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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 2 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, 973

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

17 — Bjbp Jóms 17I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 17’ 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. 973.

Sagt var, at rauðra randa
reynendr flota sínum
jólanótt at Jaðri
Jómsvíkingar kœmi.
Váru heldr á harðan
hernuð firar gjarnir;
rjóðendr buðu ríki
randorma Geirmundi.

Sagt var, at {reynendr rauðra randa}, Jómsvíkingar, kœmi flota sínum at Jaðri jólanótt. Firar váru heldr gjarnir á harðan hernuð; {rjóðendr {randorma}} buðu ríki Geirmundi.

It was said that {the testers of red shields} [WARRIORS], the Jómsvíkingar, brought their fleet to Jæren on Yule-night. Men were rather eager for a hard raiding campaign; {the reddeners {of shield-snakes}} [SWORDS > WARRIORS] offered force to Geirmundr.

Mss: R(53v); 61(19rb), 54(15rb), Bb(25vb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Sagt var at: segja 61, Bb, seggja 54    [2] reynendr: reyfendr 54, Bb    [3] at: á 54, Bb    [4] kœmi: so all others, kómu R    [8] Geir‑: ‘gier‑’ Bb

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 17: AII, 4, BII, 4, Skald II, 3; Fms 11, 167, Fms 12, 243, Jvs 1879, 110-11; Fms 1, 166-7, Fms 12, 41, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 183 (ch. 88), Ólafur Halldórsson 2000, 24, 78. 

Context: The Jómsvíkingar sail north and surge ashore in Jaðarr (Jæren), where the young, well-born Geirmundr and his men are sleeping in a loft. Geirmundr leaps into action and his hand is cut off by Vagn Ákason. Geirmundr escapes but stops a short distance from the farm in order to ascertain the identity of the warband that has just attacked.

Notes: [1-2]: (a) Sagt var ‘it is said’ is retained here as the reading of the main ms, and it echoes st. 16/1. The kenning reynendr rauðra randa ‘testers of red shields [WARRIORS]’ is taken in apposition to Jómsvíkingar (l. 4), as the joint subject of kœmi ‘brought’ (l. 4). (b) An alternative is to take the kenning as an apostrophe to the audience (so Fms 12, 243). (c) The ÓT reading segja ‘tell’ in l. 1 avoids the double subject for kœmi since the kenning for ‘warriors’ can then be the subject of segja (so Fms 12, 41), though the graphic warrior-kenning would seem more likely to refer to the Jómsvíkingar than to anyone else. — [4] Jómsvíkingar ‘the Jómsvíkingar’: This collective name for the warriors based in Jóm or Jómsborg (see Note to st. 6/2) is not found in contemporary poetry, and this led Lauritz Weibull to dispute their existence; see ÍF 26, cxi-cxii for a summary of the debate. — [4] kœmi (3rd pers. pl. pret. subj.) ‘brought’: This produces skothending in the even line, which is normal within the munnvǫrp metre of Jóms. The indic. form kómu in R is also possible. It produces aðalhending, which is rare in the even lines of Jóms, but not unparalleled (see Introduction). — [7] buðu ríki ‘offered force’: The phrase appears to be equivalent to bjóða ofríki ‘offer excessive force, overcome’ (Fritzner: bjóða 1), and perhaps bella ríki ‘use strength’, attested in Ótt Knútdr 5/3, 4. — [8] Geirmundi ‘to Geirmundr’: See Context. The attack on Geirmundr appears to be part of the general hostilities as the Jómsvíkingar reach Norway: no specific reason is given in the poem or its prose context.

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