Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Jónsvísur — Kolb JónvVII

Kolbeinn Tumason

Beatrice La Farge 2007, ‘(Introduction to) 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.


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).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. Unger, C. R., ed. 1874. Postola sögur: Legendariske fortællinger om Apostlernes liv, deres kamp for kristendommens udbredelse, samt deres martyrdød. Christiania (Oslo): Bentzen.
  4. Bugge, Sophus, ed. 1874. ‘Anmærkingar ved de til Jons saga IV henhørende viser’. In Unger 1874, 932-6.
  5. Jón4 1874 = Jóns saga postula. In Unger 1874, 466-934, 47033-51322.
  6. Lange, Wolfgang. 1958a. Studien zur christlichen Dichtung der Nordgermanen 1000-1200. Palaestra 222. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  7. Internal references
  8. Not published: do not cite ()
  9. Guðrún Nordal 2017, ‘(Biography of) Kolbeinn Tumason’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 270.
  10. Beatrice La Farge 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Níkulás Bergsson, Jónsdrápa postula’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 66-9.
  11. Not published: do not cite ()

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