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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)

SkP info: I, 794

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Bersi Ólfl 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Bersi Skáld-Torfuson, Flokkr about Óláfr helgi 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. 794.

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.

{Sveigir {linns sára}}, krýpk eigi svá — í ári búum {ólítinn ǫndur Áta} til handa þér —, {heiðmildr herstefnir}, at hafnak, eða þá leiðumk, hollvini mína; ungr kunnak þrøngvi þínn þar.

{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.

Mss: (253r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(13r), R686ˣ(26r), J1ˣ(159v-160r), J2ˣ(136r), 325VI(11rb), 75a(1vb), 68(12r), 61(84vb), Holm4(5ra), 325V(16va), 325VII(5r), Bb(135va), Flat(83vb), Tóm(102v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Krýpk (‘Kryp ec’): ‘kryp(or) ec’(?) 325VI, krýp 75a, 61, krýp ek ek 68, ‘Kreyp ec’ Tóm;    sveigir: sveigr R686ˣ, síðan 325VII, Bb    [2] linns: logs Holm4;    í: og R686ˣ;    ári: vári 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [3] búum: búinn Flat, Tóm;    ólítinn: ‘ollyit(um)’(?) R686ˣ;    Áta: úti Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [4] ǫndur: endr Flat, Tóm;    handa: halda Holm2    [5] ‑stefnir: ‑stefni Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 325V, 325VII, Flat    [6] ‑mildr: ‘‑millr’ 325VII;    eða: er 325VI, en 75a, né 68, 61    [7] kunnak (‘kunna ec’): kunnig Flat;    þar: þá Holm2, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, Holm4, Bb, Tóm, þat 68, 61, þann Flat;    þrøngvi (‘þreyngvi’): ‘þrǫngar’ 325VI, þengill 68, þrøngvir 61    [8] ‑vini mína: ‑vina minna 68

Editions: Skj: Bersi Skáldtorfuson, 1. En flok om kong Olaf 3: AI, 276, BI, 255, Skald I, 131, NN §§620, 3222; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 74, IV, 124, ÍF 27, 66-7, Hkr 1991, I, 295 (ÓHHkr ch. 50); Fms 4, 102, Fms 12, 80, ÓH 1941, I, 96 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 45.

Context: This follows st. 1 (see Context) and st. 2, with no intervening words.

Notes: [2] í ári ‘early on’: This adverbial could be taken with either clause in the first helmingr, and its sense is somewhat elusive. Although ‘this year’ would be a natural translation, ‘early, at daybreak’, or ‘early, soon, quickly’ seem more likely in context (so Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV; he prefers the latter in Skj B and LP: 2. ár 5; cf. Kock’s case for ‘in a hurry’, NN §3222). In Hkr 1991 the phrase is taken with the krýpk-clause and understood as ‘this year, at present’. The variant í vári ‘in the spring’ is viable but seems to be secondary. — [3] búum ‘we are [I am] readying’: The point about readying or preparing a ship is not entirely clear, but it seems to be a promise of service, despite not abandoning former friends (so Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV; ÍF 27). If búumk is not taken as ‘prepare’ but ‘dwell, inhabit’ it could instead be a reference to the speaker’s captivity on board ship (so Hkr 1991, which favours taking þér til handa with krýpk eigi svá, hence ‘I do not crawl thus into your power’). — [3] Áta ‘of Áti <sea-king>’: Only this, the reading of , makes sense of ǫndur ‘ski’ in l. 4 by providing the necessary determinant for a ship-kenning; the majority variant úti must have arisen because the name Áti was relatively unfamiliar. — [5, 6, 8] hafnak, eða þá leiðumk, hollvini mína ‘I forsake, or else then tire of, my loyal friends’: Hafna ‘forsake’ normally takes a dat. object; the acc. pl. object hollvini mína ‘my loyal friends’ is determined by leiðumk ‘I tire of’. — [7] þar ‘there’: This may well mean ‘among them’ (so Hkr 1893-1901, IV; ÍF 27). It is taken, rather awkwardly, with ll. 5-6 in Skj B. — [7] þrøngvi ‘enemy’: Lit. ‘forcer, oppressor’; this is among heiti for ‘enemy’ in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 107).

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