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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, 598

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

20 — Rv Lv 20II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 20’ 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, p. 598.

Vôn ák — út á Spáni
vas skjótt rekinn flótti —
— flýði margr af mœði
menlundr — konu fundar.
Því erum vér, at vôru*
væn hljóð kveðin þjóðum,
— valr tók vǫll at hylja —
verðir Ermingerðar.

Ák vôn fundar konu; flótti vas rekinn skjótt út á Spáni; {margr menlundr} flýði af mœði. Því erum vér verðir Ermingerðar, at væn hljóð vôru* kveðin þjóðum; valr tók at hylja vǫll.

I have hopes of meeting the woman; the fleeing host was chased swiftly out in Spain; {many a neck-ring tree} [MAN] fled because of exhaustion. This is why we are worthy of Ermingerðr, because beautiful sounds were spoken to people; corpses began to cover the field.

Mss: Flat(140rb) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] ák: ek Flat    [5] vôru*: vrum Flat

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 20: AI, 509, BI, 483-4, Skald I, 237; Flat 1860-8, II, 482, Orkn 1887, 167, Orkn 1913-16, 243, ÍF 34, 219 (ch. 87), Bibire 1988, 234.

Context: While harrying in Spánland it heiðna ‘heathen Spain’ (ÍF 34, 218), Rǫgnvaldr’s troops attack a village where they meet resistance, but eventually chase the inhabitants away.

Notes: [1, 4] vôn fundar konu; út á Spáni ‘hopes of meeting the woman; out in Spain’: Skj B construes the adverbial phrase with the framing cl. of this helmingr, but it is not clear which woman the poet might expect to meet in Spain. Since Ermingerðr is mentioned in l. 8, it is most likely that this is also a reference to her, and that Rǫgnvaldr is interweaving his memories, thoughts and expectations of her with his current activities, as also in sts 15, 17, 19, 21-2, 25. — [6] væn hljóð ‘beautiful sounds’: It is not clear what these are. Bibire 1988 translates ‘splendid voices (of war)’, but does not really link this expression to why the poet considers himself worthy of Ermingerðr. Finnbogi Guðmundsson (ÍF 34) does link the two, but glosses the sentence as að barizt var með miklu braki ‘because the fighting took place with much noise’, following Skj B, which however emends to vápnhljóð ‘weapon-sounds’. It seems more likely that Rǫgnvaldr is referring to his own poetry and developing the contrast between past and present activities. He is not averse to praising himself (see Note to Lv 16/2), and refers to his own poetry in sts 11 and 23, and to his role as poet in st. 35, as well as, of course, in st. 1. — [8] Ermingerðar ‘of Ermingerðr’: See Note to st. 15 [All].

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