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, 889

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — BjHall Kálffl 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 8’ 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. 889.

Frôgum, Finns hvé mági
fylgðuð, Kalfr, of dylgjur,
ok lézt á snekkjur
snarla lagt at jarli.
Áræði vannt eyða
óðfúss sonar Brúsa
— hléði hugr — en téðuð
heiptminnigr Þórfinni.


We [I] have heard, Kálfr, how you followed {the son-in-law of Finnr} [= Þorfinnr Sigurðarson] into battle, and quickly had warships steered against the jarl [Rǫgnvaldr Brúsason] at sea. You succeeded in destroying the attack {of the ragingly eager son of Brúsi} [= Rǫgnvaldr] and, intent on hostility, you supported Þorfinnr; your courage protected [you].

context: In Orkn ch. 26, the context is the sea-battle of Rauðabjǫrg (probably Roberry) between the joint jarls of Orkney, Þorfinnr Sigurðarson and his nephew Rǫgnvaldr Brúsason. Kálfr is present with six large ships but at first holds back because of divided loyalties: King Magnús has offered to restore his estates in Norway if he supports Rǫgnvaldr, but Þorfinnr is related to Kálfr by marriage, and makes a persuasive speech after which Kálfr orders his men to join battle on Þorfinnr’s side. The stanza is repeated in Flat, along with Arn Þorfdr 19II, 20II and 24II, in a strangely inappropriate context at the end of Orkn ch. 56, which deals with Þorfinnr’s son Páll. The context in ÓH is a compressed account of the events of Orkn, and refers implicitly to a version of Orkn as a source: oc er fra þvi laung saga ‘and there is a long saga about that’.

notes: The battle of Rauðabjǫrg, fought in the Pentland Firth c. 1044, is also commemorated in Arn Lv 1II and Arn Þorfdr 19-22II. On the identification of the site, see Note to Arn Þorfdr 20/8II. — [6] óðfúss sonar Brúsa ‘of the ragingly eager son of Brúsi [= Rǫgnvaldr]’: On Rǫgnvaldr jarl Brúsason, see Arn RǫgndrII and SkP II, xciv-xcv. The reading of Flat, ófúss syni Brúsa, is likely to be influenced by the identical line Arn Lv 1/4II; that stanza immediately precedes Bjarni’s in Orkn.

texts: Flat 671, Flat 677, Orkn 24, ÓH 215 (210)

editions: Skj Bjarni Hallbjarnarson gullbrárskáld: Kalfsflokkr 8 (AI, 396; BI, 365); Skald I, 182ÓH 1941, I, 639, ÍF 27, 449 (ch. 270); Orkn 1913-16, 71, 131 n., ÍF 34, 67-8, 122 n. 2 (chs 26, 56; stanza not printed at repeat). 


Holm perg 2 4° (Holm2) 76r, 17 - 76r, 19 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 61 fol (61) 131vb, 4 - 131vb, 7 (ÓH)  image  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 208rb, 1 - 208rb, 5 (ÓH)  image  
GKS 1008 fol (Tóm) 163r, 24 - 163r, 26 (ÓH)  image  
UppsUB R 702x (R702x) 40r, 3 - 40r, 6 (Orkn)  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat*) 133ra, 44 - 133ra, 47 (Orkn)  image  image  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat*) 135rb, 43 - 135rb, 46 (Orkn)  image  image  image  
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