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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þórðr Kolbeinsson (ÞKolb)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Jayne Carroll;

Eiríksdrápa (Eirdr) - 17

Skj info: Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Islandsk skjald, 11. årh. (AI, 212-19, BI, 202-9).

Skj poems:
1. Belgskakadrápa
2. Gunnlaugsdrápa ormstungu
3. Eiríksdrápa
4. Lausavísur

Þórðr Kolbeinsson (ÞKolb) was born c. 974 in Iceland (ÍF 3, lxxxviii). The Hauksbók version of Ldn names his father as Kolbeinn klakkhǫfði ‘Lump-head’ (?) Atlason, from Atley (Atløy) in Norway, while the Sturlubók version names him as Kolbeinn Þórðarson (ÍF 1, 99, 144, lxiv-vi). Þórðr’s mother is said in Bjarnar saga Hítdœlakappa (BjH, ÍF 3, 168) to be called Arnóra; in Ldn (ÍF 1, 142) she is also identified as the daughter of Gunnbjǫrn. Þórðr’s home was at Hítarnes in western Iceland; the poet Arnórr jarlaskáld (ArnII), one of Þórðr’s five sons, was born there. Two other sons, Kolbeinn and Kolli, are named in BjH, and three unnamed daughters are also mentioned (ÍF 3, 125, 171-2, 174, 179, 208). Nothing is known about Þórðr’s death.

Þórðr is famous as the villain of BjH, in which he marries Oddný eykyndill ‘Island-candle’ Þorkelsdóttir, having deceived her into believing that Bjǫrn Arngeirsson (BjhítV), to whom she is betrothed, is dead. This intensifies a life-long feud between Þórðr and Bjǫrn which ends with Bjǫrn’s death at Þórðr’s hands.

Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 257, 258, 261, 262, 266, 274, 280, 283) names Þórðr as poet to four rulers: Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson of Hlaðir (Lade; d. c. 1023); the Norwegian kings Óláfr Haraldsson (d. 1030) and, in the U redaction, Magnús góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson (d. 1047); and, in the 761aˣ redaction, the Danish king Sveinn Úlfsson (d. 1076). Of these, only Eiríkr is named in source texts as the recipient of surviving stanzas, although BjH (ÍF 3, 126-7) has Þórðr compose and recite a drápa for Óláfr. It is doubtful on chronological grounds that Þórðr composed for Sveinn Úlfsson, and it has been suggested (Fidjestøl 1982, 117) that confusion with Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ (d. 1014) might lie behind the erroneous listing. Seventeen stanzas about Eiríkr jarl survive, and in this edition all are attributed to Eiríksdrápa (ÞKolb Eirdr) with varying degrees of confidence. BjH places Þórðr in Eiríkr’s retinue in Norway, c. 1007, delivering a poem entitled Belgskakadrápa ‘Bag-shaking drápa’ (ÍF 3, 115-9), but this may be the same poem as Eirdr, whose content suggests that Þórðr paid court to Eiríkr in England after the conquest of Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great) in 1016 and before Eiríkr’s death c. 1023 (see Introduction to Eirdr). In addition to Eirdr, twelve lausavísur (ÞKolb Lv 1-12V) are preserved in BjH, mostly directed against the saga’s hero, Bjǫrn, and a single stanza said to be by Þórðr (ÞKolb GunndrV) survives in praise of the poet Gunnlaugr ormstungu ‘Serpent-tongue’ Illugason (GunnlIV, d. c. 1008; ÍF 3, 101-2). These are edited in SkP V.

Eiríksdrápa — ÞKolb EirdrI

Jayne Carroll 2012, ‘ Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Eiríksdrápa’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 487. <> (accessed 26 October 2021)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17 

Skj: Þórðr Kolbeinsson: 3. Eiríksdrápa, 1014 (AI, 213-217, BI, 203-206); stanzas (if different): 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

SkP info: I, 510

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

15 — ÞKolb Eirdr 15I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Eiríksdrápa 15’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 510.

