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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson (Rv)

12th century; volume 2; ed. Judith Jesch;

Lausavísur (Lv) - 32

Skj info: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Orknøsk jarl og skjald, d. 1158. (AI, 505-28, BI, 478-87).

Skj poems:
Lausavísur [33-35]

Rǫgnvaldr Kali Kolsson, jarl of Orkney, is known primarily from Orkn, in which he is one of the main characters, but he is also mentioned in other texts, including Hkr (ÍF 28, 324-5) and Icel. annals (Storm 1888, 20-1, 60, 113-14, 116, 120, 321-2, 324). He was born Kali Kolsson, the son of a Norw. nobleman from Agder, Kolr Kalason, and Gunnhildr, the sister of the martyred S. Magnús of Orkney (ÍF 34, 101-2). Orkn recounts various episodes from Rǫgnvaldr’s youth, in Norway and elsewhere, several of them associated with lvv. (see below). Though we are not told how and when he learned the skaldic art, his grandfather Kali Sæbjarnarson is said to have been good at poetical composition (ÍF 34, 95) and indeed Orkn preserves one st. by him (Kali Lv). Kali Kolsson was given the name Rǫgnvaldr by King Sigurðr jórsalafari Magnússon when he also made him joint jarl of Orkney with Páll Hákonarson. There are relatively few lvv. associated with Rǫgnvaldr’s assumption of power in Orkney and subsequent political affairs, though both are recounted at length in the saga. Rǫgnvaldr is remembered for his poetry, especially that composed during his crusade to the Holy Land in 1151-3, and for instigating the building of the cathedral in Kirkwall, dedicated to his uncle S. Magnús. Rǫgnvaldr was killed in Caithness in an ambush by political opponents in 1158 (according to the Icel. annals, but 1159 according to the internal chronology of Orkn, cf. ÍF 34, xc) and is remembered as a saint. His relics were translated in 1192 (according to the Icel. annals) and a skull and some bones found in St Magnus Cathedral may have been his (Jesch and Molleson, 2005). There are thirty-five lvv. attributed to Rǫgnvaldr, of which thirty-two are preserved in mss of Orkn and edited here. Three further lvv. (Rv Lv 33-5III) are edited in SkP III, along with Háttalykill (RvHbreiðm HlIII), a poetical guide to metres composed by Rǫgnvaldr jointly with Hallr Þórarinsson breiðmaga.

Vol. II. Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: from c. 1035 to c. 1300 > 8. Introduction > 5. Biographies > 2. Biographies of Other Dignitaries > e. Rǫgnvaldr Kali Kolsson

Jarl Rǫgnvaldr Kali Kolsson of Orkney is not commemorated in praise poetry, and his biography is therefore not included here. For his life and poetic works, see his skald Biography.

Lausavísur — Rv LvII

Judith Jesch 2009, ‘ Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 575-609. <> (accessed 21 September 2021)

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Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson: Lausavísur (AI, 505-12, BI, 478-87); stanzas (if different): 33 | 34 | 35

SkP info: II, 590-1

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

13 — Rv Lv 13II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 13’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 590-1.

Lætr of ǫxl, sás útar,
aldrœnn, stendr á tjaldi,
sig-Freyr Svǫlnis Vára
slíðrvǫnd ofan ríða.
Eigi mun, þótt œgir
ǫrbeiðanda reiðisk,
bríkruðr bǫðvar* jǫkla
beinrangr framar ganga.

{Aldrœnn sig-Freyr}, sás stendr útar á tjaldi, lætr {slíðrvǫnd {Svǫlnis Vára}} ríða ofan of ǫxl. {Beinrangr {{bǫðvar* jǫkla} brík}ruðr} mun eigi ganga framar, þótt {œgir {ǫrbeiðanda}} reiðisk.

{The elderly battle-Freyr <= god>} [WARRIOR] who stands further out on the tapestry lets {his scabbard-wand {of Svǫlnir’s <= Óðinn’s> Várs <goddesses>}} [VALKYRIES > SWORD] swing down from his shoulder. {The bandy-legged tree {of the plank {of the glaciers of battle}}} [(lit. ‘plank-tree of the glaciers of battle’) SWORDS > SHIELD > WARRIOR] will not go further forward even if {the threatener {of arrow-requesters}} [WARRIORS > WARRIOR] gets angry.

