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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Kolbeinn Tumason (Kolb)

13th century; volume 4; ed. Guðrún Nordal;

VII. Jónsvísur (Jónv) - 5

Skj info: Kolbeinn Tumason, Islandsk höfding og skjald, d. 1208. (AII, 37-40, BII, 45-9).

Skj poems:
1. Jónsvísur
2. Lausavísur

This edition is currently in preparation. The biography below may represent a superseded edition, notes and/or an interim or draft version. Do not cite this material without consulting the volume and skald editors.

Kolbeinn Tumason (1173-1208) was a member of the Ásbirningar family and the most powerful chieftain in northern Iceland around 1200. In order to cement his position, Kolbeinn used his influence to ensure the election of his wife’s cousin Guðmundr Árason as bishop of Hólar, the episcopal seat in Skagafjörður, in 1201. Guðmundr, however, proved to be a staunch advocate of ecclesiastical independence from secular chieftains and thus he and Kolbeinn soon came into conflict with one another. Guðmundr excommunicated Kolbeinn several times between 1205 and 1207; in 1208 Kolbeinn mounted an attack on Guðmundr and his supporters at Víðines (Hjaltadalur), in the course of which Kolbeinn was killed (Gunnar Karlsson 1975, 34-5; Magnús Stefánsson 1975, 118-29).

Kolbeinn lived at Víðimýrr in Skagafjǫrðr, where he had a church dedicated to the Virgin and S. Peter. Although he was not in orders, Kolbeinn was a man of some education, as his poetry reveals. It also reveals his deeply religious nature, notwithstanding his opposition to Guðmundr Árason. In addition to several lvv (Kolb LvIV) and three sts composed immediately before his death, which are variously quoted in Stu, GBp or TGT, Kolbeinn is said to have been the author of a poem in praise of Mary, of which, however, no trace remains (GBpA, 457 n. 1, 491 n. 2; GBpB, 569-70). Five sts from a poem in honour of S. John (Kolb Jónv) have been preserved in Jón4. ‘It is no doubt [John] the Evangelist’s Association with [Mary] which led him to compose poetry in his honour’ (Cormack 1994, 42).

Jónsvísur (‘Vísur about John the Apostle’) — Kolb JónvVII

Beatrice La Farge 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Kolbeinn Tumason, Jónsvísur’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 223-7.

 1   2   3   4   5 

Skj: Kolbeinn Tumason: 1. Jónsvísur (AII, 37, BII, 45-6)

SkP info: VII, 225-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Kolb Jónv 3VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2007, ‘Kolbeinn Tumason, Jónsvísur 3’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 225-6.

Sjalfr kallaði sællar
sólknarrar þik harri
son Máríe særir
sundhyrs, í kvǫl bundinn.
Ráð fal ræsir lýða
risnu kendr á hendi,
díks, áðr dauðann tœki,
dagrennir, þér hennar.

{Sjalfr harri {sólknarrar}} bundinn í kvǫl, kallaði þik son sællar Máríe, {særir {sundhyrs}}. {Ræsir lýða}, risnu kendr, fal hennar ráð á hendi þér, áðr dauðann tœki, {{díks dag}rennir}.

{The lord {of the sun-ship} [SKY/HEAVEN] himself} [= God (= Christ)], bound in torment, called you the son of the blessed Mary, {wounder {of strait-fire}} [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]. {The impeller of peoples} [= God (= Christ)], known for his munificence, placed her wellbeing in your hands before he took death, {mover {of the day of the ditch}} [(lit. ‘day-mover of the ditch’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN].

Mss: 649a(47v) (Jón4)

Readings: [2] sólknarrar: sólknarri 649a    [3] særir: ‘sęrar’ 649a

Editions: Skj: Kolbeinn Tumason, 1. Jónsvísur 3: AII, 37, BII, 46, Skald II, 29; Jón4 1874, 512, Bugge 1874, 935, GBpB, 570n., Konráð Gislason 1877, 20-1, 32-3.

Context: See Introduction.

Notes: [2] harri sólknarrar ‘lord of the sun-ship [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)]’: The ms. reading is sólknarri, which could be interpreted as a nom. form meaning ‘little ship of the sun’ (the form knarri ‘little ship’ is attested as a diminutive of knǫrr ‘ship’, cf. LP: knarri; Skj AI, 333; Arn Hryn 1/2II). However the subject of the sentence Sjalfr ... bundinn ‘himself ... bound’ is harri ‘lord’, referring to Christ. All eds agree that the form sólknarri is an error and emend it to a gen. form sólknarra (gen. sg. or pl. of -knarri, Jón4 1874, 935n., GBpB, 570n.; cf. Konráð Gíslason 1877, 20-1) or sólknarrar (gen. sg. of knǫrr, Skj B; Skald). The emended gen. form is regarded as the determinant in a kenning for Christ. Konráð Gíslason argues that a diminutive form sólknarri ‘little ship of the sun’ is not appropriate as a kenning for heaven (1877, 32) and suggests the emendation to sólknarrar (gen. sg. of sólknǫrr) adopted here. — [3-4] særir sundhyrs ‘wounder of strait-fire [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’: The ms. reading is ‘sęrar’, which Bugge normalises to særar. This would be a nom. pl. of særir ‘sower’ and the base-word of a conventional man-kenning. Such a pl. særar sundhyrs ‘sowers of the strait-fire [GOLD > GENEROUS MEN]’, would be a vocative addressing the audience of the poem. Konráð Gíslason argues that it is implausible that a statement addressed directly to John (cf. þik ‘you’ 3/2) should contain an expression addressed directly to the audience of the poem as well. Since all the other sts quoted are addressed to John, Konráð Gíslason regards ‘sęrar’ = (særar) as a scribal error and suggests emendation to the sg. særir ‘sower’: the kenning særir sundhyrs ‘sower of the strait-fire [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’ would then be a term addressed to John, as in the case of the synonymous kenning díks dagrennir ‘mover of the day of the ditch [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’ in 3/7-8. — [7] áðr dauðann tœki ‘before he took death, died’: Skj B and Skald omit the enclitic art. and normalise dauðann to dauða (acc. sg. of dauði ‘death’). The use of the subj. after the conj. áðr is very common (NS §§301-2B, Anm., 304).

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