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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rv Lv 30II

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 30’ 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. 606-7.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali KolssonLausavísur

Villat vinr minn kalla
— varð allr í drit falla —
— nær vas í því œrin
ógæfa — ‘miðhæfi’.
Lítt hykk, at þá þœtti
þengils mágr, es rengðisk,
— leirr fellr grár af gauri —
góligr, í Imbólum.

Vinr minn villat kalla ‘miðhæfi’; varð allr falla í drit; vas í því nær œrin ógæfa. Hykk, at mágr þengils þœtti lítt góligr þá, es rengðisk í Imbólum; grár leirr fellr af gauri.

My friend does not wish to call out ‘miðhæfi’; he fell right down in the shit; there was in that nearly enough bad luck. I think that the in-law of the prince [= Erlingr] seemed not very attractive then, when he mis-stepped in Imbólum; grey mud falls from the ruffian.

Mss: Flat(140vb), R702ˣ(50v) (Orkn)

Readings: [2] varð: varð hann Flat    [3] vas (‘var’): er R702ˣ    [5] Lítt: hitt R702ˣ    [7] leirr: saurr R702ˣ;    fellr: fell R702ˣ;    af gauri: so R702ˣ, of geira Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 511, Skj BI, 486, Skald I, 238, NN §2068; Flat 1860-8, II, 488, Orkn 1887, 177, Orkn 1913-16, 257, ÍF 34, 234 (ch. 88), Bibire 1988, 238.

Context: In a place called Imbólum, it was apparently the custom for people to shout miðhæfi when they wanted someone coming in the opposite direction in a narrow place to give way. On one occasion when he was very drunk, Erlingr skakki failed to give way to some townspeople shouting this on a gangplank and fell into the mud of the harbour. The st. is Rǫgnvaldr’s response when he heard about this the next day.

Notes: [3]: This l. lacks the first alliterating stave. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) adopts the variant er ‘is’ (for vas ‘was’) from R702ˣ, but this is not metrically satisfactory, as noted by Kock (NN §2068) who prefers to take the same ms.’s ‘no᷎r’ as an error for ‘uo᷎r’, i.e. (v)ór ‘our’. While this would solve the metrical problem, it does not explain the Flat variant (nær ‘nearly’), nor is it at all clear why Rǫgnvaldr would see Erlingr’s fall as his own or their joint misfortune. It is probably best to accept that the l. (or possibly even the whole couplet) has been corrupted from an original which cannot now be reconstructed. — [4] ‘miðhæfi’: This is not an ON word (and is duly not recorded in Fritzner, while LP paraphrases the saga explanation). Summaries of possible Gk expressions it could represent can be found in ÍF 34, 233-4 n. 4 and McDougall 1987-8, 219-20. These suggestions depend of course on the location of Imbólum (see Note to l. 8 below) and whether the language spoken there was Gk. CVC suggests an expression that means ‘go away’, while Sigfús Blöndal (1978, 155-6) advocates a suggestion that it means ‘do not cross’, which may be relevant to Erlingr’s situation on the gangplank, but is less likely for the more general custom. — [6] mágr þengils ‘the in-law of the prince [= Erlingr]’: Erlingr was married to Kristín, the daughter of King Sigurðr jórsalafari Magnússon. — [7] fellr ‘falls’: If the saga-context is correct that Rǫgnvaldr composed this st. the following morning, then R702ˣ’s variant fell ‘fell’ is to be preferred. — [8] í Imbólum ‘in Imbólum’: Suggestions for where this was include Ampipholis in Macedonia and the Isle of Imbros in the Dardanelles (ÍF 34, 233 n. 2). McDougall (1987-8, 228 n. 38) concludes that the most likely place is Neochori, the harbour of Ampipholis. Meissner (1925, 183-4) did not think it was a p. n., though the author of Orkn, at any rate, clearly thought it was a town by this name (ÍF 34, 233). He also interpreted it as a nom. form, although in the st. it appears to have a dat. pl. ending.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  6. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  7. 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.
  8. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  9. ÍF 34 = Orkneyinga saga. Ed. Finnbogi Guðmundsson. 1965.
  10. Orkn 1913-16 = Sigurður Nordal, ed. 1913-16. Orkneyinga saga. SUGNL 40. Copenhagen: Møller.
  11. Sigfús Blöndal. 1978. The Varangians of Byzantium: An Aspect of Byzantine Military History. Trans. and rev. Benedikt S. Benedikz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. First published 1954 as Væringja saga. Reykjavík: Ísafoldarprentsmiðja.
  12. Bibire, Paul. 1988. ‘The Poetry of Earl Rǫgnvaldr’s Court’. In Crawford 1988, 208-40.
  13. McDougall, Ian. 1987-8. ‘Foreigners and Foreign Languages in Iceland’. SBVS 22, 180-233.
  14. Meissner, Rudolf. 1925. ‘Ermengarde, Vicegräfin von Narbonne, und Jarl Rögnvald’. ANF 41, 140-91.
  15. Orkn 1887 = Gudbrand Vigfusson 1887-94, I.
  16. Internal references
  17. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Orkneyinga saga (Orkn)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  18. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘(Biography of) Sigurðr jórsalafari Magnússon’ 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. 467-9.

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