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Kolbeinn Tumason (Kolb)

13th century; volume 4; ed. Guðrún Nordal;

VII. Jónsvísur (Jónv) - 5

This edition is currently in preparation. The biography below may represent a superseded edition, notes and/or an interim or draft version. Do not cite this material without consulting the volume and skald editors.

Kolbeinn Tumason (1173-1208) was a member of the Ásbirningar family and the most powerful chieftain in northern Iceland around 1200. In order to cement his position, Kolbeinn used his influence to ensure the election of his wife’s cousin Guðmundr Árason as bishop of Hólar, the episcopal seat in Skagafjörður, in 1201. Guðmundr, however, proved to be a staunch advocate of ecclesiastical independence from secular chieftains and thus he and Kolbeinn soon came into conflict with one another. Guðmundr excommunicated Kolbeinn several times between 1205 and 1207; in 1208 Kolbeinn mounted an attack on Guðmundr and his supporters at Víðines (Hjaltadalur), in the course of which Kolbeinn was killed (Gunnar Karlsson 1975, 34-5; Magnús Stefánsson 1975, 118-29).

Kolbeinn lived at Víðimýrr in Skagafjǫrðr, where he had a church dedicated to the Virgin and S. Peter. Although he was not in orders, Kolbeinn was a man of some education, as his poetry reveals. It also reveals his deeply religious nature, notwithstanding his opposition to Guðmundr Árason. In addition to several lvv (Kolb LvIV) and three sts composed immediately before his death, which are variously quoted in Stu, GBp or TGT, Kolbeinn is said to have been the author of a poem in praise of Mary, of which, however, no trace remains (GBpA, 457 n. 1, 491 n. 2; GBpB, 569-70). Five sts from a poem in honour of S. John (Kolb Jónv) have been preserved in Jón4. ‘It is no doubt [John] the Evangelist’s Association with [Mary] which led him to compose poetry in his honour’ (Cormack 1994, 42).

Jónsvísur (‘Vísur about John the Apostle’) — Kolb JónvVII

Beatrice La Farge 2007, ‘ Kolbeinn Tumason, Jónsvísur’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 223-7. <> (accessed 27 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Kolbeinn Tumason: 1. Jónsvísur (AII, 37, BII, 45-6)

in texts: Jón4

SkP info: VII, 223-7

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Five sts from a dróttkvætt poem JónsvísurVísur about John the Apostle’ (Kolb Jónv) composed by Kolbeinn Tumason (1173-1208) in honour of John the Apostle, to whom the fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation were traditionally attributed, are preserved in a sole ms., AM 649 a 4° (649a), c. 1350-1400, where they are quoted at the end of a version of Jóns saga postula (Jón4; for further details of the ms., see Introduction to Ník Jóndr; see also Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 316).

In Jón4 the five sts are quoted in the same order as they appear below. In the saga they are preceded by a short introduction which states that Kolbeinn’s poem had forty-seven sts. The prose introduction (fol. 47r) mentions that Kolbeinn entitled his poem Jóns vísur, þviat verki sa er eigi stefsettr ‘because the work is not provided with a refrain’. The introduction also indicates that the first four sts quoted are from the first part of the poem, while the fifth is from nærr enda sins verks ‘near the end of his poem’. The sts emphasise John’s virginity and his special position in relation to Christ, as the prose introduction to the poem in Jón4 states with reference to the first four sts quoted: I ondverðu briosti þess kvęðis setr hann þa dyrðarástuð, er guðs son veitti Johanni, ok hversu gudsriddarinn stóð i striði várs grędara undir krossinum, ok hveria tign hann oðlaðiz i umboði teknu at geyma drotning himinrikis ‘In the beginning of the first part of this poem he sets forth the special love which God’s son bore to John, and how God’s knight stood at the foot of the Cross during the agony of our Saviour and what honour he gained in accepting the charge of protecting the queen of the kingdom of heaven [Mary]’ (Jón4 1874, 511). For further information on Kolbein’s devotion to the Virgin Mary and S. John see his biography in vol. IV.

Kolb Jóndr has been previously edited by Unger 1874 and, as an appendix to Unger’s edn of Jón4, by Sophus Bugge (1874, 935-6), as well as by Lange 1958a, Finnur Jónsson (Skj) and Kock (Skald).

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