Mss: Flat(139va), R702ˣ(45r) (Orkn)

Readings: [2] stendr: maðr R702ˣ    [3] Svǫlnis: so R702ˣ, ‘saudins’ Flat    [7] brík‑: blik Flat, R702ˣ;    ‑ruðr: ‑rauðr R702ˣ;    bǫðvar*: bǫðvars Flat, ‘bodvir’ R702ˣ

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 13: AI, 508, BI, 481-2, Skald I, 236, NN §§974, 975; Flat 1860-8, II, 475, Orkn 1887, 154, Orkn 1913-16, 222, ÍF 34, 202 (ch. 85), Bibire 1988, 231.

Context: At Christmas time, Rǫgnvaldr jarl challenged Oddi to compose a st. (Oddi Lv 1) about one of his wall-hangings, at the same time as, and without using any of the words in, Rǫgnvaldr’s own st. on the same subject.

Notes: [All]: Both this st. and Oddi Lv 1 are interpreted here as referring to a wall-hanging that depicts a warrior prepared to attack a person or persons unknown. Rǫgnvaldr’s st. seems to make the point that, because of the static nature of the image, the warrior will never carry out his threat, however angry he gets. Oddi’s st. has more detail (the warrior is standing by a door, presumably to attack whoever comes out) and the poet enters into the spirit of the pictorial narrative by assuming an ongoing, rather than a static, situation. Detailed discussion of both sts, including previous interpretations and new readings of both, is offered by Poole 2006. The st. has clearly suffered in transmission and is impossible to construe without some kind of emendation; the interpretation offered here is one of several conceivable. — [1, 8] útar; framar ‘further out; further forward’: Útar is construed with á tjaldi, rather than meaning that the man stands ‘just inside the dwelling’, as Poole (2006, 153) would have it, while framar is taken to refer to the swinging/striking motion with the sword that the warrior depicted will not complete. — [1, 4] ríða ofan of ǫxl ‘swing down from his shoulder’: The meaning ‘swing’ is well attested for ríða (LP); the warrior is presumably depicted as just about to strike a blow, or in mid-strike. — [4] slíðrvǫnd ‘scabbard-wand’: LP translates this as frygtelig vånd ‘dreadful wand’ (similarly Poole 2006, 148). While this meaning of slíðr (as a compounding epithet) predominates in earlier poetry, the meaning ‘scabbard’ is better attested in the C12th, including several examples in Rǫgnvaldr’s own poetry (st. 17 below; RvHbreiðm Hl 18, 71, 74III), both as a simplex and in kennings. Admittedly, the resulting kenning is imperfect, as it contains an extra determinant, Svǫlnis Vára ‘Svǫlnir’s Várs’, and Poole’s solution remains a possibility. — [6] ǫrbeiðanda ‘of arrow-requesters’: Bibire 1988 interprets the first element as ‘arrow’ (ǫr f.), but admits the possibility that it means ‘eager’ (as in LP), Poole (2006, 147) translates it as ‘frenzied’, while both Skj B and ÍF 34 paraphrase the whole expression rather than translating. While the adj. ǫrr, meaning both ‘quick’ (and therefore ‘bold, brave’) and ‘generous’ is used elsewhere by Rv (cf. sts 1/1, 12/6), both as a simplex and as the first element in a cpd, a weapon-word seems most appropriate in this context. — [7] bríkruðr ‘plank-tree’: The emendation of blik- ‘shimmer’ to brík ‘plank’ rather than of œgir ‘threatener’ to ægis ‘of the sea’ (l. 5), as in Skj B, Skald, ÍF 34 and Poole 2006, provides a warrior-kenning which is more appropriate to the content of the st. than the generous man-kenning of those interpretations. The emendation also simplifies the w. o. considerably and avoids an awkward tripartite l. (l. 5). — [7] bǫðvar* ‘of battle’: This emendation is first found (though not noted as such) in Orkn 1887.

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