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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, 599-600

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

21 — Rv Lv 21II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 21’ 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. 599-600.

Skalkak hryggr í hreggi,
Hlín, meðan strengr ok lína
svǫrðr fyr snekkju barði,
svalteigar, brestr eigi.
Því réðk hvítri heita
hǫrskorð, es fórk norðan,
— vindr berr snart at sundi
súðmar — konu prúðri.

Skalkak hryggr í hreggi, {Hlín {svalteigar}}, meðan strengr ok lína, svǫrðr fyr barði snekkju, brestr eigi. Því réðk heita {hvítri hǫrskorð}, prúðri konu, es fórk norðan; vindr berr {súðmar} snart at sundi.

I shall not be upset in the storm, {Hlín <goddess> {of the cool plot}} [SEA > WOMAN], as long as the rope and the line, the hawser before the craft’s prow, does not break. That is what I promised {to the pale linen-prop} [WOMAN], the splendid woman, when I headed from the north; the wind carries {the plank-horse} [SHIP] briskly towards the strait.

Mss: Flat(140rb), R702ˣ(47v) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] Skalkak (‘skalka ek’): so R702ˣ, skal ek ei Flat    [3] svǫrðr: suðr Flat, ‘svirdur’ R702ˣ;    snekkju: so R702ˣ, ‘suediu’ Flat    [4] sval‑: sal R702ˣ    [5] Því réðk (‘þui red ek’): so R702ˣ, ‘beint nam ek’ Flat;    hvítri: hvít at R702ˣ    [8] ‑mar: ‘manz’ R702ˣ

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 21: AI, 509-10, BI, 483-4, Skald I, 237, NN §978; Flat 1860-8, II, 482, Orkn 1887, 167-8, Orkn 1913-16, 243, ÍF 34, 219-20 (ch. 87), Bibire 1988, 234-5.

Context: Sailing down the west coast of Spain, the crusaders suffer a storm, during which they spend three days at anchor, fearing that their ships will be wrecked.

Notes: [2, 4] Hlín svalteigar ‘Hlín <goddess> of the cool plot [SEA > WOMAN]’: Svalteigr ‘cool plot’ is very clearly a kenning for ‘sea’, albeit an unusual one, since the determinant would normally be a noun referring to an attribute of the sea such as a sea-king, sea-creature or waves (Meissner 92-8). Bibire 1988 links this with hreggi ‘storm’ in l. 1 and leaves the goddess-name Hlín isolated as a heiti for ‘woman’; such half-kennings are uncharacteristic of Rǫgnvaldr. Skj B solves the problem by emending Hlín to a verb hvínn (3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of hvína ‘squeak’) and construing the cl. differently (svǫrðr hvínn ‘the hawser squeaks’). The interpretation here follows ÍF 34: while the woman-kenning Hlín svalteigar ‘goddess of the cool plot (of ground)’ is unparalleled, it appears to belong to a type identified by Meissner in which a word for ‘fire, light’ has been omitted and which eventually becomes a recognised type (Meissner 419). It is possible that at some stage in its textual history the st. may have become irretrievably corrupted by association with a woman-kenning such as Hlín valteigar ‘goddess of the falcon-plot (arm)’, which is of a common type (cf. LP: Hlín), but is impossible here since it would not provide the requisite alliteration. — [2-3] strengr ok lína, svǫrðr fyr barði snekkju ‘the rope and the line, the hawser before the craft’s prow’: All of these refer to the anchor-rope. — [3] svǫrðr ‘the hawser’: This reading is found in 762ˣ (Skj A), but is presumably the scribe’s conjecture rather than a variant, since this ms. is a copy of 702ˣ. — [7] at sundi ‘towards the strait’: Judging from the prose context, this refers to the Straits of Gibraltar (cf. also Oddi Lv 3).

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