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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (Bersi)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Diana Whaley;

1. Flokkr about Óláfr helgi (Ólfl) - 3

Skj info: Bersi Skáldtorfuson, Islandsk skjald, d. 1030. (AI, 275-7, BI, 255-6).

Skj poems:
1. En flok om kong Olaf
2. Lausavísa

Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (or simply Torfuson; Bersi) is named from his mother, an otherwise unknown female skald Torfa, from Miðfjörður, Húnavatnsþing, northern Iceland. He is introduced as skáld gótt ‘a fine poet’ in Grettis saga (ÍF 7, 42); his birth would be placed c. 985-90 (LH I, 564). Bersi travelled abroad with Grettir Ásmundarson, gained the favour of Sveinn jarl Hákonarson (ÍF 7, 86) and seemingly fought with Sveinn at the battle of Nesjar (1016; see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume for rulers and battles of the period). He is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 258, 281, 282) as a skald to Sveinn and to Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great), but no court poetry for them by him survives (though see Bersi Ólfl 2). Some time after Nesjar he was taken captive by Óláfr Haraldsson, composed his flokkr (below) and found favour with the king. He is then named in the excerpts (articuli) from Styrmir Kárason’s Lífssaga among Óláfr’s Icelandic hirðmenn ‘retainers’ (see his Lv below). He went on a pilgrimage to Rome with Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) and, learning of the king’s death (1030) as he left Rome, returned to S. Peter’s church in extreme anguish, died and was buried there (ÓH 1941, II, 830, in an interpolation).

Flokkr about Óláfr helgi — Bersi ÓlflI

Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Bersi Skáld-Torfuson, Flokkr about Óláfr helgi’ 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. 790.

 1   2   3 

Skj: Bersi Skáldtorfuson: 1. En flok om kong Olaf, o. 1020 (AI, 275-6, BI, 255)

in texts: Flat, Hkr, ÓH, ÓHHkr

SkP info: I, 790

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

1 Hróðrs batt heilan líða
hagkennanda þenna,
en snarrœki slíku
svarat unnum vér gunnar.
Orð seldum þau elda
úthauðrs boða trauðir
knarrar hapts, sem keyptak,
kynstórs, at við brynju.
You bade this skilled conveyor of praise [POET = me] to fare well, and we [I] managed to reply in kind to the keen cultivator of battle [WARRIOR = you, Óláfr]. Reluctant for hindrance, we [I] sold those words to the kin-mighty offerer of the fires of the outlying land of the ship [SEA > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = you, Óláfr] just as I had bought [them] from the tree of the mail-shirt [WARRIOR = you, Óláfr].
2 Sveins raunir hefk sénar,
snart rekninga bjartar
þars svaltungur sungu,
— saman fórum vér — stórar.
Elgs munk eigi fylgja
út riðboða síðan
hæsts at hverjum kosti
hranna dýrra manni.
I have seen the great trials of Sveinn, where bright, cool tongues of swords [SWORD BLADES] sang keenly; we advanced together. I will not afterwards follow on expeditions a more excellent man, a riding offerer of the tallest elk of the waves [SHIP > SEAFARER], in any case.
3 Krýpk eigi svá, sveigir
sára linns — í ári
búum ólítinn Áta
ǫndur þér til handa —,
at, herstefnir, hafnak,
heiðmildr, eða þá leiðumk,
— ungr kunnak þar þrøngvi
þínn — hollvini mína.
Swinger of the snake of wounds [SWORD > WARRIOR], I do not crawl in such a way — early on we are [I am] readying a not small ski of Áti <sea-king> [SHIP] for you —, reward-generous army commander [RULER], that I forsake, or else then tire of, my loyal friends; [when] young, I got to know your enemy there.
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