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Hallbjǫrn hali (Hhal)

12th century; volume 1; ed. Kate Heslop;

I. Lausavísa (Lv) - 1

Hallbjǫrn hali (‘Tail’; Hhal) was an Icelander, the shepherd of an otherwise unknown Þorkell of Þingvellir, according to Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds (ÞorlJ; ÍF 9, 227). Only one stanza attributed to him survives, in connection with an anecdote telling how he acquired poetic skill from the ghost of Þorleifr jarlsskáld (Þjsk) in a dream (see Lausavísa below). According to ÞorlJ Þorleifr was killed by agents of Hákon jarl, whose death c. 995 would supply an approximate terminus a quo for Þorleifr’s appearance as a ghost. If Hallbjǫrn is taken as a historical figure, therefore, as Almqvist (1965-74, I, 193) thinks he should be, he would have been alive in the late tenth century. However, doubt remains about this and about the authenticity of the stanza. Similarities between the anecdote and Skáldskaparmál’s account of poetics have been noted (SnE 1848-87, III, 374; ÍF 9, ci), and if these are genuine signs of influence, they would date it to after the mid-thirteenth century, and Hallbjǫrn may be fictional. Further, a Hallbjǫrn hali is named in Skáldatal as the poet of Knútr Eiríksson, King of Sweden (d. 1195) and King Sverrir of Norway (d. 1202), and it is tempting to identify this figure with the Hallbjǫrn of ÞorlJ, who is said to have travelled abroad and composed praise-poems for many rulers. This is presumably the reason why Finnur Jónsson dates the stanza c. 1190 in Skj (cf. LH II, 75-6). Two other men called Hallbjǫrn hali appear in the sources (SnE 1848-87, III, 370-6; ÍF 9, 229 n. 1), but they are almost certainly different people.

Lausavísa — Hhal LvI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘ Hallbjǫrn hali, Lausavísa’ 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. 362. <> (accessed 22 January 2022)

stanzas:  1 

Skj: Hallbjǫrn hali: Lausavísa, o. 1190 (AI, 540, BI, 521); stanzas (if different): [v]

SkP info: I, 383

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Hhal Lv 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallbjǫrn hali, Lausavísa 1’ 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. 383.

Hér liggr skald, þats skalda
skǫrungr vas mestr at flestu;
naddveiti frák nýtan
níð kuni smíða.
Áðr gat engr síðan
annarra svá manna
— frægt hefr orðit þat fyrðum —
férán lokit hônum.


Here lies the skald who was the greatest champion among skalds in most respects; I heard {the handy spear-offerer} [WARRIOR] crafted níð against Hákon. No other man managed before or since to pay him [Hákon] back so for robbery; that has become famous among men.

context: Hallbjǫrn is trying to compose a commemorative poem about Þorleifr jarlsskáld but can get no further than Hér liggr skald ‘Here lies a skald’. Þorleifr appears to Hallbjǫrn in a dream and recites this stanza, telling him that if he can recall it when he wakes he will become a great poet.

notes: [1] hér liggr skald, þats skalda ‘here lies the skald who ... among skalds’: The phrasing and rhythm recall the first line of Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld’s famous ‘sword’ stanza: Hfr Lv 11/1V (Hallfr 14) Eitt es sverð þats sverða ‘That is a sword among swords, that…’. — [7] frægt hefr orðit þat fyrðum ‘that has become famous among men’: This line is hypermetric. Kock suggests replacing hefr ‘has’ with enclitic -s ‘is’ (hence frægts orðit, without change of meaning) to correct the metre (NN §2542; Skald), but emendation solely for metrical reasons is generally avoided in the present edn.

texts: ÞorlJ 6, Flat 232

editions: Skj Hallbjǫrn hali: Lausavísa (AI, 540; BI, 521); Skald I, 254, NN §2542; SHI 3, 107, Flat 1860-68, I, 215, ÞorlJ 1883, 131, 159, ÍF 9, 228, ÍS III, 2274 (ÞorlJ).


GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 28va, 30 - 28va, 33 (Flat)  transcr.  image  image  image  
BLAdd 4867x (4867x) 102v, 30 - 102v, 33 (ÞorlJ)  
AM 563 a 4°x (563ax) 8, 12 - 8, 14 (ÞorlJ)  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated