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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson (TorfE)

9th century; volume 1; ed. Russell Poole;

Lausavísur (Lv) - 5

Skj info: Torf-Einarr jarl, Jarl på Orknøerne; omkr. 900. (AI, 31-32, BI, 27-28).

Skj poems:

Einarr jarl Rǫgnvaldsson (TorfE) ruled over the Orkneys at some time in the early tenth century. Our knowledge of him derives largely from Orkn, Fsk, and HHárf in Hkr; the relevant part of ÓT essentially derives from Hkr. All three principal compilations incorporate lausavísur ascribed to Einarr which are printed below as his five lausavísur. Additionally, Orkn and Hkr give a brief account of his life and of the events that the lausavísur relate to. Parts of the story are also told in Ldn (ÍF 1, 314, 316) but without the lausavísur (Mundal 1993, 248). His more familiar name, Torf-Einarr ‘Turf-Einarr’, is explained as due to his adoption of peat as a fuel in Orkney (ÍF 34, 11; ÍF 26, 129).

Einarr was a son of Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl ‘Jarl of Møre’, his mother being a concubine (see Note to Lv 1 [All] on Rǫgnvaldr’s sons). When King Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ awarded Rǫgnvaldr the rule of Orkney and Shetland in compensation for the killing of his son Ívarr, Rǫgnvaldr initially delegated it to his brother Sigurðr, then to Sigurðr’s son Guttormr, and after their deaths to his own son Hallaðr. Only after Hallaðr failed in the task did Rǫgnvaldr grudgingly assent to Einarr’s offer to take it on (ÍF 34, 10-11). Torf-Einarr established himself as lord of the islands, having first defeated two viking leaders; see Anon (Hhárf). The killing of Rǫgnvaldr, possibly at Haraldr’s instigation, precipitated the vengeance on Einarr’s part recounted in the lausavísur.

Lausavísur — TorfE LvI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson, 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. 129.

 1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Torf-Einarr jarl: Lausavísur (AI, 31-2, BI, 27-8); stanzas (if different): 2 | 4 | 5

SkP info: I, 131

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — TorfE Lv 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson, Lausavísur 1’ 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. 131.

Sékat Hrolfs ór hendi
né Hrollaugi fljúga
dǫrr á dolga mengi;
dugir oss fǫður hefna.
En í kveld, meðan knýjum,
of kerstraumi, rómu,
þegjandi sitr þetta
Þórir jarl á Mœri.

Sékat dǫrr fljúga ór hendi Hrolfs né Hrollaugi á mengi dolga; dugir oss hefna fǫður. En í kveld, meðan knýjum rómu, sitr Þórir jarl þetta þegjandi of {kerstraumi} á Mœri.

I do not see spears flying from Hrólfr’s hand nor from Hrollaugr’s in the throng of enemies; it is right for us to avenge our father. Yet this evening, while we [I] press our [my] attack, Þórir jarl ignores this in silence over his {cup-stream} [DRINK] in Møre.

Mss: (70r), F(12rb), J1ˣ(40r), J2ˣ(40r) (Hkr); 332ˣ(11), Flat(29va) (Orkn); FskAˣ(313), 301ˣ(116r) (Fsk); 761bˣ(395r)

Readings: [1] Sékat: sét gat Flat    [3] dolga: so F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 332ˣ, 761bˣ, dœla with dolga in margin Kˣ, FskAˣ, ‘dela’ Flat, dœla 301ˣ    [5] í: om. 332ˣ;    meðan: so J1ˣ, J2ˣ, Flat, 301ˣ, 761bˣ, þar er with meðan in margin Kˣ, þar er F, 332ˣ, meðan with þar er in margin FskAˣ;    knýjum: knífum J1ˣ, knúðum Flat    [6] of: at F;    ker‑: her‑ J1ˣ    [7] þegjandi sitr: ‘þǫiandr rér’ J1ˣ, ‘þǫiande rér’ J2ˣ, 761bˣ, siti þegjandi um Flat;    þetta: þessi with þetta in margin FskAˣ, þessi 301ˣ

Editions: Skj: Torf-Einarr jarl, Lausavísur 1: AI, 31, BI, 27-8, Skald I, 17, NN §§2411, 2985G; ÍF 26, 131-2 (HHárf ch. 30), F 1871, 55; Orkn 1913-16, 11, ÍF 34, 12 (ch. 8), Flat 1860-8, I, 223; Fsk 1902-3, 296-7 (ch. 64), ÍF 29, 291-2 (ch. 74); von See 1960, 34.

