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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rv Lv 1II

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 1’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 576-7.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali KolssonLausavísur

Tafl emk ǫrr at efla;
íþróttir kannk níu;
týnik trauðla rúnum;
tíðs mér bók ok smíðir.
Skríða kannk á skíðum;
skýtk ok rœk, svát nýtir;
hvártveggja kannk hyggja:
harpslôtt ok bragþôttu.

Emk ǫrr at efla tafl; kannk níu íþróttir; týnik rúnum trauðla; tíðs mér bók ok smíðir. Kannk skríða á skíðum; skýtk ok rœk, svát nýtir; kannk hyggja hvártveggja: harpslôtt ok bragþôttu.

I am quick at playing board games; I have nine skills; I forget runes slowly; the book is a preoccupation with me and also craftsmanship. I am able to glide on skis; I shoot and I row so that it makes a difference; I am able to understand both: harp-playing and poems.

Mss: 325I(5v), Flat(135rb), R702ˣ(40v) (Orkn)

Readings: [3] trauðla: ‘tradla’ R702ˣ    [4] mér: so Flat, om. 325I, R702ˣ    [5] Skríða: ‘skrid’ R702ˣ    [6] rœk: rœ Flat, R702ˣ    [7] kannk (‘kann ec’): kann ek at Flat;    hyggja: ‘hyggu’ R702ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 505, Skj BI, 478, Skald I, 235, NN §2203; Flat 1860-8, II, 440, Orkn 1887, 95, Orkn 1913-16, 139, ÍF 34, 130 (ch. 58), Bibire 1988, 226.

Context: Although Kali (later Rǫgnvaldr) Kolsson is mentioned briefly in ch. 42 of Orkn (ÍF 34, 102), he is properly described in ch. 58 and said to have been atgørvimaðr meiri en velflestir menn aðrir ‘a person proficient at more things than almost all others’ (ÍF 34, 130).

Notes: [1] tafl ‘board games’: Tafl may refer to the traditional game of hnefatafl, though it is equally possibly an early reference to chess (KLNM 2, 224). The Lewis chess pieces, probably made in Norway and destined for somewhere in Britain or Ireland when they were lost, are roughly contemporary with Rǫgnvaldr and their number and quality show both the popularity and the high status of this game at that time and in the same region (Robinson 2004). See also Note to st. 23/8. — [2] íþróttir ‘skills’: Kock (NN §2203) collects a range of references to different kinds of íþróttir from a variety of OE and ON sources, though his skaldic examples are mostly from this st. and Hharð Gamv 4 (see Note to ll. 5-8, below). — [3] rúnum ‘runes’: Although it is not possible to point to an inscription carved by Rǫgnvaldr himself, the runic graffiti in the prehistoric chambered tomb of Maeshowe, Orkney, are from his time and are more than plausibly linked to him and his fellow crusaders (Barnes 1994). — [4] tíðs mér bók ‘the book is a preoccupation with me’: Since books were being written in the vernacular by Rǫgnvaldr’s time, it is impossible to determine whether he is boasting of his skill at reading or writing in general, or of a special skill in Lat. learning, as suggested in Hl 1941, 135. — [5-8]: This helmingr is identical to the second helmingr of Hharð Gamv 4. In that st., the poet boasts of eight accomplishments, five of which are the same as Rǫgnvaldr’s (skiing, shooting, rowing and the appreciation of both harp-playing and poetry). Haraldr makes no mention of board games, runes or craftsmanship, but mentions poetry twice, once as the act of composing it and once as the ability to comprehend (and appreciate) it. — [5]: The ability to ski identifies Rǫgnvaldr as Norw. (Jesch 2005, 130-1). — [8] harpslôtt ‘harp-playing’: De Geer (1985, 220-7) discusses the instruments and playing techniques to which this might refer.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Barnes, Geraldine, Margaret Clunies Ross and Judy Quinn, eds. 1994. Old Norse Studies in the New World: A Collection of Essays to Celebrate the Jubilee of the Teaching of Old Norse at the University of Sydney 1943-93. Sydney: Department of English, University of Sydney.
  5. KLNM = Kulturhistorisk leksikon for nordisk middelalder fra vikingetid til reformationstid. 1956-78. 22 vols. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger. [References are to column nos.]
  6. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  7. ÍF 34 = Orkneyinga saga. Ed. Finnbogi Guðmundsson. 1965.
  8. Orkn 1913-16 = Sigurður Nordal, ed. 1913-16. Orkneyinga saga. SUGNL 40. Copenhagen: Møller.
  9. Bibire, Paul. 1988. ‘The Poetry of Earl Rǫgnvaldr’s Court’. In Crawford 1988, 208-40.
  10. De Geer, Ingrid. 1985. ‘Earl, Saint, Bishop, Skald—and Music: The Orkney Earldom of the Twelfth Century. A Musicological Study’. Diss. Uppsala: Institutionen för musikvetenskap, Uppsala universitet.
  11. Jesch, Judith. 2005. ‘Geography and Travel’. In McTurk 2005, 119-35.
  12. Robinson, James. 2004. The Lewis Chessmen. London: The British Museum Press.
  13. Hl 1941 = Jón Helgason and Anne Holtsmark, eds. 1941. Háttalykill enn forni. BA 1. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  14. Orkn 1887 = Gudbrand Vigfusson 1887-94, I.
  15. Internal references
  16. (forthcoming), ‘ Unattributed, Orkneyinga saga’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <> (accessed 26 September 2021)
  17. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Haraldr harðráði Sigurðarson, Gamanvísur 4’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 39-40.

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