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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, 606-7

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

30 — Rv Lv 30II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 30’ 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. 606-7.

Villat vinr minn kalla
— varð allr í drit falla —
— nær vas í því œrin
ógæfa — ‘miðhæfi’.
Lítt hykk, at þá þœtti
þengils mágr, es rengðisk,
— leirr fellr grár af gauri —
góligr, í Imbólum.

Vinr minn villat kalla ‘miðhæfi’; varð allr falla í drit; vas í því nær œrin ógæfa. Hykk, at mágr þengils þœtti lítt góligr þá, es rengðisk í Imbólum; grár leirr fellr af gauri.

My friend does not wish to call out ‘miðhæfi’; he fell right down in the shit; there was in that nearly enough bad luck. I think that the in-law of the prince [= Erlingr] seemed not very attractive then, when he mis-stepped in Imbólum; grey mud falls from the ruffian.

Mss: Flat(140vb), R702ˣ(50v) (Orkn)

Readings: [2] varð: varð hann Flat    [3] vas (‘var’): er R702ˣ    [5] Lítt: hitt R702ˣ    [7] leirr: saurr R702ˣ;    fellr: fell R702ˣ;    af gauri: so R702ˣ, of geira Flat

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 30: AI, 511, BI, 486, Skald I, 238, NN §2068; Flat 1860-8, II, 488, Orkn 1887, 177, Orkn 1913-16, 257, ÍF 34, 234 (ch. 88), Bibire 1988, 238.

Context: In a place called Imbólum, it was apparently the custom for people to shout miðhæfi when they wanted someone coming in the opposite direction in a narrow place to give way. On one occasion when he was very drunk, Erlingr skakki failed to give way to some townspeople shouting this on a gangplank and fell into the mud of the harbour. The st. is Rǫgnvaldr’s response when he heard about this the next day.

Notes: [3]: This l. lacks the first alliterating stave. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) adopts the variant er ‘is’ (for vas ‘was’) from R702ˣ, but this is not metrically satisfactory, as noted by Kock (NN §2068) who prefers to take the same ms.’s ‘no᷎r’ as an error for ‘uo᷎r’, i.e. (v)ór ‘our’. While this would solve the metrical problem, it does not explain the Flat variant (nær ‘nearly’), nor is it at all clear why Rǫgnvaldr would see Erlingr’s fall as his own or their joint misfortune. It is probably best to accept that the l. (or possibly even the whole couplet) has been corrupted from an original which cannot now be reconstructed. — [4] ‘miðhæfi’: This is not an ON word (and is duly not recorded in Fritzner, while LP paraphrases the saga explanation). Summaries of possible Gk expressions it could represent can be found in ÍF 34, 233-4 n. 4 and McDougall 1987-8, 219-20. These suggestions depend of course on the location of Imbólum (see Note to l. 8 below) and whether the language spoken there was Gk. CVC suggests an expression that means ‘go away’, while Sigfús Blöndal (1978, 155-6) advocates a suggestion that it means ‘do not cross’, which may be relevant to Erlingr’s situation on the gangplank, but is less likely for the more general custom. — [6] mágr þengils ‘the in-law of the prince [= Erlingr]’: Erlingr was married to Kristín, the daughter of King Sigurðr jórsalafari Magnússon. — [7] fellr ‘falls’: If the saga-context is correct that Rǫgnvaldr composed this st. the following morning, then R702ˣ’s variant fell ‘fell’ is to be preferred. — [8] í Imbólum ‘in Imbólum’: Suggestions for where this was include Ampipholis in Macedonia and the Isle of Imbros in the Dardanelles (ÍF 34, 233 n. 2). McDougall (1987-8, 228 n. 38) concludes that the most likely place is Neochori, the harbour of Ampipholis. Meissner (1925, 183-4) did not think it was a p. n., though the author of Orkn, at any rate, clearly thought it was a town by this name (ÍF 34, 233). He also interpreted it as a nom. form, although in the st. it appears to have a dat. pl. ending.

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