Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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BjHall Kálffl 4I

Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Bjarni gullbrárskáld Hallbjarnarson, Kálfsflokkr 4’ 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. 883.

Bjarni gullbrárskáld HallbjarnarsonKálfsflokkr

Áttu Engla dróttni,
ógnrakkr, gjafar þakka,
jarls niðr; komtu yðru
ótála vel máli.
Þér lét fold, áðr fœrir
— frest urðu þess — vestan,
— líf þitt esa lítit —
Lundúna gramr fundna.

Áttu þakka {dróttni Engla} gjafar, {ógnrakkr niðr jarls}; komtu ótála máli yðru vel. {Gramr Lundúna} lét fold fundna þér, áðr fœrir vestan; frest urðu þess; líf þitt esa lítit.

You have {the lord of the English} [= Knútr] to thank for gifts, {battle-bold descendant of a jarl} [= Kálfr]; you undoubtedly advanced your case well. {The lord of London} [= Knútr] said that land was found for you before you travelled from the west; there was delay in this; your life is not insignificant.

Mss: Holm2(60v), 321ˣ(228), Bæb(3ra), 68(59v), 61(118vb), 325V(72rb-va), 325VII(34r), Bb(191vb-192ra), Flat(120rb), Tóm(148v) (ÓH); Kˣ(441v) (Hkr); FskAˣ(188), 301ˣ(69r) (Fsk, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] Áttu: allt átt þú 61;    Engla: Englands 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    dróttni: dróttin Bb, dróttinn Flat    [2] ‑rakkr: ‑rakk Flat;    gjafar: gjafir 321ˣ, Bæb, 68, 61, Flat, í guði 325VII    [3] jarls: ‘i’ 325VII, ok Bb;    niðr: vinr 325V;    komtu: so Bæb, 68, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, ‘cotv’ Holm2, komt 321ˣ, ‘kottu’ 61    [5] Þér: ótála vel máli þér 321ˣ, þar Bb;    fold áðr: foldar Tóm;    fœrir: fœrit 325V, FskAˣ, 301ˣ, fœri Flat    [7] líf: lið Bb, FskAˣ, 301ˣ;    þitt esa lítit: á lítli stundu FskAˣ, af litli stundu 301ˣ;    esa (‘era’): ‘e(t)a’(?) 321ˣ    [8] Lundúna: Lundúnu 61, 325VII, Bb;    fundna: so 68, Kˣ, FskAˣ, 301ˣ, om. Holm2, snúnat 321ˣ, Bæb, fundit 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, fenginn 325VII, fundi Tóm

Editions: Skj AI, 394-5, Skj BI, 364, Skald I, 182Fms 5, 32, Fms 12, 97, ÓH 1941, I, 508 (ch. 179), Flat 1860-8, II, 318-19; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 427, IV, 161-2, ÍF 27, 334-5, Hkr 1991, II, 497 (ÓHHkr ch. 183); Fsk 1902-3, 180 (ch. 28), ÍF 29, 199 (ch. 34). 

Context: ÓH-Hkr relates that, on arrival at Knútr’s court, Kálfr is offered a future jarldom on his return to Norway and overall rule of the country in exchange for opposition to King Óláfr. The king gives him fine gifts when they part. For Fsk see Context to st. 3 and Note to [All] below.

Notes: [All]: Stanzas 3/5-8 and 4/5-8 form a unitary stanza in Fsk.  — [1, 3] áttu; komtu yðru ‘you have; you advanced your’: Unusually, the enclitic pron. -tu ‘you’ is syllabic, occupying a metrical position, in both these lines; átt and komt would have been expected. Also unusual is the switch from the grammatically sg., familiar 2nd pers. form komtu to the grammatically pl., formal form yðru ‘your’, since this occurs in consecutive words here, although such mixing of forms is not generally uncommon (cf. Note to st. 1/5). — [1] dróttni Engla ‘the lord of the English [= Knútr]’: Knútr reigned over England from 1016; see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. — [3] niðr jarls ‘descendant of a jarl [= Kálfr]’: In a genealogy of Kálfr’s family, the Arnmœðlingar, attached to Fsk (ÍF 29, 371), his grandfather is referred to as ‘Arnmóðr jarl’. Kálfr himself is referred to in Hkr as a lendr maðr ‘landed man, district chieftain’ and a hǫfðingi ‘chieftain’. — [4] ótála ‘undoubtedly’: See Note to st. 3/2 above. — [5, 8] lét fold fundna þér ‘said that land was found for you’: On the basis of the stanza alone, the reference to ‘land’ being ‘found’ for Kálfr could be taken to mean the grant of an estate in England, but Kálfr’s departure from England, his defence of land in Norway against Óláfr in st. 5/1-2, and the prose context make it clear that the reference is to a promise of rule in Norway. The sense of lét remains elusive. The most obvious interpretation is ‘had (land found for you)’, and this would be compatible with the first helmingr. However, lét could mean ‘said’, and this is assumed here, resulting in a more cynical view of the sincerity of Knútr’s promises (cf. ÍF 27, 335 n. which has kvaðst hafa fundið ‘said he had found’). This accords with the statement about delay in l. 6 (see Note) and is spelt out clearly in the prose sources, e.g. in ÍF 27, 411 where Kálfr is said to regret the trap he had fallen into at Knútr’s urging, since all the promises he had made, including a jarldom and government over all Norway, had been broken. — [6] frest urðu þess ‘there was delay in this’: I.e. in the fulfilment of Knútr’s promise of land. Frest is n. pl., hence the pl. verb urðu, lit. ‘were, came about’. Hkr 1893-1901, Skj B and Skald emend urðu to urðut, giving the opposite meaning ‘there was no delay in this’, in order to avoid the contradiction with the stanza’s statement that Kálfr did receive gifts from the king (see Hkr 1893-1901, IV). But the original reading could express an ironically understated comment that the king’s promises never materialised, or simply that conditions had to be met before the promised lands were handed over.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  6. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  7. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  8. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  9. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  10. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  11. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  12. Internal references
  13. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ 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 [check printed volume for citation].
  14. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Fagrskinna (Fsk)’ 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, pp. clix-clxi.
  15. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)

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