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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.

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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, 500

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — ÞKolb Eirdr 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Eiríksdrápa 8’ 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. 500.

Þar vas hjalmaðs herjar
Hropts við dreyrgar toptir

Orð fekk gótt, es gerði
grams vǫrn blôum hjǫrvi
(hǫll bilar hára fjalla,)
Hyrningr (áðr þat fyrnisk).

Þar vas … hjalmaðs herjar … við {dreyrgar toptir Hropts} … Hyrningr, es gerði vǫrn grams blôum hjǫrvi, fekk gótt orð; {hǫll hára fjalla} bilar, áðr þat fyrnisk.

There was … of the helmeted host … against {the bloody homesteads of Hroptr <= Óðinn>} [SHIELDS] … Hyrningr, who defended the king with a dark sword, gained a good reputation; {the hall of the high mountains} [SKY] will break before that is forgotten.

Mss: (214r), F(36va), J1ˣ(133r), J2ˣ(115v-116r) (Hkr); 61(68ra), 54(65rb-va), Bb(101ra), Flat(65ra) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] herjar: herjat Flat    [5] es (‘er’): enn J1ˣ, J2ˣ, en 61, 54, Bb, Flat    [6] vǫrn: so 54, Bb, Flat, vǫr Kˣ, F, 61, vǫrr J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    blôum: ok blôum 54, Bb;    hjǫrvi: hamri Flat    [7] hǫll: ‘haulld’ Flat    [8] þat: þeir Flat

Editions: Skj: Þórðr Kolbeinsson, 3. Eiríksdrápa 5: AI, 214, BI, 204, Skald I, 107; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 450-1, IV, 99, ÍF 26, 364, Hkr 1991, I, 247 (ÓTHkr ch. 110), F 1871, 165; ÓT 1958-2000, II, 278 (ch. 252), Flat 1860-8, I, 488.

Context: Towards the end of the battle of Svǫlðr, Eiríkr jarl attempts to board Óláfr Tryggvason’s ship Ormr inn langi ‘the Long Serpent’, but is forced back into his own ship by Óláfr’s kinsman Hyrningr and his men.

Notes: [All]: For the sea-battle at Svǫlðr c. 1000, see also Hfr ErfÓl 1-24, Skúli SvǫlðrIII, Stefnir Lv 1 (cf. OSnorr Lv), Eþsk Couplet, Hókr Eirfl; and the later treatment in HSt Rst 15-23 and Anon Óldr 17-24; see further the entry on Óláfr Tryggvason in ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. — [All]: All mss preserve only six lines of this stanza, with little indication that there is missing text, though a blank space follows l. 8 in F. It appears that ll. 3-4 are missing, while the second helmingr is complete. — [5-6] gerði vǫrn grams ‘defended the king’: Lit. ‘performed the defence of the king’. The ms. reading vǫrr/vǫrn in l. 6 is likely to supply the object to gerði ‘did, made, performed’. (a) Vǫrn ‘defence’, the reading of 54, Bb and Flat, gives good sense, although since it is restricted to C- and D-group mss of ÓT there may be some doubt whether it is the original reading. (b) Vǫrr, the reading of J2ˣ (partly supported by vǫr in the other Hkr mss) is taken by Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 26) as the base-word of a kenning vǫrr grams ‘sea of the sword [BLOOD]’, hence gerva vǫrr grams ‘to cause blood’, i.e. to inflict wounds. This is possible, since the adj. gramr ‘angry’ is used substantivally as the name of the legendary hero Sigurðr’s sword and by extension any sword (LP: 1. gramr 2). However, gramr ‘king, ruler’ is far more common in skaldic poetry, and a more natural assumption when juxtaposed with vǫrn ‘defence’. (c) It has been suggested (Nj 1875-8, II, 267-8) that vǫr, the reading of Kˣ, F and 61, is here a f. noun with a similar meaning to vǫrn ‘defence’, but the word is not attested elsewhere. — [7, 8]: The rhetorical figure of adynaton or impossibilia is used elsewhere in skaldic poetry  to convey the extraordinary nature or deeds of a hero (e.g. see Hfr ErfÓl 27/1, 4 and Note). Such praise of the opponent Hyrningr in a drápa about Eiríkr is striking. — [8] Hyrningr: On this kinsman-in-law of Óláfr Tryggvason, see Note to HSt Rst 21/7.

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