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Runic Dictionary

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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 25 May 2022)

stanzas:  1a   1b   2   3   4   5   6 

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

SkP info: I, 377

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Þjsk Lv 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Lausavísur 6’ 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. 377.

Hvarf inn hildardjarfi
— hvat varð af Þorgarði? —
villumaðr á velli
vígdjarfr refilstíga.
Farit hefr Gautr at grjóti
gunnelds inn fjǫlkunni;
síðan mun hann í helju
hvílask stund ok mílu.

Inn hildardjarfi villumaðr, vígdjarfr, hvarf refilstíga á velli; hvat varð af Þorgarði? {Inn fjǫlkunni Gautr {gunnelds}} hefr farit at grjóti; síðan mun hann hvílask í helju stund ok mílu.

The battle-bold false one, slaughter-bold, vanished on secret paths on the plain; what became of Þorgarðr? {The sorcerous Gautr <= Óðinn> {of war-flame}} [SWORD > WARRIOR] has gone into the ground; now he will linger in Hell for a while and a bit.

Mss: Flat(28rb-va) (Flat); 4867ˣ(102r-v), 563aˣ(7) (ÞorlJ)

Readings: [4] refilstíga: refils stíga 4867ˣ, 563aˣ    [7] hann: halr 4867ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, 4. Lausavísur 6: AI, 143, BI, 134, Skald I, 74, NN §§426, 2443B, D, 2987G; SHI 3, 105, Flat 1860-8, I, 214, ÞorlJ 1883, 128-9, 158-9, ÍF 9, 226, ÍS III, 2273 (ÞorlJ).

Context: Þorgarðr, a wooden golem or trémaðr sent to Iceland by Hákon jarl to attack Þorleifr, fatally wounds the skald with a spear-thrust, but plunges head first into the ground before Þorleifr can strike back. Þorleifr holds his guts in with his cloak and speaks this stanza.

Notes: [2] Þorgarði ‘Þorgarðr’: See Context.  — [3] villumaðr ‘false one’: From villa f. ‘error, falsehood, going astray’. A note of Christian condemnation is probably present, as in the epithet fjǫlkunnr ‘sorcerous, magic-working’ in l. 6, and villumaðr usually means ‘heretic’, both in prose (CVC, Fritzner: villumaðr) and in its sole other skaldic instance (Anon Heil 10/4VII). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) took villumaðr refilstíga to mean vildman fra vildstierne ‘wild man from the wild paths’, and in LP: villumaðr suggested the sense ‘being which appears to be a man but is not’. — [4] refilstíga ‘on secret paths’: This is taken here as acc. pl. used adverbially (so also Kock, NN §426). The sense ‘secret paths’ fits the context here and that in Gylf (SnE 2005, 7-8), where Gylfi arrives at the hall of the gods, incognito (as he thinks) and saying that he has come af refilstígum ‘from the trackless ways/secret paths’ (so Faulkes, SnE 2005, 132). The etymology and exact meaning of this rare cpd are unclear. In ModIcel. it means ‘wrong track’. De Vries (AEW: refill 3) associates refilstígar with the sea-king name Refill, which in turn is linked to refr m. ‘fox’. Janzén (1945, 187) suggests the refil- element is related to a Norw. dialect word meaning ‘tumble off’, whereas according to ÍO: refil- it is refill m. ‘strip’. Poole (2005b, 110) suggests ‘entrenched path, path along a shallow dip in the terrain’; he cites in support the word blóðrefill, which refers to the groove running the length of a sword-blade. — [5] farit at grjóti ‘gone into the ground’: Lit. ‘gone to gravel or stone’. Skj B has er sunken i stengrunden ‘has sunk into the stony ground’. — [7]: The line lacks internal rhyme and is hypermetrical because of the disyllablic síðan ‘now, since then’. (a) Kock (NN §2443D) suggests emending hann to halr ‘man’ and reading halr mun síðan í helju, and indeed halr is the reading of 4867ˣ, but his supporting arguments are not convincing and he later (NN §2987G) withdraws this proposal. (b) Finnur Jónsson (ÞorlJ 1883, 159) suggests emending síðan to sjálfr ‘[him]self’, but presents no reasons for doing so beyond the metrical problem. Given the irregularity of some other Þorleifr attributions (cf. Hákdr 1/1, 2/1; Jarl 1/1; Þjsk Lv 5/5), emendation does not seem justified here. — [8] stund ok mílu ‘for a while and a bit’: Lit. ‘a while and a mile’. The single other skaldic attestation of míla f. ‘mile’ is in the C14th Anon Heil 13/4VII (cf. another parallel with Heil in Note to l. 3), and it is only otherwise known in late prose. The present stanza is therefore unlikely to date from the C10th.

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