Hvatr vann Freyr á flotna
folkstafns, sás gaf hrafni
sollit hold né sjaldan,
sverðs eggja spor leggi.
Snjallr lét opt, ok olli,
Eirekr, bana þeira,
— rauð Hringmaraheiði
herr — Engla lið þverra.

{Hvatr Freyr {folkstafns}}, sás né sjaldan gaf hrafni sollit hold, vann {spor eggja sverðs} á leggi flotna. Snjallr Eirekr lét opt lið Engla þverra ok olli bana þeira; herr rauð Hringmaraheiði.

{The brave Freyr <god> {of the battle-stem}} [SWORD > WARRIOR], who not seldom gave swollen flesh to the raven, made {tracks of the edges of the sword} [WOUNDS] on the limbs of men. Valiant Eiríkr often made the troop of the English diminish and caused their deaths; the army reddened Ringmere Heath.

Mss: (26), 20dˣ(10r), 873ˣ(12r), 20i 23ˣ(15v), 41ˣ(9v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [3] sollit: ‘solldid’ 873ˣ    [8] herr: herr or her 873ˣ, her 41ˣ;    þverra: ‘þuera’ 41ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórðr Kolbeinsson, 3. Eiríksdrápa 12: AI, 216, BI, 206, Skald I, 108, NN §2755; 1741, 26-7, Knýtl 1919-25, 47, ÍF 35, 118-19 (ch. 15).

Context: At Hringmaraheiðr (Ringmere Heath) Eiríkr fights for a second time against the English.

Notes: [2] folkstafns ‘of the battle-stem [SWORD]’: Finnur Jónsson interprets this as a shield-kenning (LP: folkstafn, and so ÍF 35), but this seems unlikely both because folk meaning ‘sword’ is at best extremely rare (LP: folk 4; Þul Sverða 10/8III) and because the base-word of shield-kennings usually denotes a broad, flat object, while stafn is ‘stem’, e.g. of a ship. Meissner 169 allows either ‘shield’ or ‘sword’ as the kenning’s referent. — [4] leggi ‘the limbs’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; also Kock in NN §2755 and Skald) emends to leggja ‘lay’, interpreting vann leggja as a periphrastic construction equivalent to lagði ‘laid’. Vinna does not function periphrastically with infinitives elsewhere, however, and as E. Olsen (1934, 203-4) showed it is possible to make good sense of the mss’ readings. Olsen’s construal is followed here (and in ÍF 35), notwithstanding Kock’s objections (NN §2755), which include the point that it is counter-intuitive to interpret flotna ‘men’ in the prepositional phrase á flotna (l. 1) as anything other than acc. pl. Kock also notes the close correspondence between l. 4 of this stanza and Tindr Hákdr 4/4, which suggests that Þórðr is here indebted to Tindr’s poem on Eiríkr’s father, Hákon (E. Olsen 1934, 264; see also Note to st. 2/7, above). — [7] Hringmaraheiði ‘Ringmere Heath’: Hringmaraheiðr is given as the location of a battle between Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’ Strút-Haraldsson (with Óláfr Haraldsson) and Ealdorman Ulfcytel in Sigv Víkv 7/5 and Ótt Hfl 9/3 (see Notes to these), and John of Worcester records a battle ad locum qui Ringmere dicitur ‘at a place which is called Ringmere’ under the year 1010 (Darlington and McGurk 1995-, II, 464). Ringmere Pit, near Thetford in Norfolk, has been suggested as the battle’s location (Stevenson 1896, 302). The 1010 battle cannot be that referred to by Þórðr: either he borrowed details from Sigvatr’s and Óttarr’s poems, in which case his account of this part of Knútr’s English campaign is fabricated (A. Campbell 1971, 15), or Hringmaraheiðr was of sufficient strategic importance to be the site of more than one battle (Poole 1987, 280). See further Townend (1998, 38-42). For the suggestion that the challenge of incorporating the name Hringmaraheiðr in the dróttkvætt line resulted in a new metrical form, see Note to Ótt Hfl 9/3.

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