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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 26 January 2022)

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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, 595-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

17 — Rv Lv 17II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 17’ 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. 595-6.

Vín bar hvít in hreina
hlað-Nipt alindriptar;
sýndisk fegrð, es fundumsk,
ferðum Ermingerðar.
Nú tegask ǫld með eldi
eljunfrœkn at sœkja
— ríða snǫrp ór slíðrum
sverð — kastala ferðir.

Hvít bar {in hreina hlað-Nipt {alindriptar}} vín; fegrð Ermingerðar sýndisk ferðum, es fundumsk. Nú tegask eljunfrœkn ǫld at sœkja ferðir kastala með eldi; snǫrp sverð ríða ór slíðrum.

White, {the pure headband-Nipt <norn> of forearm-snow}} [GOLD > WOMAN] served wine; the beauty of Ermingerðr was shown to men when we met. Now staunchly bold people prove ready to attack the men of the castle with fire; sharp swords swing out from scabbards.

Mss: Flat(140rb), R702ˣ(47r) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] hvít: hvítt R702ˣ    [2] alin‑ (‘á lín’): so R702ˣ, Skǫgul Flat;    ‑driptar: so R702ˣ, ‘drifta’ Flat    [3] fegrð: so R702ˣ, fǫgr Flat;    fundumsk: fundusk R702ˣ    [4] ferðum: ferðir R702ˣ    [6] eljun‑: so R702ˣ, ‘eikum’ Flat;    ‑frœkn: so R702ˣ, fremr Flat

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 17: AI, 509, BI, 482-3, Skald I, 237, NN §§976, 2065; Flat 1860-8, II, 481, Orkn 1887, 165, Orkn 1913-16, 239-40, ÍF 34, 215-16 (ch. 87), Bibire 1988, 233.

Context: After a lengthy siege of a castle in Galicia, Rǫgnvaldr orders the attack on the tenth day of Christmas. His men place firewood all around the castle and set it alight once they are ready to attack.

Notes: [All]: This episode took place during Christmas 1151. Having arrived in Galicia, the crusaders decided to spend the festive season there. Finding it difficult to buy supplies, they made an agreement with the local inhabitants to buy supplies from them in exchange for driving out the oppressive lord Guðifreyr and his men from his castle. The episode is similar to one involving Sigurðr jórsalafari, also in Galicia (MsonaHkr ch. 4). — [1] hvít ‘white’: Kock (NN §976) prefers to take the reading of R702ˣ and construe this adj. with vín ‘wine’ though such a focus on the colour of wine is not found elsewhere in poetry. Rǫgnvaldr uses the same adj. of Ermingerðr in st. 21/5. — [2] hlað-Nipt alindriptar ‘headband-Nipt <norn> of forearm-snow [GOLD > WOMAN]’: A hlað could be either a ‘headband’ or a ‘decorative border on clothing’ (LP). Nipt is not a frequently-occurring word, mostly used to mean either ‘sister’ or ‘niece’ (LP), though etymologically it is a precise term for ‘sister’s daughter’ (AEW). None of these is particularly relevant in this context, and it may be better to take it as the name of a norn (attested in Þul Ásynja 5/3III) giving ‘the norn of the golden headband’; indeed Ermingerðr is described in the saga-prose as wearing a golden headband (cf. Note to st. 15/6-7). Alindript ‘forearm-snow’ is usually taken to mean ‘silver’ (LP; Meissner 224; NN §976; ÍF 34; Bibire 1988) and could indeed be taken so here. However, woman-kennings are normally constructed with a word or kenning for ‘gold’, rather than ‘silver’, as determinant (Meissner 413-14; cf. st. 4/4; associations of women with gold hair and headdresses are also found in sts 6, 15). Although ‘snow’ does seem to suggest ‘silver’ rather than ‘gold’, there is evidence that it could be used in ‘gold’-kennings in Rǫgnvaldr’s and subsequent poetry. Thus there are similar kennings in RvHbreiðm Hl 8/3III dript alnar ‘snow-drift of the fore-arm’ and SnSt Ht 43/3-4III glaðdript Grotta ‘joyful snow-drift of Grotti’. Meissner 224 translates both of these as Silber ‘silver’, however the former is about Gunnar Gjúkason and the Niflung treasure, and this and the reference to Grotti in the latter suggest that they are in fact gold-kennings. While Snorri makes a clear distinction between red gold and white silver (SnE 1998, I, 61), the Litla Skálda treatise allows for the possibility of constructing gold-kennings with words meaning ‘snow’ or ‘ice’ (SnE 1931, 256), particularly in relation to the hand. Thus, Rǫgnvaldr’s woman-kenning must be understood to include a gold-kenning as was traditional, though the gold-kenning itself is not traditional. — [4] Ermingerðar ‘of Ermingerðr’: See Note to st. 15 [All].

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