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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, 992

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

38 — Bjbp Jóms 38I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 38’ 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. 992.

Skeið, frák, valt at verði
Vagn með sína þegna;
ǫll váru þá þeira
þunn skip hroðin ǫnnur.
Upp náðu þar eigi
ǫðlings menn at ganga;
ofan réðu þeir ǫfga
Eireks vini keyra.

Frák, at Vagn verði skeið valt með þegna sína; ǫll ǫnnur þunn skip þeira váru þá hroðin. Menn ǫðlings náðu eigi at ganga upp þar; þeir réðu keyra ǫfga vini Eireks ofan.

I have heard that Vagn defended the warship continuously with his men; all their other narrow ships were then cleared. The prince’s [Eiríkr jarl’s] men could not board there; they [the Jómsvíkingar] managed to drive back the friends of Eiríkr from above.

Mss: R(54r); 61(20rb), 53(16vb), 54(16vb), Bb(27ra-b) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] valt: víst all others;    verði: varði 53, 54    [4] skip: ‑skiput 53, 54, Bb    [5] náðu: náði 61, námu 53;    eigi: þeygi all others    [6] ǫðlings: þengils all others;    menn: maðr 61;    ganga: renna 53, 54, Bb    [7] réðu: urðu Bb;    ǫfga: ýgja 61, 53, yggja 54, Bb    [8] vini: menn at all others

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 38: AII, 8-9, BII, 8-9, Skald II, 5; Fms 11, 173-4, Fms 12, 45, Jvs 1879, 116-17; Fms 1, 179, Fms 12, 246, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 195 (ch. 90), Ólafur Halldórsson 2000, 31, 82. 

Context: Búi, badly wounded and facing defeat, has jumped overboard, and many of his men follow rather than asking for a truce. Eiríkr jarl manoeuvres his ship alongside Vagn’s and there is a tough fight. For a long time Eiríkr does not manage to board Vagn’s ship. 

Notes: [1] valt ‘continuously’: (a) The R reading valt is an adv. with the same sense as ávalt: ‘continually, always’: see LP: valt and 4. valr, where derivation from the adj. valr ‘round, in a circle’ is suggested, though see also AEW: ávalt for alternative derivations of ávalt. Fms 12, 246 glosses valt here as ágætliga ‘splendidly’ and Skj B as stadig ‘continuously, steadily’. (b) The ÓT reading víst ‘for certain, certainly’ modifies frák ‘I have heard’ or verði ‘defended’. — [1] verði (3rd pers. sg. pret. subj.) ‘defended’: Both this and the indic. variant varði, both from the weak verb verja ‘defend’, are possible following frák at ‘I have heard that’. — [5] eigi ‘not’: The ÓT variant þeygi ‘yet not’ is equally acceptable. — [5, 6] ganga upp ‘board’: The variant renna ‘to run’ in 53, 54 and Bb makes little difference to the sense, but it produces aðalhending on menn, which is not usual in Jóms. — [6] ǫðlings ‘the prince’s [Eiríkr jarl’s]’: The ÓT variant þengils ‘prince’s’ is more or less synonymous. Þengils alliterates with the ÓT reading þeygi, while ǫðlings alliterates with the R reading eigi. — [7] ǫfga ‘back’: The force of the word is adverbial, though grammatically it is m. acc. pl. of the adj. ǫfugr ‘backwards’, hence literally ǫfga vini Eireks ‘the retreating friends of Eiríkr’. The ÓT variant ýgja is the m. acc. pl. form of ýgr ‘fierce, fearsome’. — [8] vini ‘the friends’: The ÓT variant menn at is also possible, since menn ‘men’ is equivalent to vini ‘friends’ and at is optional when ráða ‘determine, manage’ is used as an auxiliary with an inf., here keyra ‘drive’ (see LP: ráða 12).

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