Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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BjKálfs Lv 1II

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Bjarni Kálfsson, Lausavísa 1’ 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. 639-40.

Bjarni KálfssonLausavísa1

Fant sék hvern á hesti,
— hérs nú siðr inn vesti —
— leið eigum vér langa —
en lendir menn ganga.
Hirðmenn skulu hlaupa,
— hér esat gótt til kaupa —
— munkak mǫrgu kvíða —
en matsveinar ríða.

Sék hvern fant á hesti, en lendir menn ganga; hérs nú inn vesti siðr; vér eigum langa leið. Hirðmenn skulu hlaupa, en matsveinar ríða; hér esat gótt til kaupa; munkak kvíða mǫrgu.

I see every servant on a horse and the district chieftains are walking; now here’s the worst habit; we have a long way [to go]. The retainers must run and the cooks are riding; there is no good bargain here; I’m not going to fear much.

Mss: 327(36v), Flat(152ra), E(92r), 81a(20ra) (Sv)

Readings: [2] vesti: versti all    [3] eigum: so Flat, E, eigu 327, 81a    [4] en: om. 81a;    menn: menn skulu 81a    [5] Hirð‑: ‘hír‑’ Flat    [6] esat (‘erat’): ‘er ei’ Flat, ‘era’ E, er nú 81a;    gótt: illt 81a    [7] munkak (‘munca ec’): ‘mun ek ei’ Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 536-7, Skj BI, 517, Skald I, 253; ÍF 30, 107 (ch. 68), Sv 1920, 75, Flat 1860-8, II, 596, E 1916, 320, Sv 1910-86, 89.

Context: In February 1182, Magnús Erlingsson makes another surprise attack on Sverrir Sigurðarson’s garrison in Trondheim (see HSn Lv 1-2 above), and those of Sverrir’s men who are able to escape from the stronghold are forced to regroup and flee south on foot. Sverrir is en route north from Oslo on horseback with the rest of his troops when he meets those who fled from Trondheim in the mountains at Hjerkinn (Dovre). The soldiers in Sverrir’s army taunt the men from Trondheim and refuse to give up their horses. Bjarni, who is among the refugees, responds to the situation with this st.

Notes: [1] fant ‘servant’: Fantr can mean both ‘servant’ and ‘tramp’ (see Fritzner: fantr 1-2), but the juxtaposition with matsveinn ‘cook’ (l. 8) makes the former sense more likely in this instance. The word is a loanword from MLG vant ‘servant, rogue’ (see AEW: fantr), and this is the earliest recorded occurrence of it and the only time it is used in ON poetry. — [2] vesti ‘worst’: Earlier versti (so all mss). The form vesti is secured by the end-rhyme (hesti : vesti), and rs was assimilated to ss (and further simplified to s before a consonant) as early as 1200 (ANG §§272.3, 284). — [4] lendir menn ‘the district chieftains’: See Note to Þham Magndr 1/6-7. — [7] munkak kvíða mǫrgu ‘I’m not going to fear much’: This seems to be a cynical comment from Bjarni on the present situation: because the world has been turned upside down, he is not going to be afraid whatever dangers lie ahead. — [8] matsveinar ‘the cooks’: A matsveinn lit. ‘food-servant’ was a servant whose duty it was to prepare food for an army or a ship’s crew. In the latter case, the preparation of food took place ashore. This particular occupation seems to date from the C11th (see Falk 1912, 7-8; NGL V: matgerðarmaðr and matsveinn.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  4. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  5. Sv 1920 = Indrebø, Gustav, ed. 1920. Sverris saga etter Cod. AM 327 4°. Christiania (Oslo): Dybwad. Rpt. 1981. Oslo: Norsk historisk kjeldeskrift-institutt.
  6. Falk, Hjalmar. 1912. Altnordisches Seewesen. Wörter und Sachen 4. Heidelberg: Winter.
  7. 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.
  8. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  9. NGL = Keyser, R. et al., eds. 1846-95. Norges gamle love indtil 1387. 5 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Gröndahl.
  10. E 1916 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1916. Eirspennill: AM 47 fol. Nóregs konunga sǫgur: Magnús góði – Hákon gamli. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske historiske kildeskriftskommission.
  11. ÍF 30 = Sverris saga. Ed. Þorleifur Hauksson. 2007.
  12. Sv 1910-86 = Kjær, Albert and Ludvig Holm-Olsen, eds. 1910-86. Det Arnamagnæanske haandskrift 81a fol. (Skálholtsbók yngsta) indeholdende Sverris saga, Bǫglungasǫgur, Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar. Oslo: Den norske historiske kildeskriftkommission and Kjeldeskriftfondet.
  13. Internal references
  14. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Hallr Snorrason, Lausavísur 1’ 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. 636-7.
  15. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Þorkell hamarskáld, Magnússdrápa 1’ 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. 410-11.

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