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Runic Dictionary

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Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld (Þorm)

11th century; volume 5; ed. R. D. Fulk;

I. Lausavísur (Lv) - 21

This edition is currently in preparation. The biography below may represent a superseded edition, notes and/or an interim or draft version. Do not cite this material without consulting the volume and skald editors.

Þormóðr Bersason’s (Þorm) story is told in Fóstbrœðra saga ‘Saga of the Sworn Brothers’ (Fbr), and on its witness he may be supposed to have been born c. 998 and to have died of a wound received in the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. The saga, however, is untrustworthy as to particulars, as the author seems to have derived most of his information about the poet from the poetry available to him. According to the saga, in childhood he and his friend Þorgeirr Hávarsson each swore that he would avenge the killing of the other if he lived. The latter, at the age of fifteen, avenged the killing of his father, initiating a string of thirteen killings commemorated in Þormóðr’s poem celebrating his sworn brother, ÞorgeirsdrápaDrápa about Þorgeirr’ (Þorgdr). Even though their friendship ended when Þormóðr was about fifteen, Þormóðr travelled to Greenland after Þorgeirr was killed (c. 1024), to take vengeance on the perpetrator Þorgrímr trolli (‘Troll’? see Note to Fbr 29/1) and three of his sons. The poet earned his nickname kolbrúnarskáld ‘Coal-brow’s Poet’ for having composed poetry in praise of Þórbjǫrg kolbrún Glúmsdóttir, though none of these survive (probably for reasons of a moral nature; see Boyer 1990, 80). According to Þormóðar þáttr (Þorm; see Þorm Lv 10-11I) he served King Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great) in Denmark before returning to Norway, where he spent the last part of his short life in the service of the king, Óláfr Haraldsson (S. Óláfr). According to a memorable passage in Hkr, on the morning of the battle of Stiklestad he recited Bjarkamál in fornu (Anon Bjark 1-2III) to rouse the king’s troops. For further biographical information, see Finnur Jónsson (1932-3, 31-3), ÍF 6, lii-lxx and Schach (1993).

Lausavísur — Þorm LvV (Fbr)

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘ Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, 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. 820. <> (accessed 20 January 2022)

stanzas:  10   11   15   16   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25 

cross-references:  17 = Anon (Vǫlsa) 11I 

for reference only:  18x   19x   20x   21x   22x   23x   24x   25x 

Skj: Þórmóðr Bersason Kolbrúnarskáld: 2. Lausavísur (AI, 281-8, BI, 260-6); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 12 | 13 | 14

SkP info: I, 823

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

10 — Þorm Lv 10I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 10’ 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. 823.

Loftungu gaft lengi
látr, þats Fáfnir átti;
þú lézt mér, inn mæri,
merkr fránǫluns vánir.
Verðr emk, varga myrðir
víðlendr, frá þér (síðan
eða heldr of sæ sjaldan)
slíks réttar (skalk vætta).

Lengi gaft Loftungu látr, þats Fáfnir átti; þú, inn mæri, lézt mér vánir {merkr {fránǫluns}}. Emk verðr slíks réttar frá þér, {víðlendr myrðir varga}, eða heldr skalk sjaldan síðan vætta of sæ.

For long you gave Loftunga (‘Praise-tongue’) the lair that Fáfnir owned [gold]; you, famous one, have granted me hopes {of the forest {of the flashing fish}} [SERPENT > GOLD]. I am worthy of the same due from you, {broad-landed destroyer of outlaws} [RULER = Knútr], or instead I shall seldom afterwards hope [to come] over the sea.

Mss: NRA52(2r) (ÓHÆ); DG8(90r) (ÓHLeg); Flat(105ra) (Flat); Tóm(141r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] gaft (‘gaftu’): ‘gafu’ Tóm    [2] Fáfnir: ‘faðneri’ DG8;    átti: ‘atv’ Tóm    [3] mæri: so all others, ‘[…]æri’ NRA52    [4] ‑ǫluns: Jǫkuls Tóm    [5] myrðir: so DG8, Flat, ‘mvrþir’ NRA52, myndir Tóm    [6] síðan: so all others, ‘[…]an’ NRA52    [7] eða: enn Tóm;    sæ (‘sió’): sjá Flat, sik Tóm    [8] skalk (‘scal ek’): skal Tóm

Editions: Skj: Þórmóðr Bersason Kolbrúnarskáld, 2. Lausavísur 10: AI, 284, BI, 262, Skald I, 135, NN §710; ÓHÆ 1893, 4; ÓHLeg 1849, 44, 109, ÓHLeg 1922, 54, ÓHLeg 1982, 126-7; Flat 1860-8, II, 201, Fbr 1925-7, 224, ÓH 1941, II, 801, 804, ÍF 6, 283, ÍS III, 2277 (Þorm); Gaertner 1907, 310, 328-9, Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 63-4.

