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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 The biography below may represent a superseded edition, notes and/or an interim or draft version. Do not cite this material without consulting the volume and skald editors.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 27 November 2021)

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, 826

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

15 — Þorm Lv 15I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld, Lausavísur 15’ 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. 826.

Hafa þóttumk ek, hættinn
happsœkjandi, ef tœkir,
hreins, við haldi mínu,
hvert land þegit, branda.
Ríkr, vilk með þér, rœkir
randar linns, ok Finni
— rǫnd berum út á andra
eybaugs — lifa ok deyja.

Ek þóttumk hafa þegit hvert land, {hættinn happsœkjandi {hreins branda}}, ef tœkir við haldi mínu. Vilk lifa ok deyja með þér ok Finni, {ríkr rœkir {linns randar}}; berum rǫnd út á {andra {eybaugs}}.

I would think that I had received every land, {venturesome, fortunate attacker {of the reindeer of stems}} [SHIP > SEA-WARRIOR = Óláfr], if you would accept my support. I wish to live and die with you and Finnr, {mighty keeper {of the serpent of the shield}} [SWORD > WARRIOR = Óláfr]; let’s bear the shield out onto {the skis {of the island-ring}} [SEA > SHIPS].

Mss: NRA52(2v) (ÓHÆ); DG8(90v) (ÓHLeg); Hb(89r), 142ˣ(104), 566aˣ(28r), papp4ˣ(128v) (Fbr, ll. 5-8); Flat(105ra) (Flat); Tóm(141r) (ÓH); 761bˣ(482r marg)

Readings: [1] þóttumk: þœttisk Tóm;    hættinn: hættins Flat, 761bˣmarg, hættin Tóm    [2] happ‑ (‘hap’): hafs or ‘haps’ Flat, hyrs Tóm, happs 761bˣmarg    [5] rœkir: ræsir Hb    [6] randar: so DG8, Hb, 142ˣ, 566aˣ, randa NRA52, papp4ˣ, Flat, 761bˣmarg, rann‑ Tóm;    linns: so papp4ˣ, ‘linnz’ NRA52, 142ˣ, 566aˣ, 761bˣmarg, ‘linz’ DG8, ‘lindz’ Hb, Flat, ‑lings Tóm;    ok Finni: inn svinni Hb, Flat, Tóm, at sinni 142ˣ, 566aˣ, í vinni papp4ˣ, hinn svinni and at sinni 761bˣmarg    [7] rǫnd berum út: stǫndum ár Hb, stundum ár 142ˣ, papp4ˣ, rand stundum ár 761bˣmarg;    á andra: ǫndrum Hb    [8] eybaugs: ‘ebaugs’ DG8, ‘eybeygs’ Hb

Editions: Skj: Þórmóðr Bersason Kolbrúnarskáld, 2. Lausavísur 15: AI, 285, BI, 263-4, Skald I, 135-6; ÓHÆ 1893, 6; ÓHLeg 1849, 45, 109, ÓHLeg 1922, 55, ÓHLeg 1982, 128-9; Hb 1892-6, 413, Fbr 1925-7, 208, ÍF 6, 265 (Fbr ch. 24), Loth 1960a, 155 (Fbr ch. 17), ÍS II, 841 (Fbr ch. 24); Flat 1860-8, II, 202, Fbr 1925-7, 226-7, ÓH 1941, II, 802, 804, ÍF 6, 286, ÍS III, 2279 (Þorm); Gaertner 1907, 310, 330-2, Finnur Jónsson 1932-3, 67-9.

Context: In all texts but Fbr, after killing King Óláfr’s forecastle-man, Þormóðr jumps aboard the king’s ship and, once captured, is to be put to death. When the king’s staunch supporter Finnr Árnason discovers that it is Þormóðr who has been captured, he and Óláfr’s bishop Sigurðr successfully intercede with the king for Þormóðr’s life. The king then asks Þormóðr why he has thus put himself into his power, and Þormóðr replies with a stanza (Lv 15/5-8 + 20/1-4 in Fbr).

Notes: [All]: The present arrangement of Lv 15 is that of ÓHÆ, from the end of the C12th, followed in ÓHLeg. In Fbr, ll. 1-4 are missing and ll. 5-8 follow, and form a stanza with, Lv 20/1-4. In turn Lv 20/5-8 replaces Lv 19/5-8 in these same mss, which thus omit that helmingr. This alternative arrangement (adopted by Gaertner 1907, see Note to Lv 19 [All]) produces satisfactory logic. However, there are weighty reasons to think that it is incorrect, some of which are explained in the Notes to Lv 15/6 and Lv 20/5-8. In addition, Lv 19 makes better sense as presently composed, the prescription that ‘heroes should not waver’ in the first helmingr being tied to the sentiment in the second that men about to engage in battle should shun words of cowardice. Further, Fbr would have to be dated even earlier, or be known to contain an earlier tradition, than ÓHÆ if the alternative arrangement were to be credited, and it requires fewer ad hoc assumptions to suppose that the present arrangement is more original (see Introduction to Þorm ÞorgdrV on the dating of Fbr). — [All]: Line 1 is verbally close to Sigv Berv 7/5, and the helmingar in which they are set express similar sentiments; ll. 5-8 also resemble Berv 15/6, 8. — [1, 4] ek þóttumk hafa þegit hvert land ‘I would think that I had received every land’: I.e. ‘I would feel I had been given the whole world’. — [1] hættinn ‘venturesome’: Or ‘disposed to take risks’. Finnur Jónsson (1932-3, 68) points out that the word could instead modify ek, since Þormóðr has just put his life in danger. — [2] happ- ‘fortunate’: The noun happ n. ‘luck’ appears to be descriptive here, and not integral to the structure of the kenning. Gaertner (1907, 330-1) reads hafs ‘ocean’s’ (which is probably the reading of Flat, though ‘haps’ is also possible), and he perceives a kenning sœkjandi hreins hafs ‘seeker of the reindeer of the ocean [SHIP > SEAFARER]’. — [6] ok Finni ‘and Finnr’: This, the reading of two early sagas of Óláfr helgi, is advocated by Finnur Jónsson (1932-3, 68), in reference to Finnr Árnason (see the Context above). Earlier (Skj B) he had adopted the reading inn svinni ‘the wise’ of Hb, Flat and Tóm (so also Skald, ÍF 6, 265, 286 and ÍS, since these are not eds of the Óláfr sagas), but he observes that the original reading probably became incomprehensible when the second helmingr was removed from its proper context. It is indeed difficult to see why an innocuous and plausible reading like inn svinni, if it were original, would have been altered to the potentially bathetic ok Finni in ÓHÆ and ÓHLeg. This analysis of the variants is clearly superior to Gaertner’s (1907, 331-2). — [7] rǫnd berum út á andra ‘let’s bear the shield out onto the skis’: The same line is found earlier in Eskál Lv 2/7. For this line, ÍF 6, 265 and ÍS II, 841 read stǫndum ár á ǫndrum, which is very nearly the reading of Hb, except that á is missing. Taken together with eybaugs ‘of the island-ring’, this is interpreted to mean ‘Let’s stand early on the skis of the island-ring [SEA > SHIPS]’, i.e. either ‘Let’s be prepared to board the ships’ or ‘Let’s go aboard’.

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