Context: Orkn tells that as the sons of Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ come of age they attack the king’s jarls, killing some and driving others from their lands. Among their victims is Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl, who is killed by two of Haraldr’s sons by Snæfríðr: Hálfdan háleggr ‘Long-legged’ and Guðrøðr ljómi ‘Beam of light’ (cf. ÍF 26, 126). Haraldr expresses fury at the jarl’s death, restores Rǫgnvaldr’s title of jarl and hereditary lands in Mœrr (Møre) and Raumsdalr (Romsdalen) to his son and successor Þórir, and pursues his own sons. Hálfdan flees to the Orkneys, causing terror among the inhabitants. Torf-Einarr retreats from Orkney to Scotland but returns later the same year to win a victory against Hálfdan, who subsequently escapes, whereupon Torf-Einarr speaks Lv 1. Hkr describes the battle against Hálfdan, which culminates in his escape and later capture. It is stated that Torf-Einarr had spoken Lv 1 the evening before the battle. In Fsk the stanzas are appended to a passage about William the Conqueror and his descent from Gǫngu-Hrólfr. It is explained that Hrólfr was the son of Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl and brother of Þórir jarl þegjandi ‘the Silent’ and of Torf-Einarr of the Orkneys, and that there was another brother, Hrollaugr, as Torf-Einarr said when he had killed Hálfdan háleggr to avenge his killing of Torf-Einarr’s father. Lv 1, 4 and 3 are then cited without interruption.

Notes: [All]: The lausavísa complains of the failure of Torf-Einarr’s brothers Hrólfr, Þórir, and Hrollaugr to join him in avenging their father. The narrative is pres.-tense, suggestive of impromptu verse-making in the thick of the action. In Hkr the stanza is interpreted instead as a prediction of future events. Prose traditions about the sons of Rǫgnvaldr Mœrajarl are not unanimous, and no doubt include semi-legendary material (cf. Mundal 1993, 248-51). Fsk (Context above) seems to know nothing more about them, while Orkn (ÍF 34, 7) and Hkr (ÍF 26, 123) represent Rǫgnvaldr as having Hallaðr, Hrollaugr and Einarr by a concubine and Hrólfr and Þórir by his wife (Ragnhildr in Orkn, Hildr in Hkr); Orkn names Ívarr as another legitimate son. The lausavísa makes no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate sons. — [1] Hrolfs ‘Hrólfr’s’: According to tradition (Orkn, Hkr), Gǫngu-Hrólfr, having been exiled from Norway by Haraldr hárfagri, created a new jarldom in Normandy (Valland); see also Hildr Lv and its Context. — [2] Hrollaugi ‘from Hrollaugr’s’: The dat. of respect is commonly used with parts of the body (NS §100 Anm. 3). That gen. sg. Hrólfs and dat. sg. Hrollaugi both appear to qualify hendi ‘hand’ with the same poss. sense is syntactically awkward but may have been forced by metrical considerations. An alternative possibility is to take Hrollaugi as directly dependent on ór, hence ‘from Hrollaugr’, but such a use of ór would be unusual at best. — [3] dǫrr ‘spears’: A less common word for ‘spear’ than geirr, dǫrr (nom. sg. darr) may refer particularly to throwing-spears (Liestøl 1956-78, 510; Jesch 2012). — [3] dolga ‘of enemies’: (a) This reading is attested in mss from both branches of the Hkr stemma, and in 332ˣ, and is adopted in several eds (e.g. Skj B; Orkn 1913-16; ÍF 26; von See 1960; ÍF 34). (b) Dœla ‘of the men of the valleys’ occurs in , Flat and the Fsk transcripts and is the lectio difficilior (it is adopted in Hkr 1991, 1, 81-2 and ÍF 29). Its precise force in this context is not clear, but it could designate men from the (Norwegian) valleys who supported the sons of Haraldr hárfagri. — [4] dugir ‘it is right’: The verb duga is here used in the sense of ‘be right’, ‘be a duty’, which shades into the more familiar sense of ‘avail’ (Konráð Gíslason 1892, 196-7; Mundal 1993, 254-5). Kock (NN §2411) emends to dofnar, which would give some such sense as ‘we are sluggish in avenging our father’, so as to obtain a hending. However, the hendingar in Torf-Einarr’s lausavísur are not regular (see Introduction). — [5] meðan ‘while’: Finnur Jónsson (1884, 96) argues for this reading on the grounds that neither meaning of the variant þars (causal ‘since’ or local ‘where’) fits the context. — [5] knýjum ‘we [I] press’: Given Torf-Einarr’s complaints about his brothers’ failure to join him in vengeance, this is likely to be a case of pl. for sg. The pl. could alternatively be taken at face value if he is referring to his followers. — [7] þegjandi ‘in silence’: Lit. ‘(being) silent’. The interpretation of this pres. part. as a nickname for Þórir was probably a secondary development (Finnur Jónsson 1884, 96; cf. Mundal 1993, 254-5). — [7] sitr þetta ‘ignores this’: For a different assignation of þetta, see Mundal (1993, 254). The characterisation of Þórir here exemplifies the skaldic motif in which a warrior in action is contrasted with a cowardly stay-at-home (cf. Vagn Lv 1/5-8, Anon Liðs 3).  — [8] Þórir jarl ... á Mœri ‘Þórir jarl ... in Møre’: See the Context above; also Andersen (1977, 77).

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