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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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

 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, 491

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — ÞKolb Eirdr 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Eiríksdrápa 2’ 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. 491.

Mjǫk lét margar snekkjur
(mærðarǫrr) sem knǫrru
(óðr vex skalds) ok skeiðar
skjaldhlynr á brim dynja,
þás ólítinn útan
oddherðir fór gerða
— mǫrg vas lind fyr landi —
lǫnd síns fǫður rǫndu.

{Skjaldhlynr} lét mjǫk margar snekkjur sem knǫrru ok skeiðar dynja á brim — mærðarǫrr óðr skalds vex —, þás {oddherðir} fór ólítinn útan gerða lǫnd fǫður síns rǫndu; mǫrg lind vas fyr landi.

{The shield-maple} [WARRIOR] made very many warships, as well as merchant ships and longships, resound on the surf — the praise-liberal poetry of the skald grows —, when {the point-hardener} [WARRIOR] advanced at full strength from offshore to enclose the lands of his father with the shield; many a linden-shield was before the land.

Mss: (157r), 39(7ra), F(26va), J1ˣ(94r), J2ˣ(87v), 325VIII 1(4va) (Hkr); 61(19ra), 54(15ra-b), Bb(25va) (ÓT); FskBˣ(27v), FskAˣ(103) (Fsk); 510(58r) (Jvs); R(36v), Tˣ(38r), U(36r), A(12v), C(6r) (SnE, ll. 1-4)

Readings: [1] lét: lætr C;    snekkjur: ‘snetcivr’ A    [2] mærðar: ‘morþar’ J1ˣ;    sem: ok J1ˣ, 61, 54, Bb    [3] óðr: áðr R, C;    vex: vegs U;    skalds: skjalds 510, ‘scals’ Tˣ, skaldi U;    ok: at R, C;    skeiðar: ‘skæðar’ FskAˣ, skeiða R, Tˣ, A, C    [4] skjaldhlynr: so 325VIII 1, 61, 54, Bb, 510, A, ‘sciald lynr’ Kˣ, J2ˣ, FskAˣ, skjald dynr 39, F, ‘ska(ri)llynr’(?) J1ˣ, skjǫldungr FskBˣ, skjǫld hlynr R, Tˣ, skald hlynr U, skjald hlymr C;    á brim: á bryni FskBˣ, ‘alium’ 510;    dynja: hrynja F    [5] ólítinn: ólítil FskBˣ, ólítill FskAˣ;    útan: úti 61, 54, Bb    [6] odd‑: so FskBˣ, FskAˣ, 510, él‑ Kˣ, 39, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VIII 1, 61, 54, Bb;    fór: fǫr F, réð 325VIII 1, ‘styr’ 61, 54, Bb, fat FskBˣ, FskAˣ, þar 510;    gerða: gerðar 39, F, 325VIII 1, FskBˣ, gerðr J1ˣ, gerði 61, gjǫrðu 54, Bb, gjǫrðar 510    [7] fyr: frá 39, F    [8] lǫnd: land FskAˣ, lund 510;    fǫður: so 39, F, J1ˣ, 325VIII 1, 61, 54, Bb, FskAˣ, 510, om. Kˣ, J2ˣ, ‘faðr’ FskBˣ;    rǫndu: renndu 39, F, randa 61, rǫndum FskAˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórðr Kolbeinsson, 3. Eiríksdrápa 2: AI, 213-14, BI, 203, Skald I, 106, NN §580; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 324, IV, 87, ÍF 26, 276, Hkr 1991, I, 185 (ÓTHkr ch. 37), F 1871, 120; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 181-2 (ch. 87); Fsk 1902-3, 92 (ch. 19), ÍF 29, 129-30 (ch. 21); Jvs 1879, 69-70; SnE 1848-87, I, 466-9, SnE 1931, 165, SnE 1998, I, 84, 206-7.

Context: In Hkr and ÓT, Hákon jarl and Eiríkr jarl send for men and ships from Þrœndalǫg (Trøndelag), and send messengers to Mœrr (Møre), Raumsdalr (Romsdalen), and north to Naumudalr (Namdalen) and Hálogaland (Hålogaland). In Fsk and Jvs, this stanza and st. 3 (and in Fsk st. 4/1-4) are cited together as part of these texts’ accounts of the battle of Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen). The Jómsvíkingar, led by Búi digri ‘the Stout’ Vésetason, Vagn Ákason, and Sigvaldi Strút-Haraldsson, sail to Hjǫrungavágr, where they encounter Hákon, Eiríkr, and the three other sons of Hákon; each commands one of 180 well-equipped ships. In SnE (Skm), the stanza appears among others illustrating heiti for poetry. 

