátti Flat, þetta FskAˣ    [4] at: á 61    [5] Kennduð: kenndr 321ˣ, kenndi 61, FskAˣ, 301ˣ, kenndr Tóm, kenndit 39, F;    Kalfr: halfr 325V, kalf E;    landa: handa 321ˣ, 61, 325V, 325VI, Flat, ‘hanna’ Tóm, landi 39, om. E    [6] kapp‑: kafs FskAˣ, 301ˣ    [7] olluð: ǫllu 61, E, ollu J2ˣ, FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    ér: þér 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325VI, Bb, 39, F, E, FskAˣ, 301ˣ, þeir 325V, J2ˣ;    þvís (‘þvi er’): so Kˣ, 39, F, at Holm2, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, 325VI, Bb, Flat, Tóm, J2ˣ, E, FskAˣ, 301ˣ    [8] of fekk: so 73aˣ, Kˣ, ok fekk Holm2, 321ˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, 325VI, Bb, F, E, hann fekksk Flat, fekk ok Tóm, er fekk 39, ok fekksk J2ˣ, of fekkt FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    ór: at 321ˣ, 325VI

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Hallbjarnarson gullbrárskáld, Kalfsflokkr 6: AI, 395, BI, 364, Skald I, 182Fms 5, 123-4, Fms 12, 107, ÓH 1941, I, 619 (ch. 255), Flat 1860-8, II, 374; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 13, IV, 181-2, ÍF 28, 12, Hkr 1991, II, 563 (MGóð ch. 5), F 1871, 171, E 1916, 10; Fsk 1902-3, 191-2 (ch. 37), ÍF 29, 208 (ch. 44).


In ÓH-Hkr, this stanza is placed after several chapters (in Hkr spanning the end of ÓHHkr and the beginning of MGóð) relating Kálfr’s withdrawal of support from the unpopular king Sveinn Álfífuson, son of Knútr inn ríki, his journey to Novgorod with Einarr þambarskelfir to bring the young Magnús Óláfsson out of exile and offer him the kingdom, their return to Norway, and the withdrawal of Sveinn to Denmark. In Hkr, the stanza follows, and in ÓH it precedes, the report of the death of Knútr in England (13 November 1035) and of Sveinn in Denmark that same winter. Fsk reports how the reluctance of King Jarizleifr (Jaroslav) to hand his foster-son Magnús into the power of his father’s betrayers Kálfr and Einarr is overcome by their swearing oaths of allegiance to Magnús, then cites the stanza.

Notes: [All]: Lines 1-4 and 5-8 are in reverse order in Fsk. — [1] unga jǫfra ‘the young prince’: According to Arn Magndr 1/5-6II, Magnús was not yet eleven years old when he left Russia. Unga jǫfra is grammatically pl., though it appears to denote Magnús alone. This use of pl. with sg. meaning is paralleled elsewhere, though usually in nouns formed from present participles and within man-kennings (cf. Arn Hryn 19/1II eyðendr, lit. ‘clearers’, and Note). — [2] sem réð hverfa til ‘that came his way’: Hverfa til here has the sense ‘to fall to one’s lot’ (Fritzner: hverfa til 4), referring to the inheritance that Magnús has acquired. Til is used adverbially, with the sense of til hans ‘to him’; réð (inf. ráða) is used as a pleonastic auxiliary verb. — [7] þvís ‘it … that’: At in Holm2 and other mss could be the conj. ‘that’ introducing the subordinate clause (LP: 2. at; NS §251).

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