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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, 247

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Refr Ferðv 4III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, Ferðavísur 4’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 247.

Barðristinn nemr brjósti
borðheimr drasils skorðu,
— nauð þolir viðr — en víði
verpr inn of þrǫm stinnan.


{The prow-carved world of ship-planks} [SEA] strikes the breast {of the steed of the prop}, [SHIP] and the ocean is thrown in over the firm gunwale; the timber suffers distress.

context: This stanza is cited in Skm (SnE) and LaufE among stanzas exemplifying sea-heiti.

notes: [1-2]: In l. 2, mss R and C read drasils (the descender on the final <s> is very faint in R and earlier eds read <l> here), and mss and A, as well as the LaufE mss, contain two nom. forms, borðheimr ‘world of ship-planks’ and drasill ‘steed’. In order to decide which of them ought to be the subject of the sentence, one must take the case assignment and semantic structure of the verb nema into account, because the dat. brjósti ‘breast’ must be accommodated syntactically. The only example of a similar syntactic structure is found in LP: nema 5: spjót nemr hjartarótum ‘the spear strikes the heart at the roots’ (Anon Pét 38/6VII). Hence the subject of the sentence must be the sea which strikes the breast of the ship, i.e. it crashes against the bow of the ship. This interpretation also matches the general tenor of the helmingr, which characterises the sea in this confrontation as the aggressive entity and the ship as the affected one. This is also the sense of the intercalary ‘the ship suffers distress’. Hence borðheimr ‘world of ship-planks’ (so all mss), the base-word of the sea-kenning, must be the subject of the sentence, and drasils (gen.) (so R and C) is the base-word in the ship-kenning qualifying the dat. brjósti ‘breast’. Previous eds (SnE 1848-87; Skj B; Skald; SnE 1998) take drasill as the subject of the sentence and emend borðheimr nom. sg. ‘world of ship-planks [SEA]’ to borðheim (acc. sg.) as the object. However, the semantic interpretation of nemr is problematic here. Cf. LP: nema 3, which gives the following complicated interpretation: tage imod noget (for at støde det tilbage, holde det ude) ‘receive something (in order to push it back, keep it outside)’, slightly different than the translation in Skj B: Skibet sætter sit bryst imod den stavnfurede sø ‘the ship pushes its breast against the prow-carved sea’, where the dat. brjósti cannot be accommodated syntactically.

texts: LaufE 158 (389), Skm 358, SnE 360

editions: Skj Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson: 4. Et rejsedigt 4 (AI, 321; BI, 297); Skald I, 151; SnE 1848-87, I, 498-9, II, 451, 600, III, 103, SnE 1931, 175, SnE 1998, I, 94; LaufE 1979, 389.


GKS 2367 4° (R) 38r, 32 - 38r, 33 (SnE)  image  image  image  
Traj 1374x (Tx) 40r, 7 - 40r, 8 (SnE)  image  
AM 748 I b 4° (A) 13r, 28 - 13r, 29 (SnE)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 748 II 4° (C) 7v, 10 - 7v, 11 (SnE)  image  image  
GKS 2368 4°x (2368x) 126, 21 - 126, 22 (LaufE)  image  
AM 743 4°x (743x) 95r, 13 - 95r, 16 (LaufE)  image  image  
AM 761 b 4°x (761bx) 279v, 12 - 279v, 15  image  
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