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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, 133

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — TorfE Lv 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson, Lausavísur 2’ 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. 133.

Margr verðr sekr at sauðum
seggr með fǫgru skeggi,
en ek at ungs í Eyjum
allvalds sonar falli.
Hætt segja mér hǫlðar
við hugfullan stilli;
Haralds hefk skarð í skildi
— skala ugga þat — hǫggvit.

Margr seggr með fǫgru skeggi verðr sekr at sauðum, en ek at falli {ungs sonar allvalds} í Eyjum. Hǫlðar segja mér hætt við hugfullan stilli; hefk hǫggvit skarð í skildi Haralds; skala ugga þat.

Many a man with a handsome beard is convicted for sheep, but I [am convicted] for the death {of the young son of the mighty ruler} [= Hálfdan] in the Islands [Orkney]. Freeholders say there is danger for me from the resolute ruler; I have cut a notch in Haraldr’s shield; I shall not fear that.

Mss: (71r), F(12rb), J1ˣ(40v), J2ˣ(40v) (Hkr); 61(22rb), 53(18vb-19ra), 54(19rb), Bb(29vb) (ÓT); 332ˣ(12), Flat(29va), R702ˣ(36v) (Orkn); 761bˣ(395r)

Readings: [1] sekr: ‘sek[…]’ 53, sénn 332ˣ, Flat, R702ˣ;    at: so 332ˣ, Flat, R702ˣ, um Kˣ, F, 61, 54, Bb, 761bˣ, of J1ˣ, J2ˣ, ‘[…]’ 53;    sauðum: so 332ˣ, Flat, R702ˣ, sauði Kˣ, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb, 761bˣ    [2] seggr: ‘s[…]’ 53;    fǫgru: breiðu 332ˣ, R702ˣ    [3] at: af J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    í: ór 61, 54, Bb, ‘[…]’ 53, 761bˣ;    Eyjum: ‘[…]’ 53, eyju 332ˣ, Flat    [6] stilli: stylli J2ˣ    [8] þat: þér 54, Bb;    hǫggvit: ‘hꜹguð’ J1ˣ

Editions: Skj: Torf-Einarr jarl, Lausavísur 5: AI, 32, BI, 28, Skald I, 17-8; ÍF 26, 133-4 (HHárf ch. 31), F 1871, 56; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 214-15; Orkn 1913-16, 12, ÍF 34, 13-14 (ch. 8), Flat 1860-8, I, 224; von See 1960, 34.

Context: Orkn tells that on the day after the battle (see Context to Lv 1) Torf-Einarr’s men hunt down Hálfdan. Torf-Einarr has him put to death by the ‘blood-eagle’ ritual (see Note to Lv 3/1, 4). Orkn places Lv 2 immediately after its account of Hálfdan’s death, while Hkr instead refers it to a later occasion when, having heard of King Haraldr’s arrival in Orkney with a large force, Torf-Einarr escapes to Nes (Caithness).

Notes: [1] sekr at sauðum ‘convicted for sheep’: (a) The reading sekr ‘convicted, outlawed’ in Hkr and ÓT is also adopted in Skj B and Skald, and apparently yields the sense in ll. 1-4 that while others kill sheep Torf-Einarr has killed a prince. This entails the slight difficulty that sekr at normally means ‘sentenced to’ not ‘sentenced for’ (von See 1960, 39). (b) The sense of the Orkn variant sénn at sauðum ‘seen with sheep’ is obscure, but the image could continue the contrast between Torf-Einarr as avenger and his apathetic brothers (cf. Note to Lv 1/7 sitr þetta), who here devote themselves to their appearance (fǫgru skeggi ‘handsome beard’) and to farm-work. — [2] seggr með fǫgru skeggi ‘a man with a handsome beard’: The intention behind this phrase is unclear. Mundal (1993, 258) interprets it as a vocative, separate from the adj. margr and apostrophising King Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’, but that seems forced. The reading fǫgru ‘handsome’ is to be preferred over breiðu ‘broad’, though both make sense, because it appears in mss of Orkn as well as of Hkr and ÓT; breiðu is printed in Orkn 1913-16, von See (1960) and ÍF 34. — [5] segja mér hætt ‘say there is danger for me’: Lit. ‘say dangerous for me’; vesa ‘to be’ is understood. — [7] skarð í skildi ‘a notch in … shield’: The recurring mentions of Haraldr in these lausavísur and the gloating emphasis on how Torf-Einarr’s actions will affect him or his family may imply that, contrary to the prose accounts, it was the king himself who instigated the death of Rǫgnvaldr (von See 1960, 37). — [7] skildi ‘shield’: Some eds (Orkn 1913-16; ÍF 34) emend to acc. pl. skjǫldu, presumably to obtain acc. of motion towards. — [8] skala ugga þat ‘I shall not fear that’: I.e. possible reprisals from King Haraldr; cf. the defiant Lv 5.

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