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Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson (Refr)

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

1. Ferðavísur (Ferðv) - 5

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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 25 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5 

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

SkP info: III, 248

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Refr Ferðv 5III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, Ferðavísur 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 248.

Hrynja fjǫll á fyllar;
framm œsisk nú Glamma
skeið vetrliði skíða;
skaut bjǫrn Gusis nauta.

Fjǫll hrynja á fyllar; nú œsisk {vetrliði skíða} framm {skeið Glamma}; {bjǫrn {nauta Gusis}} skaut.

Mountains fall into the sea; now {the bear of planks} [SHIP] rushes forward on {the race-course of Glammi <sea-king>} [SEA]; {the bear {of the gifts of Gusir <legendary king>}} [ARROWS > = Ǫrvar-Oddr] shot.

Mss: R(38v), Tˣ(40r), A(13v), B(6r), 744ˣ(36v), C(7v) (SnE)

Readings: [1] Hrynja: ‘[…]rynja’ B, ‘hrýnía’ 744ˣ;    fjǫll á: ‘fio[…]’ B, ‘fioll a’ 744ˣ, fljótt á C;    fyllar: fullar C    [2] œsisk: æsir C    [3] skeið: ‘(skreið)’(?) B, skreið 744ˣ, C    [4] skaut: skut‑ B;    bjǫrn Gusis nauta: ‘bior[…]’ B, ‘bio᷎rn .auta’ 744ˣ

Editions: Skj: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, 4. Et rejsedigt 5: AI, 321, BI, 297, Skald I, 151, NN §§785, 2988H, 3197B; SnE 1848-87, I, 502-3, II, 452, 535, 601, III, 105, SnE 1931, 176, SnE 1998, I, 96.

Context: The stanza is cited in Skm (SnE) to exemplify fyllr being used as a heiti for ‘sea’.

