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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson (Bjbp)

13th century; volume 1; ed. Jonna Louis-Jensen;

Jómsvíkingadrápa (Jóms) - 45

Skj info: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Orknøsk biskop, d. 1222. (AII, 1-10, BII, 1-10).

Skj poems:

Bjarni Kolbeinsson (Bjbp) was born into a powerful family in the Orkney Islands, possibly c. 1150-60 (af Petersens, Jvs 1879, 122). His father was the Norwegian-Orcadian chieftain Kolbeinn hrúga ‘Heap’ and his mother was Herborg, a great-granddaughter of Páll jarl Þorfinnsson on the maternal side (see Ættaskrár [Genealogies] II in ÍF 35). Bjarni was also very well connected: he was a close friend of Haraldr jarl Maddaðarson (ÍF 35, 289), sent precious gifts to Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson in Iceland on three occasions (Guðrún P. Helgadóttir 1987, 2-3), and had connections with the Oddaverjar (see further Einar Ól. Sveinsson 1937, 17-18, 34-9).

Bjarni was Bishop of Orkney from 1188 (ÍF 35, 289) until his death on 15 September 1223. Among his achievements as bishop were the exhumation and canonisation of Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson (ÍF 35, 282; SkP II, 575) and the extension of St Magnús’s Cathedral in Kirkwall. Bjarni was also a diplomat and is known to have travelled to Norway for political reasons in 1194-5, 1208-9, 1210, 1218 and 1223 (see Bugge 1875, 244; Holtsmark 1937a, 2-3); he probably died in Norway (Jón Stefánsson 1907-8, 46).

Bjarni is introduced as Bjarni skáld ‘Poet’ in Orkn (ÍF 35, 193), but Jómsvíkingadrápa (Jóms) is the only literary work attributed to him in medieval sources. Suggestions that he compiled Orkn (Jón Stefánsson 1907-8) and the þulur in SnE (Bugge 1875) have not been generally accepted; see Introduction to Jóms below on the attribution of Anon Mhkv to Bjarni.

my abbr.

Jómsvíkingadrápa (‘Drápa about the Jómsvíkingar’) — Bjbp JómsI

Emily Lethbridge 2012, ‘ Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa’ 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. 954. <> (accessed 1 July 2022)

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Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson: Jómsvíkingadrápa (AII, 1-10, BII, 1-10); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4

SkP info: I, 959

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Bjbp Jóms 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 1’ 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. 959.

Engan kveðk at óði
órum málma rýri
(þó gatk hróðr of hugðan)
hljóðs (atferðar prýði).
Framm mun ek fyr ǫldum
Yggjar bjór of fœra,
þó at engir ýtar
ættgóðir mér hlýði.

Kveðk engan {rýri málma} hljóðs at óði órum; þó gatk hróðr of {hugðan prýði atferðar}. Ek mun of fœra framm {bjór Yggjar} fyr ǫldum, þó at engir ættgóðir ýtar hlýði mér.

I call upon no {diminisher of metal weapons} [WARRIOR] for a hearing for our [my] poem; nonetheless, I have produced a praise-poem {about the courageous adorner of action} [MAN]. I will bring forth {the beer of Yggr <= Óðinn>} [POEM] before people, although no well-born men may listen to me.

Mss: R(53r), 65ˣ(380r)

Readings: [4] prýði: ‘p[…]yði’ R, ‘fnvdi’ 65ˣ, ‘(p)[…](y)ði’(?) RCP, prýði RFJ    [6] bjór: ‘bi[…]’ R, bjór 65ˣ, RCP, RFJ

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 1: AII, 1, BII, 1, Skald II, 1; Fms 11, 163, Fms 12, 241, Jvs 1879, 104-5. 

Context: The stanza is preserved only as part of a continuous text of Jóms in R and hence, together with sts 2-9, 13-16, 19, 21-5, 27, 28, 31, 35-7, 39 and 40, is not embedded in a narrative context.

Notes: [All]: On the use of 65ˣ and the diplomatic texts in Jvs 1879 (siglum RCP when cited in Readings) and Skj A (siglum RFJ) as supplementary witnesses to the R reading, see Introduction to this poem. — [All]: The poet humorously inverts the conventional call for a hearing which opens many skaldic praise-poems (e.g. Eskál Vell 1; cf. Wood 1960a), calling for no-one’s attention, and anticipating that no-one will listen to his composition (though st. 5/7 envisages an audience). The subject of glorious martial deeds is paradigmatic but this, too, is shortly to be undercut by the abrupt change of subject to the poet’s disappointment in love (sts 2, 3, 6, and the stef). — [1-4]: Kveðja e-n e-s ‘to call on sby for sth.’ is well attested. In Fms 11 and 12, each couplet is taken as a syntactic unit and hljóðs ‘a hearing’ is not construed with kveðk ‘I call’; but the remainder of the interpretation departs unnecessarily from the legible text. — [3] hugðan ‘courageous’: This appears to qualify m. acc. sg. prýði, hence ‘courageous adorner’. It could conceivably qualify hróðr ‘praise-poem’, with the sense ‘agreeable’ or similar; cf. a similar phrase in HSt Rst 34/7. — [4] prýði atferðar ‘about the adorner of action [MAN]’: Atferð normally means ‘conduct, behaviour’, but since the kenning refers to one of the Jómsvíkingar the reference may be specifically to military action, hence ‘valiant man’ (so LP: prýðir). Finnur Jónsson (Skj A) regards prýði as certain; Carl af Petersens (Jvs 1879) is less sure, but the letters can be made out except for the ‘r’. Prýði appears to be acc. sg. of the agent noun prýðir, following the prep. of ‘about’ and forming a kenning for ‘man’ or ‘warrior’, although prýðir is not common in such kennings (see Meissner 299). The identification of the man or warrior is problematic since the poem is concerned with several heroes, but Vagn Ákason is especially prominent (see sts 8, 9/7-8). — [6] bjór Yggjar ‘the beer of Yggr <= Óðinn> [POEM]’: The sense of bjórr could be more broadly ‘strong drink’; cf. Note to Mhkv 29/3III, where the kenning bjórr Yggjar is also found. The reference is to the myth of the mead of poetry (see Note to Eskál Vell 1 [All]; Frank 1981; Faulkes 1997; Finlay 2000). — [6] of fœra ‘bring’: Of is the expletive particle, the first of several examples in the poem. — [8] hlýði ‘may listen’: A scribal mark follows this, the last word in the stanza, indicating a change to the stanza order; see Introduction. 

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