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).
Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Bersi Skáld-Torfuson, Lausavísa’ 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. 795.
Skj: Bersi Skáldtorfuson: 2. Lausavísa, o. 1025 (AI, 277, BI, 256); stanzas (if different): [v]
in texts: Flat, Hkr, ÓH, ÓHHkr, ÓHLeg, ÓHÆ
SkP info: I, 795
This stanza (Bersi Lv) is something of a cause célèbre for its three-way attribution: to Bersi in Styrmir Kárason’s Articuli in Flat(187rb); to Óttarr svarti in ÓHÆ and ÓHLeg; and to Sigvatr in the Separate (ÓH) and Hkr (ÓHHkr) versions of Óláfs saga helga (jointly ÓH-Hkr below). The attribution to Sigvatr may be a piece of rationalization on the part of Snorri Sturluson, based on the knowledge that Sigvatr mentioned a fine sword presented by the king in Sigv ErfÓl 27 (Fidjestøl 1982, 23). If the stanza is by Bersi, and if the ruler apostrophised is King Óláfr, the reference in l. 6 to long-term service suggests a date well after Bersi’s Óláfsflokkr (Bersi Ólfl) and his winning of the king’s favour; Skj suggests c. 1025. Within the stanza, too, there are a few important textual divergences, especially between ÓHÆ, ÓHLeg and Flat(187rb) on the one hand and ÓH-Hkr on the other, which makes the printing of a single text somewhat problematic. The mss used are listed below. It may be noted that the text in J2ˣ was copied from K and hence belongs to the Hkr redaction, unlike most stanzas from Óláfs saga helga in J2ˣ, which belong to the ÓH redaction.