Notes: [1-4]: Þórðr catalogues the various types of ship in Eiríkr’s fleet. Skeiðar ‘longships’ (l. 3) are often thought of as longer than snekkjur ‘warships’ (l. 1), though they are not necessarily so (see Note to ÞjóðA Magnfl 2/2, 3II; Jesch 2001a, 123-4). Knǫrru (m. acc. pl.) in l. 2 is translated ‘merchant ships’ since knǫrr can denote a cargo ship (e.g. Ótt Hfl 14/2), and the prose of Jvs appears to equate pl. knerrir with kaupskip ‘merchant ships’ (although Fsk refers to both knerrir and kaupskip). It can, however, be used in contexts of conflict (Vígf Hák 1/8; Þhorn Harkv 7/5 and Note; Jesch 2001a, 128-32). — [2] mærðarǫrr ‘praise-liberal’: This is taken here as a cpd, though a phrase ǫrr mærðar ‘liberal with praise’ would also be possible. The adj. is construed, as in most eds, as qualifying óðr ‘poetry’. Ǫrr ‘swift, bold, liberal’ usually qualifies terms for rulers or warriors in skaldic poetry, and the phrase may alternatively be taken with skjaldhlynr ‘shield-maple [WARRIOR]’, meaning ‘eager for praise’ (so Skald; NN §580). However, this assumes an unattested meaning of ‘eager’ for the common word ǫrr. — [5] ólítinn ‘at full strength’: (a) This, the reading of all Hkr and ÓT mss as well as 510, is construed here with fór, hence lit. ‘advanced not insignificantly’. The adverbial use of m. acc. sg. is unusual, but cf. ModIcel. að fara mikinn, lit. ‘to go all out’ (so ÍF 26); cf. also Anon (TGT) 8/1III, where hraustan (m. acc. sg.) ‘brave’ stands for hraustliga ‘bravely’, albeit as a solecism (TGT 1884, 75). (b) Skj B, Skald and ÍF 29 prefer ólítill ‘great’ (lit. ‘not small’), the reading of FskAˣ (and cf. FskBˣ ólítil), taken with the subject of the clause, oddherðir ‘point-hardener [WARRIOR]’. This reading is more straightforward but for that reason may be seen as secondary, especially given the overwhelming agreement of the other mss. — [6] oddherðir ‘the point-hardener [WARRIOR]’: This cpd is clearly a warrior-kenning, but the mss differ over the determinant. (a) Oddherðir, the reading of the Fsk mss and 510, is adopted here, as in Skj B, Skald and ÍF 29. It follows a warrior-kenning pattern which has herðir as the base-word and a term for ‘battle’ or ‘weapon’ (usually ‘sword’) as the determinant (Meissner 295). (b) Élherðir ‘storm-hardener’ in all other mss is adopted in ÍF 26, on the assumption that él can mean ‘battle’, just as hríð can mean both ‘storm’ and ‘(phase in a) battle’. Élherðir also appears in all mss of Hallm Hallkv 12/6V (Bergb 12) (but is emended in Skj B to oddherðir), and another possible case of él ‘battle’ arises in Ótt Hfl 8/1-4 (see Note). Overall, however, the evidence for él ‘battle’ is sparse, whereas él very frequently combines with a determinant to produce a battle-kenning; the examples include two involving the comparable élherðandi ‘storm-strengthener’ (LP: élherðandi). — [6] fór ‘advanced’: This acts as an auxiliary to inf. gerða ‘to enclose’ (see LP: fara 7). Fat ‘proceeded, made his way’, the reading of the Fsk mss, is also possible, and frequently occurs as an auxiliary (LP: feta). Stýr or styr, the reading of the ÓT mss, cannot be made to work with the rest of the helmingr, and is unmetrical. — [7]: The line is reminiscent of Tindr Hákdr 9/3 þar vas lind* fyr landi ‘a shield [defence] was placed off the coast there’. De Vries (1964-7, I, 181) notes this parallel and another between Tindr Hákdr 4/4 and ÞKolb Eirdr 15/4 (see Note to that line), and suggests that the skalds Tindr and Þórðr were acquainted, their homes being quite close, at Hallkelsstaðir and Hítarnes respectively. The correspondences suggest that Þórðr is indebted to Tindr’s poem in praise of Eiríkr’s father (see also E. Olsen 1934, 264). — [7] lind ‘linden-shield’: The word refers primarily to the linden- or lime-tree and its wood, and therefore, though it most commonly denotes a ‘shield’, other wooden objects may be signified. ‘Spear’ is possible here (so Skj B, cf. Hkr 1893-1901, IV), while ÍF 26 and ÍF 29 suggest ‘ship’ via the sense ‘mast’.

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