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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 3 December 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, 592-3

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

15 — Rv Lv 15II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 15’ 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. 592-3.

Vísts, at frá berr flestu
Fróða meldrs at góðu
vel skúfaðra vífa
vǫxtr þinn, konan svinna.
Skorð lætr hár á herðar
haukvallar sér falla
— átgjǫrnum rauðk erni
ilka — gult sem silki.

Konan svinna, vísts, at vǫxtr þinn berr at góðu frá vel flestu vífa skúfaðra {meldrs Fróða}. {Skorð {haukvallar}} lætr hár, gult sem silki, falla á herðar sér; rauðk ilka átgjǫrnum erni.

Wise woman, it is certain that your [hair-]growth surpasses in beauty [that of] pretty much most women with locks [like] {the meal of Fróði <legendary king>} [GOLD]. {The prop {of the hawk-field}} [ARM > WOMAN] lets her hair, yellow like silk, fall onto her shoulders; I reddened the claws of the food-hungry eagle.

Mss: 325I(12v), Flat(140ra), R702ˣ(46r) (Orkn)

Readings: [2] Fróða meldrs at góðu: fegurð þín konan svinna R702ˣ;    meldrs: so Flat, meldr 325I    [3] skúfaðra: skapaðra R702ˣ;    vífa: so Flat, ‘vipi’ 325I, ‘viva’ corrected from ‘vipa’ R702ˣ    [8] gult: gull Flat

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 15: AI, 508, BI, 482, Skald I, 236, NN §2065; Flat 1860-8, II, 478, Orkn 1887, 160-1, Orkn 1913-16, 233, ÍF 34, 210 (ch. 86), Bibire 1988, 232.

Context: Having arrived in Narbonne, Rǫgnvaldr and his crusaders are invited to a feast by Ermingerðr, who is described as a drottning ‘queen’ and the daughter of the recently-deceased jarl of the town. Ermingerðr enters the hall with her women, carrying a golden vessel to serve Rǫgnvaldr, who grabs her hand and places her on his lap, ok tǫluðu mart um daginn ‘and they spoke about many things during the day’.

Notes: [All]: The visit to Narbonne happened in the summer of 1151. Ermingerðr is Ermengard, Viscountess of Narbonne, daughter of Aymeri IV. She inherited the town at a young age (her date of birth is not known) when her two brothers predeceased her father. After some turbulent years and, despite two marriages of convenience, she ruled Narbonne in her own right from the 1140s and was an energetic and effective ruler until her death in 1196. She appears widely in troubadour poetry and she was probably a patron of this genre. For a full study of her life and rule, see Cheyette 2001 and Caille 2005, chs 10-11; for detailed discussion of the troubadour connection, see Finlay 1995. — [2] meldrs Fróða ‘the meal of Fróði <legendary king> [GOLD]’: This refers to the story of the magic quern Grotti, which grinds out gold for the legendary Dan. king Fróði (SnE 1998, I, 51-8). Here, meldr refers to the product of grinding (‘meal, flour’), but more commonly means ‘the act of grinding’ in OIcel. (cf. SnSt Ht 43III; SnE 1998, I, 53, 57) and indeed the kenning often includes the name of one of the slave-women who did the grinding (e.g. meldr Fenju ‘Fenja’s flour’ in ESk Øxfl 6/6, 7III). Since the whole point of the story is that King Fróði had slaves to do his grinding, meldr must have the meaning ‘meal, flour’ here. This meaning is also found in the dialects of Faroe, Shetland and Orkney and it may be evidence of non-Icel. usage here. The more usual form of this kenning is mjǫl Fróða  ‘Fróði’s meal’ (e.g. Egill Hfl 17/8V). — [2] at góðu ‘in beauty’: Lit. ‘in goodness’ so, by extension ‘in its quality (of beauty)’ (cf. LP: góðr 10). — [3] vífa ‘women’: Both 325I and R702ˣ presumably had exemplars that used insular <v>, hence their spelling of this word with a <p>. — [6, 7] lætr hár falla á herðar sér ‘lets her hair fall onto her shoulders’: The saga prose notes that Ermingerðr hafði laust hárit, sem meyjum er títt at hafa, ok hafði lagt gullhlað um enni sér ‘had loose hair, as is the custom with unmarried women, and had put a gold band around her forehead’. See also Note to Árm Lv 3/7.

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