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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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BjHall Kálffl 3I

Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 3’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 882.

Bjarni gullbrárskáld HallbjarnarsonKálfsflokkr

Austr réð allvaldr rísta
ótála haf stáli;
varð at vitja Garða
vígmóðr Haralds bróðir.
Enn of íðnir manna
emkak tamr at samna
skrǫkvi; at skilnað ykkarn
skjótt lézt Knút of sóttan.

Allvaldr réð ótála rísta haf austr stáli; {vígmóðr bróðir Haralds} varð at vitja Garða. Enn emkak tamr at samna skrǫkvi of íðnir manna; at skilnað ykkarn lézt skjótt Knút of sóttan.

The mighty ruler undoubtedly set about carving the ocean eastwards with the prow; {the battle-weary brother of Haraldr} [= Óláfr] had to make his way to Russia. But I am not ready to gather false stories about people’s actions; after your parting you quickly went to seek out Knútr.

Mss: Holm2(60r), J2ˣ(212v-213r), 321ˣ(228), 73aˣ(184v), 68(59v), 61(118va-b), 325V(72rb), 325VII(33v), Bb(191vb), Flat(120ra), Tóm(148v) (ÓH); Kˣ(441r-v) (Hkr); FskAˣ(188), 301ˣ(68v-69r) (Fsk, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] ‑valdr: ‑vald 325V;    rísta: hrista 325V, Flat    [2] haf: ‘har’ 321ˣ, hug‑ 68, ‘háf‑’ 325VII    [4] víg‑: haug‑ 68;    bróðir: bróður 325VII    [5] of: vér 321ˣ    [6] emkak (‘emca ec’): emka ok 321ˣ, einka ek Bb, Flat, Tóm, einka er FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    tamr: samr 68, Bb, þarfr 61;    at: om. J2ˣ;    samna: sanna 68, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [7] skrǫkvi: so J2ˣ, 68, 61, 325V, ‘screyci’ Holm2, skrauti 321ˣ, ‘skinki’ 73aˣ, ‘skrævki’ 325VII, ‘skryki’ Bb, ‘skroki’ Flat, ‘skaurka’ Tóm, ‘scrꜹki’ Kˣ, skræki FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    at: um 321ˣ, 73aˣ, ‘eat’ Bb, ek at Flat, ek Kˣ;    skilnað: skilnuð 68, Bb;    ykkarn: okkarn 68, ‘yckannar’ 325V, ykkvan Tóm    [8] lézt (‘lez tv’): lettu 68, lét Flat;    Knút of sóttan: Knútr af sátum 73aˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 394, Skj BI, 363, Skald I, 182Fms 5, 31Fms 12, 97ÓH 1941, I, 507 (ch. 179), Flat 1860-8, II, 318; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 426, IV, 161, ÍF 27, 334, Hkr 1991, II, 496 (ÓHHkr ch. 183); Fsk 1902-3, 180 (ch. 28), ÍF 29, 198-9 (ch. 34).


In ÓH-Hkr, King Óláfr has gone into exile in Russia, and Kálfr has sworn allegiance to King Óláfr’s opponent Hákon jarl (ÓH 1941, I, 500, 505; ÍF 27, 328, 332). The following spring, Kálfr sails to England to join King Knútr, who has just arrived there from Denmark. The more concise Fsk narrative reaches a slightly later point, where Knútr promises Kálfr authority in Norway, before the stanza is cited (and see Note to [All] below).

Notes: [All]: Stanzas 3/5-8 and 4/5-8 form a unitary stanza in Fsk. — [1] austr ‘eastwards’: The adv. is used elsewhere for Garðar or Garðaríki (Russia), e.g. Hfr Óldr 4/4, Anon Krm 3/6VIII. — [2] ótála ‘undoubtedy’: This word occurs in the skaldic corpus only here and in st. 4/4. LP: ótála relates it to ‘pair’, a word occurring only in a þula of terms for numbers of people in SnE (1998, I, 106), and interprets it as ‘certainly, without doubt’; cf. adv. tálaust (n. of adj. tálauss), with the same sense. — [2] stáli ‘the prow’: More precisely, the stem-post, part of the ship’s prow (Jesch 2001a, 150). — [4] vígmóðr ‘battle-weary’: This interpretation fits Óláfr’s situation as he flees Norway; -móðr n. in cpd adjectives can alternatively mean ‘courageous’ (see LP: 1. móðr, 2. móðr). — [4] bróðir Haralds ‘brother of Haraldr [= Óláfr]’: Óláfr Haraldsson, whose half-brother became Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-ruler’ Sigurðarson. The kenning may suggest a time of composition for the poem during the reign of Haraldr (1046-66). Cf. also st. 7/4 and Note. — [5-7] enn emkak tamr at samna skrǫkvi of íðnir manna ‘but I am not ready to gather false stories about people’s actions’: The unusually emphatic assertion of the reliability of the poet’s account may simply focus attention on the telling moment of Kálfr’s abandonment of his allegiance to Óláfr, or it may perhaps indicate some controversy about Kálfr’s actions, particularly in light of the poem’s composition some years after the events recorded. Indeed, the narrative in ÓH-Hkr does not entirely follow the stanza’s assertion that Kálfr went immediately to Knútr, instead indicating that he first visited his estates, and pledged allegiance to Hákon jarl Eiríksson. — [7] skrǫkvi; at skilnað ykkarn: It is necessary to assume elision of skrǫkvi at here, to produce a regular line of six syllables, but elision does not normally cross syntactic boundaries in skaldic poetry before the thirteenth century, and it is possible that the original reading was acc. skrǫk rather than dat. skrǫkvi, though no ms. has this form.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. 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.
  5. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  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. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  8. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  9. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  10. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  11. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  13. Internal references
  14. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  15. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Fagrskinna (Fsk)’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. clix-clxi.
  16. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  17. Rory McTurk (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Poems, Krákumál 3’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 722.
  18. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson, Óláfsdrápa 4’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 395.

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