This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson (Þjsk)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Kate Heslop;

I. 1. Poem about Hákon (Hák) - 2

Skj info: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, (Ásgeirs son rauðfeldar) Islandsk skjald, sidste halvdel af 10. årh. (AI, 141-3, BI, 132-4).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonardrápa
2. Drape om Sven tveskæg
3. Jarlsníð
4. Lausavísur

Þorleifr jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s poet’ (Þjsk), son of Ásgeirr rauðfeldr ‘Red-cloak’, was born at Brekka in Svarfaðardalur in northern Iceland in the mid to late tenth century, and must have been alive c. 970-c. 995. It is impossible to be more definite about his dates as neither Svarfdœla saga nor Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds (ÞorlJ) in Flat, the only narrative sources, has a consistent chronology (ÍF 9, xcii, xcvii). Many sources mention Þorleifr as a skald: Ldn (ÍF 1, 254), both versions of Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266), Sneglu-Halla þáttr (ÍF 9, 285-6), ÓTOdd (ÍF 25, 191), and HaukrV Ísldr 18IV. Some stanzas are attributed to Þorleifr in Hkr, ÓT, TGT and FoGT, but the bulk of the poetry attributed to him and almost all the biographical information about him is preserved only in ÞorlJ (ÍF 9, 312-29).

According to ÞorlJ, Þorleifr flees Iceland for Norway as a young man, but soon leaves for Denmark after a dispute over trading rights ends with Hákon jarl Sigurðarson burning his ship and executing his crew (Lv 5). He is said to have composed a forty-stanza encomium for King Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ of Denmark (Drápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg; Sveindr), but only the stef ‘refrain’ is extant. While staying with Sveinn, he visits Norway and gets his revenge on Hákon by performing a níð poem (Jarlsníð; Jarl) which causes the jarl’s hair to fall out; one stanza is cited in ÞorlJ. After this Sveinn gives Þorleifr his byname, jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’ poet’ and speaks a stanza about the níð (Svtjúg Lv). However, the þáttr’s use of the genitive plural jarla ‘of jarls’ may be incorrect, for TGT calls him jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s poet’, Skáldatal lists him as a skald of Hákon but not Eiríkr (and the U version calls him ‘Hákonarskáld’), and Þorleifr is not known to have composed poetry about any other jarl (Nj 1875-8, II, 283-4; ÍF 9, xcvii n. 1; see Almqvist 1965-74, I, 197 for a contrary view). The names of poet and þáttr therefore appear with alternation of jarls- and jarla- in printed sources, and the present edition uses jarls- for the poet and jarla- for the þáttr. Þorleifr subsequently returns to Iceland and settles at Höfðabrekka in Myrdalur in the south of the country. He is, according to ÞorlJ, assassinated at the Alþingi by an enchanted wooden golem, a trémaðr with a man’s heart which Hákon has created with the help of his tutelary goddesses, Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr and Irpa (cf. Lv 6). Þorleifr’s burial mound at Þingvellir is said to have still been visible at the time the þáttr was composed, probably in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century (Harris 1993, 672). Much of this narrative is clearly fictional, and there is reason to suspect the genuineness of most of the stanzas attributed to Þorleifr in ÞorlJ (see Notes to Sveindr and Lv 5 and 6). However, widespread references in reliable sources put Þorleifr’s activity as a skald, his association with Hákon, and his composition of níð about the jarl beyond doubt.

Poem about Hákon — Þjsk HákI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Poem about Hákon’ 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. 369.

 1   2 

Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson: 1. Hákonardrápa, o. 986 (AI, 141, BI, 132)

SkP info: I, 371

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Þjsk Hák 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Poem about Hákon 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. 371.

Hǫfðum í þér, Hôkun,
es at hjǫrrógi drógumk,
— þú rautt Skǫglar skýja
skóð — forvistu góða.

Hǫfðum góða forvistu í þér, Hôkun, es drógumk at {hjǫrrógi}; þú rautt {skóð {skýja Skǫglar}}.

We had a fine leader in you, Hákon, when we advanced to {the sword-strife} [BATTLE]; you reddened {the harmer {of the clouds of Skǫgul <valkyrie>}} [SHIELDS > SWORD].

Mss: A(4v), W(103) (TGT); W(111) (FoGT)

Readings: [1] í þér: þá er W(103)    [2] ‑rógi: ‑þingi W(111);    drógumk: drógum W(103), gengum W(111)

Editions: Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, 1. Hákonardrápa 2: AI, 141, BI, 132, Skald I, 73, NN §§2443A, D, 3396K; SnE 1848-87, II, 114-15, 410, TGT 1884, 17, 75, 182-3, TGT 1927, 51, 95, TGT 1998, 132-3; SnE 1848-87, II, 190, FoGT 1884, 120; ÞorlJ 1883, 160.

Context: The helmingr is cited to exemplify a sub-class of the rhetorical figure solecismus (TGT; it is an example of the similar figure protheseos paralange according to FoGT). This type of solecismus, according to TGT, involves the replacement of a word by another which belongs to the same part of speech but is inappropriate in context (þá er hinn sami partr er óviðrkæmiliga settr); FoGT gives the same explanation but limits the figure to the class of prepositions. In the present stanza the authors of the Grammatical Treatises regard í þér ‘in you’ in l. 1 as a solecism for af þér ‘from you’ (though see Notes to ll. 1 and 4 below).

Notes: [All]: The stanza is attributed to Þorleifr in all mss, though FoGT has only ‘Þorleifr’ and W (TGT) only ‘jarlsskáld’. — [1] hǫfðum í þér, Hôkun ‘we had ... in you, Hákon’: Hǫfðum is normalised here from ‘hǫfðv(m) ver’ in the mss, but the line is metrically defective in both its diplomatic and normalised forms. It both lacks hending and, more seriously, does not scan unless the stress is borne by the prep. í ‘in’, precisely the word which attracted the interest of the grammarians (see Context). Kock in NN §2443 suggested Hǫfðum vér þá, Hôkon ‘We had then, Hákon’, adapting the W(103) reading Hǫfðum vér þá er (in NN §3396K he instead proposes the reading presented in the Text above). The unemended W(103) reading þá er improves the metre by providing a stressed vér ‘we’, but it makes no sense, and eliminates the solecismus and therefore the point of the citation in TGT. Finnur Jónsson (TGT 1927, 51 n. 7) questions whether í þér is truly a solecism, insisting that it is ‘completely normal’ (fuldkommen normal). — [2] drógumk ‘we advanced’: The m. v. form of draga is taken here as meaning ‘move (oneself)’, as often in skaldic poetry (LP: draga 12). The variants are inferior. Drógum ‘we dragged, pulled’ (W(103)) is unlikely as draga is usually transitive (TGT 1884, 183). FoGT has for l. 2 es at hjǫrþingi gengum ‘when we went to the sword-meeting [BATTLE]’, but gengum is probably, like drógum, a scribal attempt at simplification (Nj 1875-8, II, 1005). — [4] forvistu ‘leader’: Usually an abstract noun, ‘leadership’, but sometimes, as here, forvista/forysta refers to the person who embodies these attributes (Fritzner: forysta). The grammarians’ citation of this stanza as an example of solecismus suggests they understood forvista as the abstract noun (as in GSvert Hrafndr 5/8IV) and hence considered í þér ‘(we had good leadership) in you’ a solecism for af þér ‘from you’. The ms. forms are forystu (A) and forustu (W, both texts), but normalised forvista, with long first syllable, is required in this metrical position.

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.