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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
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, 608-9

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

32 — Rv Lv 32II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2009, ‘Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 32’ 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. 608-9.

Nú hafa gœðingar gengit
— goðfjón es þat ljóna —
— upp grafask ill rôð greppa —
œrit mǫrg á sœri.
Þat mun þeygi sjatna
þeim, es svik viðr heima;
stígum létt á lágan
legg, meðan upp held skeggi.

Gœðingar hafa nú gengit á œrit mǫrg sœri; þat es goðfjón ljóna; ill rôð greppa grafask upp. Þat mun þeygi sjatna þeim, es viðr svik heima; stígum létt á lágan legg meðan held upp skeggi.

The [Orcadian] lords have now gone back on sufficiently many promises; that shows men’s contempt for God; evil plans of men are dug up. Things will not subside for the one who brings about treachery at home; we [I] step lightly on a low leg while I hold up my beard.

Mss: 325I(13v), Flat(141ra), R702ˣ(51r) (Orkn)

Readings: [2] ljóna: ljónum R702ˣ    [7] létt: lítt Flat, R702ˣ    [8] held: heldr Flat, held ek R702ˣ

Editions: Skj: Rǫgnvaldr jarl kali Kolsson, Lausavísur 32: AI, 512, BI, 486-7, Skald I, 238; Flat 1860-8, II, 489, Orkn 1887, 180, Orkn 1913-16, 261, ÍF 34, 238 (ch. 89), Bibire 1988, 238.

Context: In Norway, Rǫgnvaldr hears of great turbulence and political polarisation in Orkney.

Notes: [1] gœðingar ‘the [Orcadian] lords’: Although also used in other contexts, this term is particularly associated with the noblemen of Orkney and Shetland. — [2] þat es goðfjón ljóna ‘that shows men’s contempt for God’: Previous eds adopt the variant ljónum from R702ˣ, but the collocation fjón ... ljóna is also found in Þmáhl Máv 15/6V. The point is not that God shows antipathy to such actions (cf. Bibire 1988 ‘hateful to God is it for men’), but rather that such actions show contempt for God. LP: goðfjón gives two meanings, guders had (mod en) ‘the hatred of the gods (towards one)’ and had til gud, ringeagt for gud ‘hatred of God, contempt for God’. For the latter construction, compare Fritzner: guðhræzla ‘fear of God’. Admittedly, it is not clear, either in the st. or in the saga prose, why Rǫgnvaldr might think these actions show contempt for God, though Sigv Lv 13-14I envisage punishment in hell for treachery. See also Notes to Þflekk Lv l. 12 and ESk Eystdr 2/3. — [7-8] stígum létt á lágan legg ‘we [I] step lightly on a low leg’: Close parallels to this expression are hard to find, but it seems to mean ‘tread warily’. — [8] meðan held upp skeggi ‘while I hold up my beard’: Finnbogi Guðmundsson (ÍF 34) suggests that this means ‘as long as my head is above ground’.

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