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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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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

SkP info: I, 985

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

30 — Bjbp Jóms 30I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 30’ 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. 985.

Hvervetna frák hǫlða
— herr œxti gný darra —
fyr hreggviðum hjǫrva
hrøkkva gunnar rǫkkum,
áðr í ǫrva drífu
ýtum grimmr at blóta
— framm kom heipt in harða —
Hákun þegar tœki.

Frák hǫlða hrøkkva hvervetna fyr {{hjǫrva hregg}viðum} rǫkkum gunnar — herr œxti {gný darra} —, áðr Hákun, grimmr ýtum í {drífu ǫrva}, tœki þegar at blóta; in harða heipt kom framm.

I have heard that everywhere men recoiled before {trees {of the storm of swords}} [(lit. ‘storm-trees of swords’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] bold in battle — the army caused {the din of spears} [BATTLE] to increase —, before Hákon, cruel to men in {the snow-storm of arrows} [BATTLE], proceeded at once to make a sacrifice; the harsh violence proceeded.

Mss: R(54r); 61(19vb-20ra), 54(16rb), Bb(26va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Hver‑: huar‑ 61, ‘Hvo᷎r‑’ Bb;    ‑vetna: so 54, Bb, ‑vitna R, 61;    hǫlða: haulda 54, ‘huo᷎lda’ Bb    [2] œxti: ‘ægsti’ 61, æsti 54, Bb    [4] gunnar: ‘guínari’ 54;    rǫkkum: rekkum 61, Bb, rokkum 54    [8] Hákun: ‘hallkæm’ 54, ‘halkæm’ Bb;    þegar: syni all others

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 30: AII, 7, BII, 7, Skald II, 4, NN §3257; Fms 11, 171, Fms 12, 245, Jvs 1879, 114-15; Fms 1, 174, Fms 12, 43, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 191 (ch. 90), Ólafur Halldórsson 2000, 27, 80.

Context: Hákon jarl sees that the battle is not going his way; he goes ashore and sacrifices his seven-year-old son Erlingr in order to attain victory.

Notes: [3, 4] hjǫrva hreggviðum rǫkkum gunnar ‘trees of the storm of swords [(lit. ‘storm-trees of swords’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] bold in battle’: The cpd hreggviðir ‘storm-trees’ also forms part of an inverted warrior-kenning in st. 20/5. Rekkum (m. dat. pl.) ‘warriors’, the variant to rǫkkum in 61 and Bb, does not fit the context since another noun is superfluous. — [5] í drífu ǫrva ‘in the snow-storm of arrows [BATTLE]’: This phrase is taken here with grimmr ýtum ‘cruel to men’. It could alternatively modify blóta ‘make a sacrifice’ if it refers to the overall course of the battle, rather than the thick of the fighting. According to the ÓT account (see Context above) Hákon went ashore to sacrifice. — [7] heipt ‘violence’: It is unclear what sense of heipt is intended here, and hence whether the line refers to Hákon jarl’s sacrifice of his young son for victory (see Context) or the progress of the battle. Its normal senses of ‘hate, enmity’ and actions arising from those (LP: heipt 1) or ‘battle-fury, aggression’ (LP: heipt 2), seem inadequate to the situation. Skj B offers for l. 7, det hårde sind viste sig i gærningen ‘the ruthless mind showed itself in the action’. — [8] Hákun: The variant ‘hal(l)kæm’ in 54 and Bb could be an assimilated form of the adj. haldkvæm(r) ‘fit, meet, convenient’, but this could only qualify f. nom. sg. heipt ‘violence’, which is already qualified by the weak adj. harða ‘harsh’, and the clause would lack a nominal subject. — [8] þegar ‘at once’: This, the R reading, makes sense in context. The ÓT variant syni ‘son’ also gives good sense and makes explicit reference to Hákon’s alleged human sacrifice (otherwise lacking in the stanza) by providing a grammatical (dat.) object for at blóta ‘to sacrifice’. It is adopted in Jvs 1879, Skj B and Skald.

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