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Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson (Þjsk)

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

I. 4. Lausavísur (Lv) - 7

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.

Lausavísur — Þjsk LvI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘ Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Lausavísur’ 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. 375. <> (accessed 20 January 2022)

stanzas:  1a   1b   2   3   4   5   6 

Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson: 4. Lausavísur (AI, 142-3, BI, 133-4)

SkP info: I, 375

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Þjsk Lv 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Lausavísur 5’ 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. 375.

Hrollir hugr minn illa;
hefr drengr skaða fengit
sér * á sléttri eyri,
svarri, báts ok knarrar.
Enn, þeims upp réð brenna
ǫldu fíl fyr skaldi,
hverr veit, nema kol knarrar
kǫld fýsi mik gjalda?

Hugr minn hrollir illa; drengr hefr fengit sér * skaða báts ok knarrar á sléttri eyri, svarri. Enn hverr veit, nema kǫld kol knarrar fýsi mik gjalda þeims réð brenna upp {fíl ǫldu} fyr skaldi?

My mind shivers badly; the man has [I have] suffered damage to boat and ship on the level gravel-spit, lady. But who knows but that the cold coals of the ship might urge me to repay the one who had {the elephant of the wave} [SHIP] burned up [as an act] against the skald [me]?

Mss: Flat(27vb) (Flat); 4867ˣ(100v), 563aˣ(2) (ÞorlJ)

Readings: [1] Hrollir: ‘Hrellest’ 4867ˣ, 563aˣ    [3] sér *: sér ek Flat, 4867ˣ, sé ek 563aˣ;    sléttri: svartri 4867ˣ, saltri corrected from svart 563aˣ    [4] svarri báts: svar til brands 4867ˣ, svart til brands 563aˣ    [5] Enn þeims: hinn er Flat, hann er 4867ˣ, 563aˣ    [7] hverr: ‘hvør’ 4867ˣ, hvor 563aˣ    [8] kǫld: so 4867ˣ, 563aˣ, kald Flat;    gjalda: at gjalda 4867ˣ, 563aˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, 4. Lausavísur 5: AI, 143, BI, 134, Skald I, 74; SHI 3, 96, Flat 1860-8, I, 209, ÞorlJ 1883, 119, 156-7, ÍF 9, 218, ÍS III, 2269 (ÞorlJ).

Context: Hákon jarl, incensed at Þorleifr’s refusal to sell his goods to him, sacks and burns his ship and hangs his crewmates.

Notes: [2, 3] fengit sér * ‘suffered’: Lit. ‘received for himself’. Ek ‘I’ following sé(r) in the mss seems to be based on a misreading of sér as a verb. — [3, 4]: The readings svartri in 4867ˣ or saltri in 563aˣ (l. 3) and ‘svar/svartt til brands’, read as svárt til brands in 563ˣ (l. 4), could yield: drengr hefr svárt fengit sér skaða til brands ok knarrar á svartri/saltri eyri ‘the warrior has grievously suffered damage to ship’s beak and ship on the black/salty gravel-spit’. — [5] enn ... þeims ‘but ... the one who’: The emendation of ms. hinn er or hann er to en(n) þeims adopted here was proposed by Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and followed by most subsequent eds. It is necessary since the line is evidently corrupt, as it lacks one alliterative stave and is syntactically unsatisfactory, and an original conj. enn could have been misunderstood as the article hinn. With the Flat reading hinn er (normalised es) ‘that one who’ the helmingr forms two syntactically viable couplets, but the rel. hinn es has no credible antecedent. It cannot be drengr ‘man, fellow, warrior’ (l. 2), since that is the man who suffered damage, whereas ll. 5-6 refer to the one who burned the ship. The variant hann er/es ‘he who’ is little better since it produces a subordinate clause without a main one. — [6] fíl ǫldu ‘the elephant of the wave [SHIP]’: The word fíll ‘elephant’ is believed to be of ultimately Turkish or Persian origin (AEW: fíll). Elephants occur elsewhere in the skaldic corpus only in C13th poetry (LP: fíll), and this kenning may also be late (ÍF 9, xcviii). Ship-kennings with exotic animals as base-words are rare. The only other certain example is léon bôru ‘lion of the billow’, which is also from a stanza unique to ÞorlJ, but attributed to King Sveinn tjúguskegg (Svtjúg Lv 1/8; Arn Hryn 2/1II has an uncertain example). This could suggest that the two stanzas were composed by the same person, who was thus probably not Þorleifr (see also Almqvist 1965-74, I, 193, 198). — [7-8]: The Text above diverges from Skj B and Skald in taking kǫld kol ‘cold coals’, the remains of the ship, as the subject of fýsi ‘might urge’ rather than object of gjalda ‘repay, pay back’: they urge the skald to revenge. — [8] fyr skaldi ‘[as an act] against the skald [me]’: Fyr here has the sense ‘to the disadvantage or disfavour of’ (LP: fyr, fyrir B4).

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated