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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 27 November 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, 581-2

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Rv Lv 6II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 6’ 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. 581-2.

Aldr hefk frétt, þats feldu
fránstalls konur allar
— verðrat menja myrðir
mjúkorðr — hǫfuðdúkum.
Nú tér Hlǫkk of hnakka
haukstrindar sér binda
— skrýðisk brúðr við bræði
bengagls — merar tagli.

Hefk aldr frétt, þats allar konur feldu hǫfuðdúkum {fránstalls}; {myrðir menja} verðrat mjúkorðr. Nú tér {Hlǫkk {haukstrindar}} binda tagli merar of hnakka sér; brúðr skrýðisk við {bræði {bengagls}}.

I have always understood that all women wrapped themselves in headdresses {of snake-support} [GOLD]; {the murderer of neck-ornaments} [GENEROUS MAN = Rǫgnvaldr] will not be gentle in his speech. Now {the Hlǫkk <valkyrie> {of the hawk-land}} [ARM > WOMAN = Ragna] ties a mare’s tail around her neck; the lady got dressed up for {the feeder {of the wound-gosling}} [RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR = Rǫgnvaldr].

Mss: Flat(138vb), R702ˣ(42v) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] Aldr: so R702ˣ, Aldri Flat;    hefk (‘hefig’): so R702ˣ, ‘ef ek’ Flat;    frétt: so R702ˣ, ‘freitt’ Flat;    þats: þar er Flat, R702ˣ    [2] frán‑: so R702ˣ, fram Flat;    allar: alla R702ˣ    [3] verðrat: ‘verdat’ R702ˣ    [4] mjúkorðr: ‘mik‑o᷎rdz’ R702ˣ    [6] hauk‑: so R702ˣ, hodd‑ Flat;    sér: so R702ˣ, sem Flat

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 6: AI, 506, BI, 480, Skald I, 235, NN §2062; Flat 1860-8, II, 468, Orkn 1887, 140, Orkn 1913-16, 204-5, ÍF 34, 184-5 (ch. 81), Bibire 1988, 228.

Context: After Hallr Þórarinsson’s unsuccessful attempt to join Rǫgnvaldr’s court (cf. Hbreiðm Lv), his hostess Ragna goes to see the jarl, wearing some kind of headdress made of red horsehair; the st. is Rǫgnvaldr’s response to her appearance.

Notes: [1] þats ‘that’: This emendation was first proposed in Skj B. — [2] fránstalls ‘of snake-support [GOLD]’: Previous eds have found the interpretation of this difficult. Orkn 1887 emends the reading of R702ˣ to fránstall, but does not explain the word. Skj B (followed in Orkn 1913-16) emends to faldstall ‘support of the headdress’ i.e. ‘head’ and construes konur feldu faldstall... ‘women wrapped their heads...’ which fits the context, but the echoing of feld- and fald- (with the same semantic range) is neither fortunate nor supported by the mss. Along the same lines, Kock (NN §2062) also considers the simpler emendation to framstall which he imagines could mean ‘forehead’, before rejecting it for an interpretation which keeps fránstalls. He suggests that it refers to a lysande (fornämt) säte ‘shining (distinguished) seat’ and that fránstalls konur are analogous to hásætismenn ‘people who sit in the high seat’, but this sits ill with the connotations of the first element, which is often associated with the shining skin of snakes (LP: fránn, adj.). ÍF 34 (followed by Bibire 1988) keeps the reading of Flat and adopts Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s interpretation (LP 1860: framstall) of it as pars rei anterior ‘the front part of something’ and therefore pars potior et dignior, making the women matronæ honoratiores ‘high-ranking’ (as translated by Bibire). The most likely explanation is that fránstall is a gold-kenning (for fránn as a snake-heiti see SnE 1848-87, II, 458) and that Rǫgnvaldr is contrasting the more usual headgear of fine ladies with the mare’s tail worn by Ragna. — [6] haukstrindar ‘of the hawk-land’: While hoddstrind is a possible woman-kenning, meaning ‘treasure-ground’, Flat’s gen. sg. form hoddstrindar cannot be construed with Hlǫkk as required by the sense of the st. — [8] tagli merar ‘a mare’s tail’: It is not clear who is insulting whom here. Rǫgnvaldr accuses Ragna of wearing a mare’s tail around her neck and the association of women and mares (particularly their hindquarters) implies a strong sexuality (cf. ÍF 28, 155 and ÍF 29, 269). At the same time, it is conceivable that Rǫgnvaldr thinks Ragna is impugning his masculinity by presenting him with a token from a female animal. The saga-author may have seen it this way, as Ragna goes on to claim that the horsehair is in fact from a stallion, as if she were asserting her own ability to behave like a man. And indeed she gets what she wants, though only after she has covered herself in a more conventional silk headdress. See also Clunies Ross 1992a.

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