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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 5 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, 991

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

37 — Bjbp Jóms 37I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 37’ 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. 991.

Nam eldbroti Yggjar
ýgr fyr borð at stíga;
út bar hann af húfum
hraustr Goll-Búi kistur.
Ok optliga eptir
óblauðir þar síðan
kneigu lýðir líta
langan orm á hringum.

{Ýgr {Yggjar eld}broti} nam at stíga fyr borð; hann, hraustr Goll-Búi, bar út kistur af húfum. Ok optliga síðan eptir kneigu óblauðir lýðir þar líta langan orm á hringum.

{The fierce breaker {of the flame of Yggr <= Óðinn>}} [(lit. ‘flame-breaker of Yggr’) SWORD > WARRIOR = Búi] stepped overboard; he, bold Gull-Búi (‘Gold-Búi’), carried out chests from the hull. And often since then dauntless men have been able to see there a long serpent on the rings.

Mss: R(54r)

Readings: [4] Búi kistur: ‘b[...]’ R, ‘bvi kist(vr)’(?) RCP, ‑Búi kistur RFJ

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 37: AII, 8, BII, 8, Skald II, 5; Fms 11, 173, Fms 12, 246, Jvs 1879, 116-17.

Notes: [1, 2] nam at stíga ‘stepped’: Nam, lit. ‘took, started’, is a pleonastic auxiliary here. — [3] húfum ‘the hull’: Lit. ‘hulls’. The pl. is unusual, since húfr ‘hull’ is normally sg. unless more than one ship is referred to. The sense ‘strake’ is possible in ON and certain in later Icel., however (Jesch 2001a, 143-4), and húfum here may refer collectively to the strakes or planking comprising the hull. — [4] Goll-Búi ‘Gull-Búi (“Gold-Búi”)’: See Note to st. 26/2. — [8] langan orm á hringum ‘a long serpent on the rings’: This draws on the tradition that gold-hoards are protected by dragons or serpents, and perhaps specifically on the legend of the Rhine-gold, guarded by Fáfnir; see Guðrún Nordal (2001, 331-2). It is conceivable that the dragon is to be understood as a man – Búi – who has turned himself into a dragon in order to guard the hoard, as Fáfnir did (e.g. SnE 1998, I, 46).

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