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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 24 January 2022)

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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, 506

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

12 — ÞKolb Eirdr 12I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórðr Kolbeinsson, Eiríksdrápa 12’ 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. 506.

Ítr þrifusk jǫfra hleyti
eggveðrs í fǫr seggja;
skeið helt mǫrg í móðu
mislǫng, sem ek vissa.
Bládýrum helt bôru
brands svá náar landi
Ullr, at enska vǫllu,
áttstórr, séa knátti.

Ítr hleyti jǫfra þrifusk í fǫr seggja {eggveðrs}; mǫrg mislǫng skeið helt í móðu, sem ek vissa. {Áttstórr Ullr brands} helt {bládýrum bôru} svá náar landi, at knátti séa enska vǫllu.

The glorious kinship of the princes prospered in the expedition of men {to the edge-storm} [BATTLE]; many warships of various lengths steered into the river, as I learned. {The high-born Ullr <god> of the sword} [WARRIOR] steered {the dark animals of the wave} [SHIPS] so near land that the English plains could be seen.

Mss: (22), 20dˣ(9r), 873ˣ(10v), 41ˣ(8v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [1] hleyti: ‘hlæti’ JÓ, 873ˣ, 41ˣ, ‘hleti’ 20dˣ    [6] svá náar (‘sva nær’): nær svá 41ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórðr Kolbeinsson, 3. Eiríksdrápa 9: AI, 216, BI, 205, Skald I, 107, NN §582; 1741, 22-3, Knýtl 1919-25, 44, ÍF 35, 114 (ch. 13).

Context: Knútr has heard that the English king Játmundr járnsíða (Eadmund Ironside) is in London. He brings his army to the Thames estuary, where he meets Eiríkr’s fleet. They join forces and sail upriver towards London. Stanzas 12 and 13 are cited with only a brief link in between.

Notes: [1] hleyti ‘kinship’: All eds emend to this (grammatically pl.) form to produce good sense. Hleyti refers to kinship by marriage. Eiríkr married Gyða, a daughter of Sveinn tjúguskegg and half-sister of Knútr, so Knútr and Eiríkr were brothers-in-law (see Hkr, ÍF 26, 340; Fsk, ÍF 29, 164; Knýtl, ÍF 35, 97). — [3, 4] mǫrg mislǫng skeið ‘many warships of various lengths’: Lit. ‘many [a] variously-long warship’. Mislangr is a hap. leg. — [3] helt ‘steered’: In seafaring contexts, including ll. 5-6 of the present stanza, halda usually means ‘steer’, with a term for ‘seafarer’ as subject and one for ‘ship’ as dat. object (see also Jesch 2001a, 174-5). Intransitive usage with a human subject is not uncommon (LP: halda A. 9), but the construction with the inanimate subject skeið ‘warship’ here is unique. — [4] sem ek vissa ‘as I learned’: (a) This is understood here as modifying the clause beginning skeið ‘warship(s)’ immediately preceding it (so Skald). (b) In Skj B it modifies ll. 1-2, with skeið helt mǫrg í móðu mislǫng ‘many warships of various lengths proceeded into the river’ (ll. 3-4) functioning parenthetically; the prose order given in ÍF 35 suggests the same. This is presumably on the grounds that ll. 1-2 make a more important statement, but, as Kock (NN §582) points out, the second helmingr continues the narrative of the ships’ progress, which favours (a). (c) A further possibility is that sem ek vissa qualifies the entire first helmingr. — [8] knátti séa ‘could be seen’: Knátti is taken here, as in Skj B and ÍF 35, as a subject-elliptical impersonal construction: ‘[one] was able to see’, ‘it was possible to see’. A possible alternative would be to understand áttstórr Ullr brands ‘high-born Ullr <god> of the sword [WARRIOR]’ as the subject of both helt ‘steered’ and knátti ‘was able’.

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