Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (Bersi)
11th century; volume 1; ed. Diana Whaley;
1. Flokkr about Óláfr helgi (Ólfl) - 3
2. Lausavísa (Lv) - 1
Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (or simply Torfuson; Bersi) is named from his mother, an otherwise unknown female skald Torfa, from Miðfjörður, Húnavatnsþing, northern Iceland. He is introduced as skáld gótt ‘a fine poet’ in Grettis saga (ÍF 7, 42); his birth would be placed c. 985-90 (LH I, 564). Bersi travelled abroad with Grettir Ásmundarson, gained the favour of Sveinn jarl Hákonarson (ÍF 7, 86) and seemingly fought with Sveinn at the battle of Nesjar (1016; see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume for rulers and battles of the period). He is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 258, 281, 282) as a skald to Sveinn and to Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great), but no court poetry for them by him survives (though see Bersi Ólfl 2). Some time after Nesjar he was taken captive by Óláfr Haraldsson, composed his flokkr (below) and found favour with the king. He is then named in the excerpts (articuli) from Styrmir Kárason’s Lífssaga among Óláfr’s Icelandic hirðmenn ‘retainers’ (see his Lv below). He went on a pilgrimage to Rome with Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) and, learning of the king’s death (1030) as he left Rome, returned to S. Peter’s church in extreme anguish, died and was buried there (ÓH 1941, II, 830, in an interpolation).
Flokkr about Óláfr helgi —
Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Bersi Skáld-Torfuson, Flokkr about Óláfr helgi’ 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. 790.
Skj: Bersi Skáldtorfuson: 1. En flok om kong Olaf, o. 1020 (AI, 275-6, BI, 255)
in texts: Flat, Hkr, ÓH, ÓHHkr
SkP info: I, 790
The three extant stanzas of the flokkr (Bersi Ólfl) are all preserved in Snorri Sturluson’s Óláfs saga helga in both the separate (ÓH) and Heimskringla (ÓHHkr) versions (jointly designated ÓH-Hkr below). It is possible that conventional praise of Óláfr was contained in stanzas now lost, but the surviving ones instead constitute the reluctant utterance of one who fought with Sveinn jarl Hákonarson at Nesjar, c. 1016, and was captured by Óláfr Haraldsson some time after; see Context to st. 1 for Snorri’s account of the circumstances, and for the battle see Sigvatr’s Nesjavísur (Sigv Nesv). The poem is dated c. 1020 in Skj. The choice of main ms. is, as often, difficult, Kˣ and Holm2 being both good candidates and having very similar texts. Although Holm2 might be given priority, as a vellum ms. rather than a paper transcript, and a representative of the prior work ÓH, the readings of Kˣ across the three stanzas are slightly better in the light of the whole paradosis; see below for mss used in this edition.