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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson (Refr)

11th century; volume 3; ed. Edith Marold;

1. Ferðavísur (Ferðv) - 5

Skj info: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, Islandsk skjald, 11. årh. (AI, 318-321, BI, 295-297).

Skj poems:
1. Digt om fyrstegaver
2. Et digt om Gizurr Gullbrárskáld
3. Af et digt om en Þórsteinn
4. Et rejsedigt
5. Af ubestemmelige digte el. vers

Hardly anything is known about the life of Hofgarða-Refr (Refr). He came from a family long residing in Western Iceland (the farm Hofgarðar lies on the south side of Snæfellsnes). The family seems to have held a goðorð ‘chieftaincy’ in that district, because Refr’s great-grandfather Helgi Hofgarðagoði ‘Priest of Hofgarðar’ is mentioned in Eyrbyggja saga (Eb ch. 16, ÍF 4, 30) as a witness in a legal dispute between Snorri goði ‘the Priest’ Þorgrímsson and Arnketill goði ‘the Priest’ Þórólfsson. His mother was Steinunn Refsdóttir or Dálksdóttir, who is known for the stanzas she composed about the shipwreck of the missionary Þangbrandr (Steinunn LvV). In the stanzas she credits Þórr, whom she considers more powerful than Christ, with the shipwreck. From this one might infer that the family only hesitantly converted to Christianity. Nothing in Refr’s poetry indicates he was a Christian; on the contrary, it is clear that he considers poetry a gift from Óðinn (Refr Giz 2 and 3; see Kuhn 1983, 305; ARG I, 262; Kreutzer 1977, 190). His name, Hofgarða-Refr, indicates that he lived on his family’s farm. He was a foster-son of the skald Gizurr gullbrár ‘Gold-eyelash’ (who may be the same as Gizurr svarti ‘the Black’, Gizsv), who was killed at the battle of Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir; 29 July 1030), and in whose memory he composed several stanzas (on Gizurr, see his Biography in SkP I). In Skáldatal Refr is listed as a skald honouring the kings Óláfr inn helgi (S. Óláfr) Haraldsson (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 274) and his son, Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson (SnE 1848-87, III, 254, 262, 275), as well as the Norwegian magnate Hárekr ór Þjóttu ‘from Tjøtta’ Eyvindarson and his son Einarr fluga ‘Fly’ (SnE 1848-87, III, 269, 285). Refr’s surviving oeuvre consists of the following poems and stanzas: the above mentioned ‘Poem about Gizurr gullbrárskáld’ (Refr Giz, three extant stanzas); three stanzas ‘From a poem about Þorsteinn’ (Refr Þorst, possibly for a son of Snorri goði ‘the Priest’ Þorgrímsson); a poem about a sea-voyage, called Ferðavísur by modern editors (Refr Ferðv, five extant stanzas); five fragments on various subjects (Refr Frag).

Ferðavísur (‘Stanzas about journeys’) — Refr FerðvIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, Ferðavísur’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 243.

 1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson: 4. Et rejsedigt, Ferðavísur (AI, 320-1, BI, 296-7)

SkP info: III, 245

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Refr Ferðv 2III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, Ferðavísur 2’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 245.

Fœrir bjǫrn, þars bára
brestr, undinna festa
opt í ægis kjapta
úrsvǫl Gymis vǫlva.

{Úrsvǫl vǫlva Gymis} fœrir opt {bjǫrn undinna festa} í kjapta ægis, þars bára brestr.

{The spray-cold vǫlva <seeress> of Gymir <sea-giant>} [= Rán] often leads {the bear of twisted moorings} [SHIP] into the jaws of the sea, where the wave breaks.

Mss: R(26v), R(38r), Tˣ(27r), Tˣ(39v), W(57), U(29v), A(13r), B(5r), C(7r-v) (SnE); 2368ˣ(126), 743ˣ(94v) (LaufE)

Readings: [1] Fœrir: Fœrisk R(38r), Tˣ(39v), A, C    [2] brestr: brest W, 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    undinna: ‘vndinan’ Tˣ(27r), ‘vndina’ U    [3] í: og 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    kjapta: so all others, ‘kiopta’ R(26v)    [4] úr‑: so Tˣ(39v), U, A, út‑ R(26v), R(38r), Tˣ(27r), W, B, C, 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    Gymis: ýmis U

Editions: Skj: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, 4. Et rejsedigt 2: AI, 320, BI, 296, Skald I, 151; SnE 1848-87, I, 326-7, 494-7, II, 316, 450, 529, 599, III, 52, SnE 1931, 116, 174, SnE 1998, I, 37, 93; LaufE 1979, 388-9.

Context: This stanza is cited twice in Skm (SnE): once among the examples of sea-kennings and a second time among the examples of sea-heiti. In LaufE it is cited in the passage on sea-kennings and heiti.

Notes: [1-2] þars bára brestr ‘where the wave breaks’: This must refer to the offshore shallows where waves break and ships are in the greatest danger. — [3] í kjapta ægis ‘into the jaws of the sea’: The sea is not depicted as a personified divine force in human shape here, but rather as a ravenous monster. The word ægir could also be the pers. n. Ægir, but there is otherwise no evidence that he was thought of as a monster that devours ships and men. — [4] úrsvǫl vǫlva Gymis ‘the spray-cold vǫlva <seeress> of Gymir <sea-giant> [= Rán]’: Rán is a sea-goddess and the wife of Ægir, the sea-god or sea-giant (Skm, SnE 1998, I, 36, 41, 95). She seems to personify the destructive power of the sea, as becomes clear in this stanza and above all in the eddic Helgi poems (HHund I 29-30; HHj 18) and in Egill St 7/1-2V (Eg 78). She is said to possess a net with which she fishes for everyone who drowns (see Note to SnH Lv 6/3II). In prose sources such as Eyrbyggja saga (Eb ch. 54, ÍF 4, 148) there are indications of a notion of a realm of the dead in which those who drown are received by Rán. On Rán, see also Note to Þul Ásynja 2/7. On the motif of the sea as a malevolent, threatening female being, see Clunies Ross (1998a, 166-7). The kenning vǫlva Gymis is formed according to the normal pattern ‘woman of …’ but is unusual in its choice of the base-word vǫlva ‘seeress’. Vǫlva must have negative connotations here, as in a few other instances in eddic and skaldic sources (see Kommentar IV, 292 and LP: vǫlva). The choice of base-word underscores the threatening character of the sea-goddess.

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