Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson (BjHall)

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

Kálfsflokkr (Kálffl) - 8

Skj info: Bjarni Hallbjarnarson gullbrárskáld, Islandsk skjald, 11. årh. (AI, 393-396, BI, 363-365).

Skj poems:

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.

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

SkP info: I, 887

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — BjHall Kálffl 7I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 7’ 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. 887.

Þér frák, Þorbergs hlýri,
— þess gerðusk ér verðir —
— helt, unz hann of spillti —
Haralds bróðurson góðan.
Vǫkðu ǫfundmenn ykkar
iðula róg á miðli
(óþǫrf lízk mér) arfa
Ôleifs (í þeim môlum).

Frák {bróðurson Haralds} góðan þér, {hlýri Þorbergs}; ér gerðusk þess verðir; helt, unz hann of spillti. Ǫfundmenn vǫkðu iðula róg á miðli ykkar {arfa Ôleifs}; lízk mér óþǫrf í þeim môlum.

I have heard that {the son of Haraldr’s brother} [= Magnús] was good to you, {brother of Þorbergr} [= Kálfr]; you made yourself worthy of that; that lasted until he damaged [it]. Envious men constantly stirred up strife between you and {Óláfr’s heir} [= Magnús]; that seems to me an unnecessary thing in those matters.

Mss: Holm2(74r), 321ˣ(281), 73aˣ(215v), Holm4(69vb), 61(130rb), 325V(89rb), 325VI(42ra), 325VII(41v), Bb(206r), Tóm(161r) (ÓH); Kˣ(503r-v), 39(14rb), F(38vb), J2ˣ(244v), E(5r-v) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Þér: þat 325VI, þik Bb;    frák (‘fra ec’): brá ek 61, 325V, 325VII, Tóm    [2] þess gerðusk ér: þér gjǫrðusk þess 325VI;    ér: þat 321ˣ, ‘i[…]’ Holm4, om. Bb    [3] helt: helt því Holm2, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, 325VI, 325VII, Tóm, Kˣ, 39, F, J2ˣ, E, helt þar 321ˣ, hest Bb;    unz: at 325VII, F;    hann of spillti: ‘[…]’ 325VII;    hann: herr Kˣ    [4] Haralds bróðurson góðan: ‘haral[…] sun[…]’ 325VII    [5] Vǫkðu ǫfundmenn: ‘[...]ofund[…]’ 325VII;    ykkar: so 73aˣ, Holm4, Bb, Tóm, 39, F, J2ˣ, E, ykkrir Holm2, 61, 325V, 325VI, ykkir 321ˣ, ‘[…]ar’ 325VII, ykkra Kˣ    [6] á miðli: í miðli 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325VI, Tóm, F, í milli 325V, milli 325VII, Bb, á miðlum Kˣ    [7] óþǫrf: ok óþǫrf Bb, eigi þǫrf Kˣ

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Hallbjarnarson gullbrárskáld, Kalfsflokkr 7: AI, 395-6, BI, 364-5, Skald I, 182, NN §2039Fms 5, 127Fms 12, 107ÓH 1941, I, 624 (ch. 259); Hkr 1893-1901, III, 28, IV, 187-8, ÍF 28, 25, Hkr 1991, II, 572 (MGóð ch. 14), F 1871, 176, E 1916, 16 .

Context: Magnús, reminded by followers of the role played by Kálfr in the downfall of his father Óláfr, forces Kálfr to accompany him to the battle-site of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad). Kálfr denies having dealt Óláfr his death blow, but has his belongings in readiness and flees the kingdom for the British Isles. 

Notes: [All]: In Hkr the stanza is identified as belonging to Kálffl. — [1] hlýri Þorbergs ‘brother of Þorbergr [= Kálfr]’: Þorbergr is named as one of seven sons of Árni Armóðsson in Hkr (ÍF 27, 181), and is said to have fought on King Óláfr’s side at the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad, 1030). — [3] helt ‘that lasted’: All mss except Bb (‘hest’) read helt því, in which helt ‘lasted, held’ is used impersonally with því as its dat. object. Því, however, is hypermetrical. — [3] hann ‘he’: Other eds adopt the reading herr ‘the army, men’ of , emphasizing the agency of others in creating strife between Magnús and Kálfr; but all other mss, representing both ÓH and Hkr, favour the reading hann, which attributes the responsibility to Magnús; see also Note to ll. 5-8. — [3] of spillti ‘damaged [it]’: Good relations between Kálfr and the king were damaged by Magnús’s harsh treatment of the former opponents of his father, as censured by Sigvatr Þórðarson in Sigv BervII; see also Context above. Of is the expletive particle. — [4] Haralds bróðurson ‘the son of Haraldr’s brother [= Magnús]’: This epithet for Magnús may suggest a date of composition of the poem within the reign of Haraldr harðráði (cf. st. 3/4 and Note). — [5-8]: This is construed here as in Skj B. Kock (NN §2039, followed by ÍF 28) argues that arfa Ôleifs ‘heir of Óláfr’, rather than being construed in apposition to ykkar ‘you (two)’, should be taken together with óþǫrf, here ‘an unnecessary thing’, which he interprets as ‘harm’ (cf. Fritzner: úþurft ‘(unnecessary) harm’), hence ‘it seems to me there was harm for the heir of Óláfr in these dealings’. While this gives a more natural word order, the implication of harm inflicted on Magnús seems to contradict the suggestion of his agency in hann of spillti ‘he damaged [it]’ (l. 3). — [5]: The line has resolution of the syllables ǫfund- in the second lift, and represents a type that became popular in the C11th among Haraldr harðráði and his poets; see Kuhn (1983, 68) and Note to Hharð Gamv 2/1II. — [5] ykkar ‘you’: The m. nom. pl. reading ykkrir ‘your’ of Holm2 and other mss agrees with ǫfundmenn ‘envious men’ and was probably adopted because of the proximity of the words; but the form ykkar, gen. object in the phrase á miðli ykkar ‘between you (two)’, clearly makes better sense. — [6] iðula ‘constantly’: A trisyllabic short-stemmed word with resolution on the first syllable. Words of this structure are unusual in skaldic poetry; see Kuhn (1939, 184). — [6] á miðli ‘between’: The variants á miðlum, í miðli are synonymous and also possible. Milli is a later form. — [8] í þeim môlum ‘in those matters’: The phrase is taken here with the intercalary, but it could alternatively modify the main clause. Its exact reference is not clear.

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