Context: In all texts, at their parting in Denmark, Þormóðr reminds King Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great) of the gifts due him in reward for his service to the king. The prose context in NRA52 is defective but appears to be the same.

Notes: [All]: For the sequel, see Lv 11 and Context, and for similar complaints, see Sigv Vestv 5 and its Context and ESk Lv 7II and its Introduction. — [1] Loftungu ‘Loftunga (“Praise-tongue”)’: The skald Þórarinn loftunga (Þloft): see his Biography and work in this volume. Professional rivalry surfaces again in Lv 20b.  — [2] látr, þats Fáfnir átti ‘the lair that Fáfnir owned [gold]’: The rel. clause functions like the determinant in a kenning, and the expression is semantically comparable to gold-kennings such as látr sváfnis ‘serpent’s lair’ (Grett Lv 31/7V (Gr 63)). The reference is to the dragon Fáfnir in the legend of Sigurðr, with resonances of broader superstitions about gold-hoards guarded by dragons; for Fáfnir see Þorf Lv 1 and Note to [All] ad loc. — [3] inn mæri ‘famous one’: Finnur Jónsson in Skj B takes the ‘enn’ of most of the mss not as the def. art. inn but as the adv. enn ‘still, further’. He emends mæri to mœrar ‘of land’ and analyses this as part of the gold-kenning, which is necessary in his construal since he removes merkr ‘of the forest’ from the kenning: see next Note. However, the emendation is unnecessary, it yields a metrically doubtful line, and as Kock (NN §710A) points out, Þormóðr never uses a form of þú without an appositive vocative phrase.  — [4] merkr ‘of the forest’: This is tantamount to ‘of the land’, forming a stereotypical gold-kenning (see Notes to l. 2 and l. 4 fránǫluns). Finnur Jónsson (LP: 2. mǫrk) analyses merkr as gen. sg. of mǫrk ‘unit of weight’ (so also Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, pointing out that the following prose remarks that the king had promised the skald a ‘mark’ of gold), though in LP: fránǫlunn he takes merkr f. as slange ‘snake, serpent’, and warns that the gen. sg. of mǫrk ‘forest’ appears always to be markar rather than merkr. The latter is not the general view, however (see NN §710B, with references). — [4] fránǫluns ‘of the flashing fish [SERPENT]’: Ǫlunn does not occur in prose, and its meaning is uncertain, but its occurrence as a fish-heiti in Þul Fiska 1/7III and in certain types of kenning point to a fish; some sources take it as mackerel (see LP: ǫlunn). Fránǫlunn is not a standard kenning for ‘serpent’, since the first element is adjectival and decorative, whereas one would expect a nominal determinant referring to land, hence ‘fish of the land’. It is as though merkr ‘of the forest/land’ is needed both for this function (to make a fish into a serpent) and to provide the base-word for the gold-kenning, though such a dual role is exceptional. Kock (Skald; NN §710C) would emend to frón- ‘land’, despite the disruption to the hending. — [6] síðan ‘afterwards’: For other examples of clausal elements preceding the conj. (here eðr ‘or’) that introduces the clause in Þormóðr’s poetry, see Lv 6/5V, Þorgdr 1/6V (Fbr 2), 12/3V (Fbr 15) and 14/6V (Fbr 17). Prior eds have generally construed this word with emk verðr ‘I am worthy’ and assumed the sense ‘hereafter’. — [7, 8] eða heldr skalk sjaldan ... vætta of sæ ‘or instead I shall seldom ... hope [to come] over the sea’: (a) The sense may be ‘I shall not return’. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; Finnur Jónsson 1932-3), followed by Skald, interprets the final intercalary as a question, ‘Or shall I never expect anything on the sea?’. (c) Gaertner (1907, 329), with different apportionment of the intercalary and main clauses, and emending síðan to síðarr ‘later’, also perceives a question, ‘or shall I expect my due from you later?’. (d) Another possibility is ‘or else I shall rather seldom hope for [anything here] across the sea’, i.e. ‘I shall give up hope of generosity from you’. (e) Björn K. Þórólfsson (ÍF 6, and similarly ÍS) takes the intercalary clause to mean ‘or I shall instead put to sea and hope for nothing’. The saga writer probably understood the meaning to be something like the last mentioned or the one offered here, since this would explain why he has Þormóðr deliver the poem shortly before his departure. — [8] vætta ‘hope’: Or ‘expect’ or ‘be expected’. Skj B reads vétta on the ground that æ is not known to rhyme with é before the end of the Middle Ages (Finnur Jónsson 1932-3). Yet the correct explanation is most likely that the root vowels of the two forms were shortened before the following geminate consonant, and when [æ:] and [e:] were shortened, they both produced [e] (ANG §127.6 and Anm. 2). Long vowels were later reintroduced analogically.

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