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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson (Þjsk)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Kate Heslop;

I. 2. Jarlsníð (Jarl) - 1

Skj info: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, (Ásgeirs son rauðfeldar) Islandsk skjald, sidste halvdel af 10. årh. (AI, 141-3, BI, 132-4).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonardrápa
2. Drape om Sven tveskæg
3. Jarlsníð
4. Lausavísur

Þorleifr jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s poet’ (Þjsk), son of Ásgeirr rauðfeldr ‘Red-cloak’, was born at Brekka in Svarfaðardalur in northern Iceland in the mid to late tenth century, and must have been alive c. 970-c. 995. It is impossible to be more definite about his dates as neither Svarfdœla saga nor Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds (ÞorlJ) in Flat, the only narrative sources, has a consistent chronology (ÍF 9, xcii, xcvii). Many sources mention Þorleifr as a skald: Ldn (ÍF 1, 254), both versions of Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266), Sneglu-Halla þáttr (ÍF 9, 285-6), ÓTOdd (ÍF 25, 191), and HaukrV Ísldr 18IV. Some stanzas are attributed to Þorleifr in Hkr, ÓT, TGT and FoGT, but the bulk of the poetry attributed to him and almost all the biographical information about him is preserved only in ÞorlJ (ÍF 9, 312-29).

According to ÞorlJ, Þorleifr flees Iceland for Norway as a young man, but soon leaves for Denmark after a dispute over trading rights ends with Hákon jarl Sigurðarson burning his ship and executing his crew (Lv 5). He is said to have composed a forty-stanza encomium for King Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’ of Denmark (Drápa about Sveinn tjúguskegg; Sveindr), but only the stef ‘refrain’ is extant. While staying with Sveinn, he visits Norway and gets his revenge on Hákon by performing a níð poem (Jarlsníð; Jarl) which causes the jarl’s hair to fall out; one stanza is cited in ÞorlJ. After this Sveinn gives Þorleifr his byname, jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’ poet’ and speaks a stanza about the níð (Svtjúg Lv). However, the þáttr’s use of the genitive plural jarla ‘of jarls’ may be incorrect, for TGT calls him jarlsskáld ‘Jarl’s poet’, Skáldatal lists him as a skald of Hákon but not Eiríkr (and the U version calls him ‘Hákonarskáld’), and Þorleifr is not known to have composed poetry about any other jarl (Nj 1875-8, II, 283-4; ÍF 9, xcvii n. 1; see Almqvist 1965-74, I, 197 for a contrary view). The names of poet and þáttr therefore appear with alternation of jarls- and jarla- in printed sources, and the present edition uses jarls- for the poet and jarla- for the þáttr. Þorleifr subsequently returns to Iceland and settles at Höfðabrekka in Myrdalur in the south of the country. He is, according to ÞorlJ, assassinated at the Alþingi by an enchanted wooden golem, a trémaðr with a man’s heart which Hákon has created with the help of his tutelary goddesses, Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr and Irpa (cf. Lv 6). Þorleifr’s burial mound at Þingvellir is said to have still been visible at the time the þáttr was composed, probably in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century (Harris 1993, 672). Much of this narrative is clearly fictional, and there is reason to suspect the genuineness of most of the stanzas attributed to Þorleifr in ÞorlJ (see Notes to Sveindr and Lv 5 and 6). However, widespread references in reliable sources put Þorleifr’s activity as a skald, his association with Hákon, and his composition of níð about the jarl beyond doubt.

Jarlsníð — Þjsk JarlI

Kate Heslop 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Jarlsníð’ 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. 372.

 1 

Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson: 3. Jarlsníð, o. 990 (AI, 142, BI, 133); stanzas (if different): [v]

SkP info: I, 372

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Þjsk Jarl 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Kate Heslop (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, Jarlsníð 1’ 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. 372.

Þoku dregr upp it ýtra;
él festisk it vestra
(mǫkkr mun náms) af nøkkvi
(naðrbings kominn hingat).

Þoku dregr upp it ýtra; él festisk it vestra af nøkkvi; mǫkkr náms {naðrbings} mun kominn hingat.

Fog rises up on the outer side; a storm gathers in the west for some reason; the cloud from the taking {of the adder-bed} [GOLD] must have come this way.

Mss: Flat(28rb) (Flat); 4867ˣ(101v), 563aˣ(5) (ÞorlJ)

Readings: [2] él: ei 4867ˣ, 563aˣ    [3] mǫkkr (‘mokkr’): ‘nockur’ 4867ˣ, 563aˣ;    af: ‘a[...]’ 4867ˣ    [4] naðr‑: niðr 4867ˣ, 563aˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórleifr jarlsskáld Rauðfeldarson, 3. Jarlsníð: AI, 142, BI, 133, Skald I, 73, NN §§318, 2443A; SHI 3, 101-2, Flat 1860-8, I, 212, ÞorlJ 1883, 125, 158, ÍF 9, 223, ÍS III, 2271 (ÞorlJ).

Context: Þorleifr travels to Hákon jarl’s court disguised as a beggar, in order to perform a composition called KonuvísurVísur about a woman’ (‘konur visur’, Flat(27vb)), but see Noreen 1922a, 45; Almqvist 1965-74, I, 194-5). In these, Hákon is spoken of as a woman in poetic terms (kona kenndr í skáldskap), as revenge for Hákon’s attack on his ship (see Biography above). At first Hákon hears praise of himself and his son Eiríkr jarl (see Introduction to Þjsk Hák), but he is soon assailed by unbearable itching between his thighs. He commands Þorleifr to recite something better, but when Þorleifr starts the Þokuvísur ‘Fog Vísur’, said to be the middle part of the poem, darkness falls. The third and last part of the poem causes weapons to fight by themselves and Hákon to fall unconscious. He awakes to find Þorleifr magically escaped and his own beard and half his hair rotted away, never to return. 

Notes: [1] þoku dregr upp it ýtra ‘fog rises up on the outer side’: This line lacks skothending. Emendation of ýtra ‘outer, outer side’ to eystra ‘east’ (Skj B; Skald) gives end-rhyme with vestra ‘west’ in l. 2, as well as syntactic and semantic parallelism. These features enhance the stanza’s incantatory quality (cf. for example the runic metrical charms in Liestøl 1963, 38-41), but it makes sense as it stands so has not been emended here; see also Note to Þjsk Hákdr 1/1. — [3, 4] mǫkkr náms naðrbings ‘the cloud from the taking of the adder-bed [GOLD]’: That is, presumably, the smoke and soot from Þorleifr’s burned ship. Nám m. ‘seizure, taking’ occurs nowhere else as a simplex (though cf. landnám ‘land-taking, settlement’) and mǫkkr m. ‘cloud’ appears otherwise only in a C13th stanza (Guðbr Frag 2/1III) and in the name Mǫkkurkálfi, given to a giant animated figure made of clay (SnE 1998, I, 21-2). Although the gen. case of náms is unexpected, the sense of the phrase is clear enough. — [3] af nøkkvi ‘for some reason’: Kock (NN §318) thinks this adverbial phrase qualifies the final clause, in accordance with its position in the stanza, but the Text above, with Skj B, sees af nøkkvi as implying a question (what caused the fog and storm?) to which mǫkkr náms naðrbings is the answer (Skj B takes it with l. 1 rather than l. 2, as here).

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