Notes: [All]: The present interpretation, which relates this stanza to an episode from Ǫrvar-Odds saga (Ǫrv 1888, 40-8), namely Ǫrvar-Oddr’s voyage to Bjarmaland, follows Marold (2006a). According to that interpretation, which adheres to the straightforward syntax and involves no over-determined kennings, the stanza depicts the events which resemble an episode described in the prose of Ǫrvar-Odds saga: mountains (the massive rocks hurled by giants) fall into the sea, creating tremendous waves, and the ship rushes forward. Later the hero, standing behind a bear decoy made of the hide of the killed animal, shoots at a threatening giantess with the famous arrows of Gusir (see Note to l. 4 below). For other attempts at interpretations, see Notes below. — [1] fjǫll hrynja á fyllar ‘mountains fall into the sea’: (a) Skj B interprets fjǫll fyllar ‘mountains of the sea’ as a kenning for ‘waves’. That kenning leaves a dangling prep. (á) in l. 1, which Finnur Jónsson connects with skautbjǫrn ‘sail-bear’ (l. 4; for that kenning, see Note to l. 4 below). This tortuous syntax is justifiably criticised by Kock (NN §785; see also Reichardt 1930, 249). (b) Kock himself combines á fyllar (l. 1) with skautbjǫrn (l. 4) to form the ship-kenning á skautbjǫrn fyllar ‘on the sail-bear of the sea’ (for skaut lit. ‘corner of a sail’ as pars pro toto for ‘sail’, see LP: skaut 1). That kenning is over-determined, however, because it has two determinants, skaut- ‘sail’ and fyllar ‘of the sea’ and, further, fjǫll is now rendered as ‘wave’, which Kock tries to justify on a contextual basis. (c) The only solution that makes sense is to interpret fyllar as acc. pl. of a f. noun fyllr (f. -stem) rather than as gen. sg. of a m. noun fyllr, and that has been adopted in the present edn. Fyllr ‘sea’ is otherwise attested only in the gen. sg. (fyllar; see LP: fyllr 2), which can be either f. or m. — [3] vetrliði skíða ‘the bear of planks [SHIP]’: Vetrliði (lit. ‘winter-walker’; see the explanation in Fritzner: vetrliði) is given in Þul Bjarnar 1/10 as a heiti for ‘bear’. The determinant is problematic here, because although skíð ‘plank’ does appear in ship-kennings, it is always a base-word with such determinants as ‘sea-king’ or ‘sea’ and never a determinant as in the present kenning. Because skíða can only be gen. pl. of skíð n. ‘thin board’ and vetrliði must be determined somehow, one must assume that skíð is a variation of borð ‘ship-plank’ here. — [4] bjǫrn nauta Gusis skaut ‘the bear of the gifts of Gusir <legendary king> [ARROWS > = Ǫrvar-Oddr] shot’: (a) The present interpretation, which follows Marold (2006a), rests on the observation that skaut bjǫrn in l. 4 is written as two separate words in all mss except A. The subject of skaut ‘shot’ can only be bjǫrn ‘bear’, with the added determinant nauta Gusis ‘of the gifts of Gusir’, giving the straightforward clause bjǫrn nauta Gusis skaut ‘the bear of the gifts of Gusir shot’. An explanation for this somewhat cryptic statement is found in the Bjarmaland voyage episode of Ǫrvar-Odds saga (ch. 5, FSN II, 176-82): Oddr and his companions are attacked aboard their ship by giants who hurl rocks at them, creating large waves. Later, Oddr shoots from the inside of a bear decoy he has constructed by draping the skin of a large bear that they have killed over a post, so that it looks as though a bear were standing upright. In the beast’s mouth Oddr kindles a fire and shoots Gusir’s arrows out of it at a giantess who is threatening him and his companions. The difference between the stanza and the episode in Ǫrvar-Odds saga is that in the stanza a bear is shooting, while in the saga the hero stands behind the bear decoy and shoots. It is therefore tempting to assume that the stanza is based on a version of the legend or a related episode in which the hero actually takes on the shape of a bear, which was interpreted later as the use of a decoy. On shape-changing and on the bear-motif in Ǫrvar-Odds saga, see Marold (2006a, 229-33). The two previous interpretations of this line, offered by Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Kock (Skald; NN §785), are both unsatisfactory. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: Gusi) construes the whole line as a complicated and over-determined kenning for ‘ship’ (skautbjǫrn nauta Gusis ‘sail-bear of the gifts of Gusir <legendary king>’), his explanation being that one of the Finnish King Gusi’s arrows mentioned in Ketils saga hœngs (Ket ch. 3) is named Flaug and flaug is also a term for the pennant flown by ships (LP: 2. flaug; see also Þul Skipa 6/7). According to Finnur, nauta Gusis ‘of the gifts of Gusir’ is an ofljóst construction for flaug ‘pennant’ that functions as the determinant of skautbjǫrn ‘sail-bear’. Kock (NN §785) rightly labels this interpretation ‘misapplied ingenuity’ (Reichardt 1930, 249 is equally dismissive). (c) Kock (NN §785) splits l. 4 by combining skautbjǫrn with á fyllar (l. 1), and he construes the prepositional phrase á skautbjǫrn fyllar ‘on the sail-bear of the sea [SHIP]’ (on this kenning, see Note to l. 1). He then connects nauta Gusis and vetrliði skíða (l. 3), construing a second ship-kenning, vetrliði skíða nauta Gusis ‘bear of the planks of the gifts of Gusir [ARROWS > SHIELD > SHIP]’. That kenning must also be rejected, because skíð is not attested as a base-word of shield-kennings, and ‘shield’ does not appear in Meissner’s list of ship-kenning determinants (Meissner 214-16). — [4] Gusis ‘of Gusir <legendary king>’: The gen. of the strong m. noun Gusir. In Ǫrvar-Odds saga (FSN II, 173, 511) the weak form Gusi appears alongside the strong form (see also Notes to Gusi Lv 1/1VIII (Ket 3[b]) and Þul Jǫtna II 2/6).

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated