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Runic Dictionary

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Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson (Refr)

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

2. From a poem about Þorsteinn (Þorst) - 3

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).

From a poem about Þorsteinn — Refr ÞorstIII

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, From a poem about Þorsteinn’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 250. <> (accessed 28 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3 

Skj: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson: 3. Af et digt om en Þórsteinn (AI, 320, BI, 296); stanzas (if different): 4

SkP info: III, 252

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Refr Þorst 3III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2017, ‘Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, From a poem about Þorsteinn 3’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 252.

En hoddvǫnuðr hlýddi
— hlunnvitnis emk runni
hollr — til hermðarspjalla
heinvandils Þórsteini.

En {hoddvǫnuðr} hlýddi Þórsteini til {hermðarspjalla {heinvandils}}; emk hollr {runni {hlunnvitnis}}.

And {the gold-diminisher} [GENEROUS MAN] [I] heeded Þorsteinn on {the anger-words {of the whetstone-Vandill}} [SWORD > BATTLE]; I am faithful {to the bush {of the roller-wolf}} [SHIP > SEAFARER].

Mss: R(35r), Tˣ(36v), W(80), U(34r), A(12r) (SnE); 2368ˣ(130), 743ˣ(97v) (LaufE)

Readings: [1] ‑vǫnuðr: ‑vargr U    [2] emk (‘em ec’): skal ek U;    runni: ‘r(vnn)i’(?) U    [3] hermðar‑: ‘herinðar’ 743ˣ    [4] hein‑: heim‑ U;    ‑vandils: ‑vandil R, Tˣ, W, U, A, 743ˣ, ‑vandill 2368ˣ

Editions: Skj: Hofgarða-Refr Gestsson, 3. Af et digt om en Þórsteinn 3: AI, 320, BI, 296, Skald I, 150; SnE 1848-87, I, 444-5, II, 332, 444, III, 88, SnE 1931, 157, SnE 1998, I, 76; LaufE 1979, 394.

Context: The stanza is cited in SnE and LaufE to show that vargr ‘wolf’ can function as a base-word of ship-kennings. Intended here must be the base-word vitnir in the ship-kenning hlunnvitnir ‘roller-wolf [SHIP]’.

Notes: [3-4] til hermðarspjalla heinvandils ‘on the anger-words of the whetstone-Vandill [SWORD > BATTLE]’: The helmingr consists of two independent clauses, ‘the gold-diminisher [GENEROUS MAN] [I] heeded Þorsteinn’ and the intercalary ‘I am faithful to the bush of the roller-wolf [SHIP > SEAFARER]’, but it is difficult to decide where the prepositional phrase til hermðarspjalla heinvandils belongs. All previous eds (Skj; Skald; SnE 1998) place it in the intercalary clause, although their interpretations have differed. Skj B translates the prepositional phrase as med hensyn til at fortælle om den forbitrede kamp ‘with regard to telling about the bitter fight’. Finnur Jónsson seems to have connected heinvandils and hermðar to form a battle-kenning and translated spjalla (gen. pl. of spjǫll) as at fortælle ‘to telling …’ (lit. ‘to tell’). In LP: hermðarspjǫll, however, he takes hermðarspjǫll heinvandils as a battle-kenning: sværdets vrede ord, kamp ‘the furious words of the sword, battle’ (so also Faulkes in SnE 1998, II, 308). Placing the prepositional phrase til hermðarspjalla heinvandils in the clause beginning with emk hollr … is less attractive from the perspective of content, however, because hollr ‘faithful’ expresses more of a sense of general well-wishing and friendly inclination than being faithful (in battle). Therefore a connection with hlýddi Þórsteini ‘heeded Þorsteinn’ seems preferable. Here til can mean something like LP: til 3 om hensigt, formål, mål ‘concerning intention, aim, purpose’, and would convey that Þorsteinn advocated fighting or gave good advice for the fight. — [4] heinvandils ‘of the whetstone-Vandill [SWORD]’: All previous eds add the gen. ‑s to the second element of this cpd, which is necessary in order to supply a determinant for hermðarspjalla ‘anger-words’ (l. 3) to form a kenning for ‘battle’ in the sense ‘speech of weapons’ (Jón Þorkelsson 1890, 10), and heinvandill most likely denotes a sword or a weapon. Nobody has so far been able to find an entirely convincing explanation for this kenning. The following interpretations have been suggested, the first of which has been adopted in the present edn. (a) The first element of the cpd means ‘whetstone’ and therefore the kenning can be compared to other sword-kennings such as heinflet ‘whetstone-platform’ (Sigv Austv 6/2I), heinland ‘whetstone-land’ (Hallv Knútdr 5/3), heinsǫðull ‘whetstone-saddle’ (Egill Hfl 8/1V (Eg 41)) and einstígi heinar ‘narrow path of the hone’ (Anon (TGT) 29/1). They all belong to the kenning pattern ‘land (or path) of the whetstone [SWORD]’. It is difficult, however, to establish the meaning of the base-word ‘-vandil(l)’ (so all mss). Finnur Jónsson (LP: heinvandill) connects the word with the p. n. Vandill/Vendill that could be interpreted as a variation of ‘land’. This p. n. is always recorded as Vendill, but this vowel variation might have been caused by the variation of -vandill and -vendill in sword-names (see below). For this p. n., which can be Swedish or Danish, see Þjóð Yt 15/8I and Note there. Jón Þorkelsson (1890, 10) emends ‘vandil(l)’ to vaðils ‘ford’, taken as a variation of ‘path’ and Finnur Jónsson (LP: heinvandill) also considers this option. However, that emendation goes against all mss, and it is also doubtful whether ‘ford’ could be a variation of ‘path’. (b) The second element of the cpd ‑vandill can be compared with the sword-name Dragvendill (-vandill) known from Egils saga and Ketils saga hængs; see Egill Lv 35/2V (Eg 64) and Note there. It is also found in Þul Sverða 1/4 (see Note there). There is also another sword called Sigrvandill (-vendill) (ONP: Sigrvandill); see also the kenning rjóðvendill randa ‘the shields’ reddening rod’ (SnSt Ht 13/5). Vandill or vendill could be a diminutive of vǫndr ‘wand, stave’ (see Note to Þul Sverða 1/4) and heinvandill could be a kenning (‘whetstone-stave’). All other hein-kennings have a base-word meaning ‘land’ or ‘place’, however, and the diminutive vandill ‘stave’ is not attested. (c) Faulkes (SnE 1998, II, 305) therefore also considers the possibility that ‑vandill could be the name of a giant (cf. Vandill, Þul Jǫtna II 1/6) and denote the sword as ‘destroyer’. This could be an explanation for the sword-name Dragvandill, but not for heinvandill in the sense ‘whetstone-giant’, because that would mean that the sword destroys the whetstone.

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