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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson (Rv)

12th century; volume 2; ed. Judith Jesch;

Lausavísur (Lv) - 32

Skj info: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Orknøsk jarl og skjald, d. 1158. (AI, 505-28, BI, 478-87).

Skj poems:
Lausavísur [33-35]

Rǫgnvaldr Kali Kolsson, jarl of Orkney, is known primarily from Orkn, in which he is one of the main characters, but he is also mentioned in other texts, including Hkr (ÍF 28, 324-5) and Icel. annals (Storm 1888, 20-1, 60, 113-14, 116, 120, 321-2, 324). He was born Kali Kolsson, the son of a Norw. nobleman from Agder, Kolr Kalason, and Gunnhildr, the sister of the martyred S. Magnús of Orkney (ÍF 34, 101-2). Orkn recounts various episodes from Rǫgnvaldr’s youth, in Norway and elsewhere, several of them associated with lvv. (see below). Though we are not told how and when he learned the skaldic art, his grandfather Kali Sæbjarnarson is said to have been good at poetical composition (ÍF 34, 95) and indeed Orkn preserves one st. by him (Kali Lv). Kali Kolsson was given the name Rǫgnvaldr by King Sigurðr jórsalafari Magnússon when he also made him joint jarl of Orkney with Páll Hákonarson. There are relatively few lvv. associated with Rǫgnvaldr’s assumption of power in Orkney and subsequent political affairs, though both are recounted at length in the saga. Rǫgnvaldr is remembered for his poetry, especially that composed during his crusade to the Holy Land in 1151-3, and for instigating the building of the cathedral in Kirkwall, dedicated to his uncle S. Magnús. Rǫgnvaldr was killed in Caithness in an ambush by political opponents in 1158 (according to the Icel. annals, but 1159 according to the internal chronology of Orkn, cf. ÍF 34, xc) and is remembered as a saint. His relics were translated in 1192 (according to the Icel. annals) and a skull and some bones found in St Magnus Cathedral may have been his (Jesch and Molleson, 2005). There are thirty-five lvv. attributed to Rǫgnvaldr, of which thirty-two are preserved in mss of Orkn and edited here. Three further lvv. (Rv Lv 33-5III) are edited in SkP III, along with Háttalykill (RvHbreiðm HlIII), a poetical guide to metres composed by Rǫgnvaldr jointly with Hallr Þórarinsson breiðmaga.

Vol. II. Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: from c. 1035 to c. 1300 > 8. Introduction > 5. Biographies > 2. Biographies of Other Dignitaries > e. Rǫgnvaldr Kali Kolsson

Jarl Rǫgnvaldr Kali Kolsson of Orkney is not commemorated in praise poetry, and his biography is therefore not included here. For his life and poetic works, see his skald Biography.

Lausavísur — Rv LvII

Judith Jesch 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 575-609.

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Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson: Lausavísur (AI, 505-12, BI, 478-87); stanzas (if different): 33 | 34 | 35

SkP info: II, 589-90

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

12 — Rv Lv 12II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 12’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 589-90.

Skelk aflar Sif silkis
svinn at umbúð minni;
hlær stórum mun meira
mær, an fallit væri.
Fár kann jarl, en árla
(ǫrlyndr) at sjá gǫrla
(hlunns drók eik af unnum
áðr) í fiskivôðum.

{Svinn Sif silkis} aflar skelk at umbúð minni; mær hlær stórum mun meira, an væri fallit. Fár kann at sjá jarl gǫrla í fiskivôðum, en áðr drók, ǫrlyndr, {eik hlunns} af unnum árla.

{The wise Sif <goddess> of silk} [WOMAN] makes fun of my outfit; the girl laughs a great deal more than would be right. Few are able to see the jarl clearly in his fishing-gear, yet previously I pulled, gallant [as I am], {the oak of the roller} [SHIP] from the waves in the early morning.

Mss: R702ˣ(44v) (Orkn)

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 12: AI, 507, BI, 481, Skald I, 236, NN §§2338B, 2990E; Orkn 1887, 152-3, Orkn 1913-16, 221, ÍF 34, 200 (ch. 85), Bibire 1988, 230.

Context: A poor farmer in Shetland is accompanied on a fishing trip by a hooded figure who later turns out to be Rǫgnvaldr. On completing their fishing trip and, having given away his share of the fish to the poor, the hooded man gets ready to go, but misses his footing on a slippery slope, whereupon a woman and some other people laugh at him.

Notes: [All]: This st. is preserved only in R702ˣ, which also records a lengthy anecdote to which it belongs, not preserved in any other ms. of Orkn, including the Dan. translation Holm papp 39 folˣ. Elsewhere, such prose passages in R702ˣ retain the sense and much of the wording of the saga without being entirely accurate renditions. In this case, it is impossible to tell how well the anecdote represents its saga exemplar. The anecdote is analysed in detail in Bibire 1984. — [2] umbúð ‘outfit’: Bibire (1984, 97) points out the contradiction between the prose, in which the woman laughs at Rǫgnvaldr’s fall, and the st. in which she laughs at his clothing and concludes that the fall is ‘a later accretion’ to the anecdote. — [6]: It is likely that this l. read ǫrlyndr séa gǫrla and that a scribe, unfamiliar with the earlier hiatus form of the verb (séa ‘see’), realised he was missing a syllable and added the inf. marker at. — [6] ǫrlyndr ‘gallant’: As pointed out in LP, it can be hard to distinguish between the meanings ‘brave’ and ‘generous’ for this word, so the translation ‘gallant’ has been chosen as covering both connotations. The prose context might suggest that ‘generous’ is more appropriate here.

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