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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rv Lv 4II

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 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. 579-80.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali KolssonLausavísur
345

Sextán ‘sixteen [women]’

sextán (num. cardinal): sixteen

Close

hefik ‘I have’

hafa (verb): have

[1] hefik (‘hefe ek’): so R702ˣ, ‘hefir ek’ Flat

Close

sénar ‘seen’

2. sjá (verb): see

notes

[1, 3] sénar; firrðar ‘seen; denuded of’: The f. acc. pl. endings on both of these inflected past participles indicate that the sixteen persons are figured as female based on their being clean-shaven, unarmed, and (presumably) because they are wearing long robes.

Close

senn ‘all at once’

senn (adv.): at once

Close

ok ‘and [they had]’

3. ok (conj.): and, but; also

notes

[2] ok topp ‘and [they had] a fringe’: Kock (NN §2061) suggests this is an example of an adverbial acc.

Close

topp ‘a fringe’

toppr (noun m.; °; -ar): tuft of hair, fringe

notes

[2] ok topp ‘and [they had] a fringe’: Kock (NN §2061) suggests this is an example of an adverbial acc. — [2, 8] topp í enni; kollóttar ‘a fringe on their forehead; bald’: This appears to describe the standard Western coronal tonsure (which leaves the hair in a ring on the head), rather than the insular tonsure, as suggested in ÍF 34. The form of the latter has recently been thoroughly discussed in McCarthy 2003, who argues that it had a triangular shape. The coronal tonsure is similar to male-pattern baldness and is thus the clue that the people being observed are not women after all. The st. plays on various gender ambiguities to explain how a group of men can be both unarmed and bald.

Close

topp ‘a fringe’

toppr (noun m.; °; -ar): tuft of hair, fringe

notes

[2] ok topp ‘and [they had] a fringe’: Kock (NN §2061) suggests this is an example of an adverbial acc. — [2, 8] topp í enni; kollóttar ‘a fringe on their forehead; bald’: This appears to describe the standard Western coronal tonsure (which leaves the hair in a ring on the head), rather than the insular tonsure, as suggested in ÍF 34. The form of the latter has recently been thoroughly discussed in McCarthy 2003, who argues that it had a triangular shape. The coronal tonsure is similar to male-pattern baldness and is thus the clue that the people being observed are not women after all. The st. plays on various gender ambiguities to explain how a group of men can be both unarmed and bald.

Close

í ‘on their’

í (prep.): in, into

notes

[2, 8] topp í enni; kollóttar ‘a fringe on their forehead; bald’: This appears to describe the standard Western coronal tonsure (which leaves the hair in a ring on the head), rather than the insular tonsure, as suggested in ÍF 34. The form of the latter has recently been thoroughly discussed in McCarthy 2003, who argues that it had a triangular shape. The coronal tonsure is similar to male-pattern baldness and is thus the clue that the people being observed are not women after all. The st. plays on various gender ambiguities to explain how a group of men can be both unarmed and bald.

Close

enni ‘forehead’

enni (noun n.; °-s; -): forehead, brow

notes

[2, 8] topp í enni; kollóttar ‘a fringe on their forehead; bald’: This appears to describe the standard Western coronal tonsure (which leaves the hair in a ring on the head), rather than the insular tonsure, as suggested in ÍF 34. The form of the latter has recently been thoroughly discussed in McCarthy 2003, who argues that it had a triangular shape. The coronal tonsure is similar to male-pattern baldness and is thus the clue that the people being observed are not women after all. The st. plays on various gender ambiguities to explain how a group of men can be both unarmed and bald.

Close

jarðar ‘of the ground of’

jǫrð (noun f.; °jarðar, dat. -u; jarðir/jarðar(DN I (1367) 304Š)): ground, earth

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

jarðar ‘of the ground of’

jǫrð (noun f.; °jarðar, dat. -u; jarðir/jarðar(DN I (1367) 304Š)): ground, earth

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

elli ‘the old age’

elli (noun f.; °-): old age

[3] elli: so R702ˣ, eldi Flat

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

firrðar ‘denuded of’

2. firra (verb): keep (from), remove

notes

[1, 3] sénar; firrðar ‘seen; denuded of’: The f. acc. pl. endings on both of these inflected past participles indicate that the sixteen persons are figured as female based on their being clean-shaven, unarmed, and (presumably) because they are wearing long robes. — [3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

firrðar ‘denuded of’

2. firra (verb): keep (from), remove

notes

[1, 3] sénar; firrðar ‘seen; denuded of’: The f. acc. pl. endings on both of these inflected past participles indicate that the sixteen persons are figured as female based on their being clean-shaven, unarmed, and (presumably) because they are wearing long robes. — [3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

orm ‘the serpent’

ormr (noun m.; °-s, dat. -i; -ar): serpent < ormvangr (noun m.)

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

orm ‘the serpent’

ormr (noun m.; °-s, dat. -i; -ar): serpent < ormvangr (noun m.)

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

orm ‘the serpent’

ormr (noun m.; °-s, dat. -i; -ar): serpent < ormvangr (noun m.)

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

vangs ‘field’

1. vangr (noun m.): field, plain < ormvangr (noun m.)

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

vangs ‘field’

1. vangr (noun m.): field, plain < ormvangr (noun m.)

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

Close

vangs ‘field’

1. vangr (noun m.): field, plain < ormvangr (noun m.)

kennings

elli jarðar ormvangs,
‘the old age of the ground of the serpent-field, ’
   = BEARD

the serpent-field, → GOLD
the ground of of the GOLD → WOMAN
the old age of the WOMAN → BEARD

notes

[3-4] firrðar elli jarðar ormvangs ‘denuded of the old age of the ground of the serpent-field [GOLD > WOMAN > BEARD]’: The kenning refers to the fact that old women sometimes grow facial hair; these monks are clean-shaven. Skj B emends jarðar (gen. sg.) to jarðir (acc. pl.) and interprets the main statement of ll. 1-4 as Hefk sénar sextán ormvangs jarðir, elli firðar translated as Jeg har set 16 kvinder, fjærnt fra alderdommen ‘I have seen sixteen women [grounds of the serpent-field], far from old age’, i.e. young women. This has the virtue of agreeing with meyjar ‘maidens’ (l. 8) and avoids an awkward transition in the kenning from an abstraction (elli ‘old age’) to a physical entity (a beard). However, as well as requiring an emendation, it seems an odd way of referring to young women—firrðar specifically means ‘removed’ rather than just ‘far’, and it is not clear in what way they have been ‘removed’ from old age. Skj B does not, of course, explain how a st. about women is to be understood in the saga context; the present interpretation, while admittedly requiring an awkward kenning, at least provides a clue.

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saman ‘together’

saman (adv.): together

Close

bôrum ‘bore’

3. bera (verb; °berr; bar, báru; borinn): bear, carry

[5] bôrum: ‘baru’ R702ˣ

Close

vestr ‘in the west’

2. vestr (adv.): west, in the west

notes

[6, 7, 8] hér vestr; sjá ey ‘here in the west; that island’: The saga-author clearly understood this st. to refer to Westray which, as the westernmost of the Orkneys, does indeed lie ‘out in the direction of storms’. If there was a monastic community in this area at the time, it is more likely to have been on the small island of Papa Westray, but both the saga-context and the st. suggest that Rǫgnvaldr and his men saw the monks on Westray itself.

Close

at ‘to the fact that’

3. at (prep.): at, to

Close

hér ‘here’

hér (adv.): here

notes

[6, 7, 8] hér vestr; sjá ey ‘here in the west; that island’: The saga-author clearly understood this st. to refer to Westray which, as the westernmost of the Orkneys, does indeed lie ‘out in the direction of storms’. If there was a monastic community in this area at the time, it is more likely to have been on the small island of Papa Westray, but both the saga-context and the st. suggest that Rǫgnvaldr and his men saw the monks on Westray itself.

Close

sjá ‘that’

1. sjá (pron.; °gen. þessa dat. þessum/þeima, acc. þenna; f. sjá/þessi; n. þetta, dat. þessu/þvísa; pl. þessir): this

notes

[6, 7, 8] hér vestr; sjá ey ‘here in the west; that island’: The saga-author clearly understood this st. to refer to Westray which, as the westernmost of the Orkneys, does indeed lie ‘out in the direction of storms’. If there was a monastic community in this area at the time, it is more likely to have been on the small island of Papa Westray, but both the saga-context and the st. suggest that Rǫgnvaldr and his men saw the monks on Westray itself.

Close

liggr ‘lies’

liggja (verb): lie

Close

við ‘in the direction of’

2. við (prep.): with, against

Close

élum ‘storms’

él (noun n.; °; dat. -um): storm

[7] élum: ‘elon’ Flat, ‘elu’ R702ˣ

notes

[7] élum ‘storms’: The emendation was first suggested in Orkn 1887. It is likely that the scribe of R702ˣ merely omitted or missed the abbreviation mark for ‘m’, as he did with ‘baru’ in l. 5.

Close

ey ‘island’

1. ey (noun f.; °-jar, dat. -ju/-; -jar): island

notes

[6, 7, 8] hér vestr; sjá ey ‘here in the west; that island’: The saga-author clearly understood this st. to refer to Westray which, as the westernmost of the Orkneys, does indeed lie ‘out in the direction of storms’. If there was a monastic community in this area at the time, it is more likely to have been on the small island of Papa Westray, but both the saga-context and the st. suggest that Rǫgnvaldr and his men saw the monks on Westray itself.

Close

kollóttar ‘bald’

kollóttr (adj.): bald, ?without horns

notes

[2, 8] topp í enni; kollóttar ‘a fringe on their forehead; bald’: This appears to describe the standard Western coronal tonsure (which leaves the hair in a ring on the head), rather than the insular tonsure, as suggested in ÍF 34. The form of the latter has recently been thoroughly discussed in McCarthy 2003, who argues that it had a triangular shape. The coronal tonsure is similar to male-pattern baldness and is thus the clue that the people being observed are not women after all. The st. plays on various gender ambiguities to explain how a group of men can be both unarmed and bald.

Close

Interactive view: tap on words in the text for notes and glosses

Rǫgnvaldr is on the island of Westray in Orkney during his campaign to claim his inheritance. While attending church on Sunday, he sees sixteen persons who are slyppir ok kollóttir ‘unarmed and bald’. His astonished men discuss who they could be.

According to the chronology of Orkn this took place in April 1136 (Taylor 1938, 252), but Taylor (1938, 386) suggests that the episode is in fact another version of an incident in ch. 77 which also describes the sight of fifteen or sixteen men led by a bishop with a distinctive tonsure and which took place at Christmas in 1138. The st. is probably placed here because it seems to refer to Westray (Vestrey), but it has no obvious connection with either the preceding or the following events which are indeed located in Westray.

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