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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, 965

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — Bjbp Jóms 7I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 7’ 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. 965.

Hvervetna frák heyja
Harald bardaga stóra;
þeir ruðu bitra branda
bǫðgjarnastir niðjar.
Sjá knáttu þar síðan
siðfornir glym járna;
þótti þeim at efla
þǫrf Véseta arfa.

Frák Harald heyja stóra bardaga hvervetna; þeir bǫðgjarnastir niðjar ruðu bitra branda. Síðan knáttu siðfornir sjá þar {glym járna}; þótti þeim þǫrf at efla {arfa Véseta}.

I have heard that Haraldr fought great battles everywhere; those extremely battle-eager kinsmen reddened sharp blades. Then heathens could see there {the crash of iron weapons} [BATTLE]; it seemed necessary to them to support {the heir of Véseti} [= Búi].

Mss: R(53v)

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 7: AII, 2, BII, 2, Skald II, 2, NN §2162 anm.; Fms 11, 164-5, Fms 12, 242, Jvs 1879, 106-7.

Notes: [All]: The verse-form fjórðungalok ‘couplets’ closure’ is used here; cf. Note to st. 2 [All]. — [2] Harald ‘Haraldr’: Two rulers named Haraldr belong to the previous generation to the one commemorated in the poem (see Context to st. 10). Skj B takes this as King Haraldr blátǫnn ‘Blue-tooth’ Gormsson, but Strút-Haraldr ‘Jutting-hood-Haraldr’ is more likely (so Fms 12), since like Búi, mentioned in l. 8, he is a Jómsvíkingr, and since the term siðfornir ‘heathens’ in l. 6 would be apt for him but not for Haraldr blátǫnn, who famously converted to Christianity. — [3, 4] þeir bǫðgjarnastir niðjar ‘those extremely battle-eager kinsmen’: Presumably, if the above identification of Haraldr as Strút-Haraldr is correct, these are Strút-Haraldr’s sons, Sigvaldi and Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’. The adj. (bǫðgjarnastir ‘extremely battle-eager’) is in the strong form here, as also in st. 14/2, 3, 4 sá frœkn Hamðis faldruðr ‘that brave bush of the hood of Hamðir <legendary hero> [(lit. hood-bush of Hamðir) HELMET > WARRIOR]’ and st. 27/6, 7 þeir gunnrakkastir gumnar ‘those extremely battle-bold men’. In noun phrases of this structure (demonstrative /sú/þat + adj. + noun), there are skaldic examples of both weak and strong adjectives (see LP: 1). The strong form may have been favoured in the Jóms examples since in all three the demonstrative and adj. are not consecutive. — [5, 6] sjá þar glym járna ‘see there the crash of iron weapons [BATTLE]’: So also Fms 12. The inf. verb sjá ‘see’ is compatible with the referent of the kenning, battle, but not with the base-word glym ‘crash, tumult’. In Skj B and Skald, arfa Véseta ‘the heir of Véseti [= Búi]’ is taken as the object of sjá and glym járna ‘crash of iron weapons [BATTLE]’ as the object of efla ‘support’ in the intercalary clause. — [6] siðfornir ‘heathens’: Hap. leg.; more literally, ‘custom-old, of the old faith or custom’, designating the Jómsvíkingar fighting with Búi. The Christian faith was called nýr siðr ‘the new custom’ (see Fritzner: siðr 2, and cf. Note to Þloft Tøgdr 1/2). — [8] þǫrf ‘necessary’: Lit. ‘a necessity’. The vows that the Jómsvíkingar made to support Búi in his attack on Hákon jarl Sigurðarson became a major element in the legend (see sts 11-14 and Contexts). — [8] arfa Véseta ‘the heir of Véseti [= Búi]’: Véseti is said to have ruled Borgundarhólmr (Bornholm; e.g. Jóms 1879, 30), and to have had three children: Búi digri ‘the Stout’, Sigurðr hvíti ‘the White’ or kápa ‘Cloak’ and Þorgunna, wife of Áki Pálna-Tókason and mother of Vagn (ibid., 30-1).

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