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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson (Bjbp)

13th century; volume 1; ed. Jonna Louis-Jensen;

Jómsvíkingadrápa (Jóms) - 45

Skj info: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Orknøsk biskop, d. 1222. (AII, 1-10, BII, 1-10).

Skj poems:

Bjarni Kolbeinsson (Bjbp) was born into a powerful family in the Orkney Islands, possibly c. 1150-60 (af Petersens, Jvs 1879, 122). His father was the Norwegian-Orcadian chieftain Kolbeinn hrúga ‘Heap’ and his mother was Herborg, a great-granddaughter of Páll jarl Þorfinnsson on the maternal side (see Ættaskrár [Genealogies] II in ÍF 35). Bjarni was also very well connected: he was a close friend of Haraldr jarl Maddaðarson (ÍF 35, 289), sent precious gifts to Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson in Iceland on three occasions (Guðrún P. Helgadóttir 1987, 2-3), and had connections with the Oddaverjar (see further Einar Ól. Sveinsson 1937, 17-18, 34-9).

Bjarni was Bishop of Orkney from 1188 (ÍF 35, 289) until his death on 15 September 1223. Among his achievements as bishop were the exhumation and canonisation of Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson (ÍF 35, 282; SkP II, 575) and the extension of St Magnús’s Cathedral in Kirkwall. Bjarni was also a diplomat and is known to have travelled to Norway for political reasons in 1194-5, 1208-9, 1210, 1218 and 1223 (see Bugge 1875, 244; Holtsmark 1937a, 2-3); he probably died in Norway (Jón Stefánsson 1907-8, 46).

Bjarni is introduced as Bjarni skáld ‘Poet’ in Orkn (ÍF 35, 193), but Jómsvíkingadrápa (Jóms) is the only literary work attributed to him in medieval sources. Suggestions that he compiled Orkn (Jón Stefánsson 1907-8) and the þulur in SnE (Bugge 1875) have not been generally accepted; see Introduction to Jóms below on the attribution of Anon Mhkv to Bjarni.

my abbr.

Jómsvíkingadrápa (‘Drápa about the Jómsvíkingar’) — Bjbp JómsI

Emily Lethbridge 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa’ 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. 954.

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Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson: Jómsvíkingadrápa (AII, 1-10, BII, 1-10); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4

SkP info: I, 968

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — Bjbp Jóms 11I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Emily Lethbridge (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni byskup Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 11’ 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. 968.

Enn vildu þá einkum
ǫldurmenn, at skyldu
— slíkt eru yrkisefni —
ágæta sér leita.
Ok haukligar hefja
heitstrengingar gátu;
eigi segik, at ýta
ǫlteiti var lítil.

Enn vildu ǫldurmenn þá einkum, at skyldu leita sér ágæta; slíkt eru yrkisefni. Ok gátu hefja haukligar heitstrengingar; eigi segik, at ǫlteiti ýta var lítil.

Further, the leaders then wished especially that they should seek fame for themselves; such matters are material for a poem. And they made hawk-like vows; I do not say that the ale-cheer of men was meagre.

Mss: R(53v); 61(18vb-19ra), 54(14vb), Bb(25rb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] einkum: ǫngu 54, øngva Bb    [2] skyldu: skuldum 54, Bb    [4] ágæta: ágætis all others    [5] ‑ligar: ‑ligast 61, ‑liga 54, Bb    [6] gátu: so all others, tóku R    [7] segik: frá ek all others;    at: œðri 61

Editions: Skj: Bjarni Kolbeinsson, Jómsvíkingadrápa 11: AII, 3, BII, 3, Skald II, 2, NN §1279; Fms 11, 165-6, Fms 12, 242-3, Jvs 1879, 108-9; Fms 1, 162, Fms 12, 40, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 179 (ch. 86), Ólafur Halldórsson 2000, 22, 76.

Context: The Jómsvíkingar are plied with a great quantity of strong drink at King Sveinn’s feast. Sveinn swears a vow to take his army to England to kill King Aðalráðr (Æthelred) or else drive him from the land; he then calls on the renowned Jómsvíkingar to find a way to increase their fame. The Jómsvíkingar say they will not let the entertainment that the king has initiated lapse.

Notes: [1] einkum ‘especially’: This is taken in Skj B with the intercalary clause in l. 3. It is difficult or impossible to make grammatical sense of the variants in 54 and Bb, forms of the negative adj. or pron. øngr ‘no, no-one, nothing’ (CVC: eingi A). — [2] ǫldurmenn ‘the leaders’: The three instances of this word in skaldic poetry are all C12th or later. The word is an adoption either from OE (so LP: ǫldurmaðr) or from MLG (so AEW: ǫldurmaðr). — [2] at skyldu ‘that they should’: This could conceivably be taken as a prepositional phrase meaning ‘according to [their] duty’ (so Fms 12, 40, 242-3). The variant skuldum in 54 and Bb is probably dat. pl. of the noun skuld f. ‘duty, due’ rather than the 1st pers. pl. pret. form of the verb skulu ‘shall’. — [3] yrkisefni ‘material for a poem’: Only otherwise found in Arn Hryn 14/1II. — [4] ágæta ‘fame’: This is the gen. pl. form of the n. noun ágæti and the object of leita ‘seek’; the variant ágætis in the ÓT mss is the gen. sg. form. — [5, 6] haukligar heitstrengingar ‘hawk-like vows’: On ‘hawk’ imagery see Note to st. 8/8. The 61 variant is the sup. ‘most hawk-like’, while haukliga in 54, Bb could be adverbial, ‘in a hawk-like way’. — [5, 6] gátu hefja ‘made’: The ÓT reading gátu, lit. ‘got, succeeded in’ is metrically more correct than R’s tóku, lit. ‘proceeded to’, as it provides the skothending needed for l. 6. Both verbs can function as auxiliaries to an inf., here hefja ‘begin, make’. — [7] segik ‘I say’: The variant frák ‘I have heard’ in the ÓT mss also gives good sense, and better metre, since segik presupposes non-standard resolution on the second lift.

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