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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 5 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, 602

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

24 — Rv Lv 24II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 24’ 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. 602.

Erlingr gekk, þars okkur,
ógnsterkr, ruðusk merki,
frægr með fremð ok sigri
fleinlundr at drómundi.
Hlóðum vér, en víða
vas blóð numit þjóðum,
— sverð ruðu snjallir fyrðar
snǫrp — blámanna gǫrpum.

Erlingr, {frægr fleinlundr}, gekk ógnsterkr at drómundi með fremð ok sigri, þars merki okkur ruðusk. Vér hlóðum gǫrpum blámanna, en blóð vas víða numit þjóðum; snjallir fyrðar ruðu snǫrp sverð.

Erlingr, {the renowned spear-tree} [WARRIOR], went, threateningly strong, towards the dromon with success and victory, where our standards were reddened. We piled up the heroes of the black men, and blood was widely taken from the people; valiant men reddened sharp swords.

Mss: Flat(140va), R702ˣ(49r) (Orkn)

Readings: [2] ‑sterkr: ‑sterk R702ˣ    [6] vas (‘var’): varð R702ˣ    [7] snjallir: snarpir R702ˣ

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 24: AI, 510, BI, 484-5, Skald I, 237-8, NN §1155 anm.; Flat 1860-8, II, 485, Orkn 1887, 172-3, Orkn 1913-16, 250, ÍF 34, 226 (ch. 88), Bibire 1988, 235-6.

Context: The crusaders successfully attack a large dromon, killing everyone on board and acquiring a large amount of treasure.

Notes: [All]: Ch. 87 of Orkn describes how Rǫgnvaldr consults both his bishop and Erlingr skakki about the feasibility of attacking the dromon; the bishop is cautious, but Erlingr’s optimism and eloquence win the day. This episode happened somewhere in the Mediterranean, not far from Sardinia, in early 1152. — [1, 5] okkur; vér ‘our; we’: The contrast between the dual pron. in l. 1 and the pl. in l. 5 may not be significant (the dual form is required in l. 1 for the skothending). If it is, then the first helmingr refers to Rǫgnvaldr and Erlingr leading the attack, while the second helmingr refers more generally to the valour of the whole company. — [2] ógnsterkr ‘threateningly strong’: This could also be translated as ‘strong in battle’. — [3] með fremð ok sigri ‘with success and victory’: Cf. HSn Lv 2/5. — [4] at drómundi ‘towards the dromon’: For an alternative poetical account of this episode, see Þskakk Erldr 1 and the Notes there for discussion of what actually happened. — [4] drómundi ‘the dromon’: This was a Byzantine warship or merchantman, though see Note to Þskakk Erldr 1, where it is suggested that the ship being attacked was actually a large sailing ship rather than a dromon.

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