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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 28 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, 586-7

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Rv Lv 9II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 9’ 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. 586-7.

Skekk hér skinnfeld hrokkinn;
skrauts mér afar lítit;
stórrs, sás stendr of órum,
stafnvǫllr, yfirhǫfnum.
Nærgis enn af úrgum
álvangs mari gǫngum
— brim rak hest við hamra
húns — skrautligar búnir.

Skekk hér hrokkinn skinnfeld; [e]s mér afar lítit skraut; {stafnvǫllr}, sás stendr of yfirhǫfnum órum, [e]s stórr. Nærgis gǫngum enn skrautligar búnir af {úrgum mari {álvangs}}; brim rak {hest húns} við hamra.

I shake out here a wrinkled leather garment; it provides me with very little finery; {the prow-field} [SEA] which surrounds our outerwear is big. Some day we’ll go more finely dressed from {a spray-swept horse {of the eel plain}} [SEA > SHIP]; surf drove {the stallion of the mast-head} [SHIP] onto cliffs.

Mss: Flat(139va), R702ˣ(43v) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] Skekk (‘Skekk ek’): ‘Sekki ek’ R702ˣ;    hér: om. R702ˣ    [3] órum: so R702ˣ, ‘aurum’ Flat    [5] Nærgis (‘no᷎rgi er’): so R702ˣ, ‘feingr er’ Flat;    úrgum: so R702ˣ, ungum Flat    [6] álvangs: so R702ˣ, ‘alfangs’ Flat    [7] brim: heim R702ˣ    [8] skrautligar: so R702ˣ, skrautligir Flat

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 9: AI, 507, BI, 480-1, Skald I, 236, NN §§2063, 2205E, 2735A; Flat 1860-8, II, 474, Orkn 1887, 150, Orkn 1913-16, 218, ÍF 34, 197 (ch. 85), Bibire 1988, 229-30.

Context: As for st. 8.

Notes: [All]: After uttering st. 8, Rǫgnvaldr is offered a leather garment by the mistress of the farm where he is staying; the saga says hann ... tók hlæjandi við ok kvað ‘he ... accepted it with a laugh and spoke’ before citing st. 9. Finnbogi Guðmundsson’s interpretation of this st. (ÍF 34; similarly Bibire 1988, though his translation is not especially clear) links l. 2 with the main statement in the second helmingr, making Rǫgnvaldr say something to the effect that the leather garment just given to him will provide little finery whenever he steps better-dressed off a ship. While it is conceivable that Rǫgnvaldr is disparaging the garment by saying that he will never wear it in future, it makes more sense to see contrast rather than continuity between the two halves of the st. In ll. 1-2, Rǫgnvaldr is disparaging of a garment. In ll. 5-6, 8 he expresses the hope that in the future he will step well-dressed from his ship, in contrast to his present gear, which has been truly sodden (ll. 3-4). The st. makes no reference to a woman giving him a leather garment, and it is more natural to read l. 1 as referring to Rǫgnvaldr’s own sodden clothing which he is shaking out once on dry land. This interpretation is based on the argument made by Kock (NN §2735) that nærgis (l. 5) means not just ‘when, whenever’ (the usual meaning recorded in dictionaries), but has an additional implication of det blir kanske bättre en annan gång ‘things may be better another time’; he cites Egill Lv 19V, Þorm Lv 1V, Klauf Lv 2V and KormǪ Lv 40V which all show the poet with a positive attitude to a future event. — [1] skekk ‘I shake out’: This represents the 1st pers. sg. pres. indic. of skaka, with suffixed pron., i.e. skek ek. — [1] skinnfeld ‘leather garment’: The various witnesses to the prose of Orkn differ as to what exactly is being offered to Rǫgnvaldr. Flat has skinnfeldarskikkju ‘cloak made of leather’, R702ˣ (which sometimes includes the prose of the saga, but not always exactly) has skinnfeld ... fyrir skikkju ‘piece of leather ... as a cloak’ (also Worm 1650, 117), and Holm papp 39 folˣ (an early modern translation of the saga into Dan.) has en skindfeld oc en kiortel ‘a piece of leather and a tunic’ (Orkn 1913-16, 218 n.). But see above, in which it is suggested that the st. does not describe the gift of a wrinkled garment. — [2]: The l. has skothending rather than aðalhending.

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