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Data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas

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Bjarni ...ason (Bjarni)

12th century; volume 3; ed. Edith Marold;

Fragments (Frag) - 5

Nothing is known about the life of the skald Bjarni …ason (Bjarni) who is credited in SnE and LaufE with four helmingar and one couplet. His patronymic is either not given or is rendered variously as ‘.a.son’ in SnE (W(169)), or ‘A: s(on)’ (LaufE 1979, 354) or ‘A. sk.’ (743ˣ(88v)), the latter of which could be interpreted as Bjarni A(patronymic) skáld (SnE 1848-87, II, 631). Bjarni ‘ason’ could be identical with a Bjarni skáld who composed poetry in honour of the Norwegian king Óláfr Tryggvason (d. 1000) according to Skáldatal A (SnE 1848-87, III, 253) and the Bjarni who is referred to in Hst Rst 34/8I along with Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld ‘Troublesome-poet’ Óttarsson (Hfr). Conceivably, he could also be the same Bjarni who flung a horn in the face of Hákon jarl (HaukrV Ísldr 16IV). But he is not identical with Bjarni gullbrárskáld ‘Gold-eyelash Poet’ Hallbjarnarson (BjHall), who is also named as a skald of Óláfr Tryggvason in Skáldatal B (SnE 1848-87, III, 261, 274), because that skald is known to have composed poetry for the Norwegian magnate Kálfr Árnason, staying with him during the winter of 1050/51. Hence the lifetime of Bjarni gullbrárskáld cannot be congruent with that of the Bjarni of Skáldatal A (SnE 1848-87, III, 495-8; LH I, 544).

Fragments — Bjarni FragIII

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2017, ‘ Bjarni ...ason, Fragments’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 20. <> (accessed 18 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Bjarni ason (el. a sk).: Brudstykker af digte (AI, 542, BI, 523); stanzas (if different): 4

SkP info: III, 24

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Bjarni Frag 4III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: unallocated (ed.) 2017, ‘Bjarni ...ason, Fragments 4’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 24.

This stanza (Bjarni Frag 4) is recorded only in mss 742ˣ (main ms.) and 1496ˣ of LaufE and is not included in Skj (or Skald). It was first published by Jón Helgason (1966a, 178-9). The helmingr is composed in direct speech and could have been a lausavísa or part of a poem. It could be a speech by a man who is forced by an executioner to tell the truth or to confess his offences. Since the executioner is called ‘frightener of the meeting-wheel of the marrow-world [BONE > TORTURE-WHEEL > EXECUTIONER]’, it calls to mind a wheel used as an instrument of execution. Breaking people on a wheel was a particularly gruesome method of torture and execution. A criminal’s bones were broken by striking a wheel or a hammer against his limbs, after which the body was woven through the wheel and displayed on a pole (Schild 1997, 202-4; Althoff, Goetz and Schubert 1998, 332).

Enn lægi mér, œgir,
eirsa*m*r við þik fleira,
mœtihjóls, at mæla,
mergheims, á hraðbergi.

Enn lægi mér á hraðbergi, eirsa*m*r, at mæla fleira við þik, {œgir {mœtihjóls {mergheims}}}.

Still I would be prepared, as a peaceful man, to speak more with you, {frightener {of the meeting-wheel {of the marrow-world}}} [BONE > TORTURE-WHEEL > EXECUTIONER].

Mss: 742ˣ(19v), 1496ˣ(50v) (LaufE)

Readings: [1] lægi (‘lęgi’): lagi 1496ˣ    [2] eir‑: eyr‑ 1496ˣ;    ‑sa*m*r: ‘sarmir’ all

Editions: Jón Helgason 1966a, 178-9.

Context: The helmingr provides an example of a kenning for leggir ‘limbs, extremities’.

Notes: [1, 4] lægi mér á hraðbergi ‘I would be prepared’: According to Jón Helgason (1966a, 179) the expression e-m liggr orð á hraðbergi for eloquence, though unattested in Old Icelandic, is common in the language later on. He translates it in this stanza as es würde mir leicht fallen ‘it would be easy for me’ (cf. also Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4: hraðberg 2: liggja á hraðbergi: være rede, ved Haanden, være i Beredskab ‘be ready, at hand, be prepared’). — [1, 3, 4] œgir mœtihjóls mergheims ‘frightener of the meeting-wheel of the marrow-world [BONE > TORTURE-WHEEL > EXECUTIONER]’: Jón Helgason (1966a, 179) interpreted mœtihjól mergheims ‘the wheel meeting/opposing the bone’ as a kenning for ‘shield’ and the frightener who made use of the shield as ‘man’. This interpretation of the kenning is unconvincing; Meissner 166-76 does not list any examples of shield-kennings with bones or other body parts as determinants. The interpretation of the kenning in the present edn is based on the medieval practice of breaking people on a wheel, where the criminal’s bones were broken by striking a wheel or a hammer against his limbs (see also Anon (FoGT) 17, Note to [All]). Mœtihjól mergheims ‘the meeting-wheel of the marrow-world [BONE]’, then, is an entirely suitable kenning for ‘wheel of torture’, which, combined with the base-word œgir ‘frightener’, forms an equally fitting expression for ‘executioner’. The present interpretation is supported by Frag 5 below, in which a woman releases a tormented man ‘from above’.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated