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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rv Lv 7II

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 7’ 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. 583-4.

Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali KolssonLausavísur

text and translation

Hengik hamri kringðan
(hanga rjúfum) tangar
(Grímnis sylg) á galga
ginnungs brúar linna.
Svá hefr glóraddar gladdan,
gagfellis, mik þella,
lóns, at leikk við mínar
lautir, hellis Gauta.

Hengik {linna {brúar ginnungs}}, kringðan hamri, á {galga tangar}; rjúfum {sylg {Grímnis hanga}}. {Þella {glóraddar {Gauta hellis}}} hefr gladdan mik svá, at leikk við {mínar lautir {gagfellis lóns}}.
‘I hang a snake of the bridge of the hawk [ARM > ARM-RING], made round by the hammer, on the gallows of the tongs [ARM]; we [I] reveal the drink of the Grímnir <giant> of hanged ones [= Óðinn > POETRY]. The fir-tree of the gleaming-voice of the Gautar of the cave [GIANTS > GOLD > WOMAN] has gladdened me so much, that I play with my hollows of the backward-bending feller of the lagoon [OAR > HANDS].

notes and context

This st. is cited by Orkn after the description of the shipwreck in Shetland (see Context of st. 8) but before the other sts (sts 8-11) which more obviously refer to that shipwreck. It may be misplaced (ÍF 34, 196 n.). The saga relates that Rǫgnvaldr was cheerful, played with his fingers and kept on composing poetry. In LaufE, the first half-st. is cited as an example of kennings for hringr ‘ring’ and mistakenly attributed to Arnórr (jarlaskáld; Arn).

Frank 1972 develops an elaborate interpretation in which this st. is not about a woman, but about Rǫgnvaldr’s ship Hjǫlp, as he ironically gives it a gold ring while it sinks. This interpretation does help to situate the st. in its prose context better than any other, but it depends on a double ofljóst ‘too transparent’ and Frank acknowledges that there is ‘no recognized double-entendre linking women and ships in Old Norse poetry’ (1972, 231). — This st. is introduced by Hann dró fingrgull af fingri sér [R702ˣ adds með vǫrrunum] ok kvað vísu ‘He pulled a golden ring from his finger [with his lips] and spoke a verse’. De Geer (1985, 222-4) considers the possibility that the episode alludes to the playing of a musical instrument. — [1-4]: As Bibire (1988, 229) notes, ‘Overall interpretation of the verse is uncontroversial, although the two major kennings in the first half-strophe are in any interpretation difficult’. The interpretation here largely follows that of Kock (Skald; NN §489). Skj B links hanga with galga and tangar to give a hand-kenning (hanga-galga tangar translated as den nedhængende hånd ‘the dangling hand’) and emends ms. rjúpu ‘ptarmigan’ to a verb, réttum lit. ‘we straighten’, which, taken together with Grímnis sylg, gives an intercalated statement jeg gör et lige vers ‘I make a straight verse’ (presumably ironic). While protesting at Finnur’s methods, Kock (NN §489) also comes up with a solution that refers to the composition of poetry: he takes hanga ‘of hanged ones’ with Grímnis and assumes an otherwise unrecorded verb rjúpum to give jag rycker åt mig gudadrycken ‘I pull the divine drink towards me’. Finnbogi Guðmundsson (in ÍF 34, following a suggestion by Ólafur M. Ólafsson) takes hanga with ms. rjúpu and construes hanga rjúpu. According to that interpretation, rjúpu hanga ‘of the ptarmigan of the hanged one [WOMAN]’ is an obscene pun, in that gás ‘goose’ (and thereby any f. bird-word) can refer to the vagina (cf. Fritzner: gás), while ‘hanged one’ is a reference to a penis. The problem with that construction is that ‘the vagina of the penis’ cannot be a kenning for ‘woman’, since ‘vagina’ in itself would be a pars pro toto expression for ‘woman’ and ‘penis’ is not a determinant.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 7: AI, 506, BI, 480, Skald I, 235, NN §489; Flat 1860-8, II, 474, Orkn 1887, 149, Orkn 1913-16, 217, ÍF 34, 195-6 (ch. 85), Bibire 1988, 228-9; LaufE 1979, 279, 357.


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