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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

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].

Mss: Flat(139rb), R702ˣ(43r) (Orkn); papp10ˣ(44r), 2368ˣ(99), 743ˣ(77v) (LaufE, ll. 1-4)

Readings: [2] rjúfum: rjúpu all    [3] sylg: sylgs R702ˣ, papp10ˣ, 2368ˣ, 743ˣ    [4] ginnungs: ginnung R702ˣ, ginnung corrected from ‘ginnungs’ 743ˣ    [6] gag‑: galg R702ˣ;    ‑fellis: so R702ˣ, fells Flat    [7] lóns: so R702ˣ, ‘loms’ Flat;    mínar: so R702ˣ, mína Flat    [8] lautir: ‘laurir’ R702ˣ;    Gauta: gaura R702ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 506, Skj 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.

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).

Notes: [All]: 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). — [All]: 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. — [2] rjúfum ‘we [I] reveal’: Ms. rjúpu ‘ptarmigan’ (f. sg. oblique) is otherwise not attested in poetry (except in the þulur; see LP: rjúpa). According to Fritzner the verb rjúfa can mean røbe, aabenbare ‘display, reveal’ (rjúfa 4), used of written texts. According to the Orkn prose, on the occasion when Rǫgnvaldr recited this st., he was so cheerful that he played with his fingers ok orti nær við hvert orð ‘and composed almost with every word’ (see Context above and Note to l. 8 below), i.e. he revealed the mead of poetry and created a poem. — [2, 4] sylg Grímnis hanga ‘the drink of the Grímnir <giant> of hanged ones [= Óðinn > POETRY]’: So Kock (NN §489). This kenning is not unproblematic, because Grímnir is a name for Óðinn, and ‘the drink of Grímnir <= Óðinn> of hanged ones’ is hyperdetermined. But as Kock points out (NN §489), there are such parallels as geir-Skǫgul ‘spear-Skǫgul’ i.e. ‘valkyrie’ (where Skǫgul is also the name of a valkyrie; for other examples, see Meissner 397), and Grímnir is also the name of a giant (LP: Grímnir 2; the solution preferred in this edn). — [5, 6, 8] þella glóraddar Gauta hellis ‘the fir-tree of the gleaming-voice of the Gautar of the cave [GIANTS > GOLD > WOMAN]’: The identity of this woman is obscure. Finnbogi Guðmundsson (ÍF 34, 196 n.) suggests that the st. could have been misplaced and that the woman who gladdened Rǫgnvaldr was the mistress of the farm who presented him with a leather garment after the shipwreck (see st. 9 below). The ‘gleaming voice of giants’ refers to the myth in which a giant’s gold was measured in mouthfuls (SnE 1998, I, 3). — [6] gagfellis ‘of the backward-bending feller’: This refers to a sword, which is pulled up and back before striking the blow that fells. Cf. gagr adj. ‘bent or thrown backwards’, and fellir as a sword-heiti in Þul Sverða 6/1III, 9/1III. — [8] lautir ‘hollows’: Although this is sometimes translated ‘fingers’ (e.g. Skj B), the meanings of this word suggest rather the palms of the hand. This can be reconciled with the prose context (hann lék við fingra sinna ‘he played with his fingers’) by assuming that he is drumming on the palm of one hand with the fingers of the other. It is conceivable that the action represents the poet keeping track of his rhymes and syllables while composing a st. — [8] Gauta ‘of the Gautar’: Gautar (OE Geatas) are the inhabitants of Götaland in Sweden, but Gauti and Gautr are also names of Óðinn, in keeping with several Odinic references in this st.


  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. LaufE 1979 = Faulkes, Anthony, ed. 1979. Edda Magnúsar Ólafssonar (Laufás Edda). RSÁM 13. Vol. I of Two Versions of Snorra Edda from the 17th Century. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 1977-9.
  6. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  7. 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.
  8. Frank, Roberta. 1972. ‘Anatomy of a Skaldic Double-Entendre: Rǫgnvaldr Kali’s Lausavísa 7’. In Firchow et al. 1972, 227-35.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. ÍF 34 = Orkneyinga saga. Ed. Finnbogi Guðmundsson. 1965.
  12. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  13. Orkn 1913-16 = Sigurður Nordal, ed. 1913-16. Orkneyinga saga. SUGNL 40. Copenhagen: Møller.
  14. Bibire, Paul. 1988. ‘The Poetry of Earl Rǫgnvaldr’s Court’. In Crawford 1988, 208-40.
  15. 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.
  16. Orkn 1887 = Gudbrand Vigfusson 1887-94, I.
  17. Internal references
  18. 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].
  19. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Sverða heiti 6’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 800.
  20. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Laufás Edda (LaufE)’ 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].

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