Kolbeinn Tumason (1173–1208) was a member of the Ásbirningar family clan, and was one of the most powerful chieftains in Iceland around the turn of the 12th century. His power was probably at its height around 1200 AD. Kolbeinn used his influence to ensure that men in his favour received positions of power within the clergy, amongst them bishop Guðmundur Arason. Guðmundur, unbeknownst to Kolbeinn, proved to be an advocate of clerical independence and resented interference from the secular chieftains. The two were soon at odds. In 1208, Kolbeinn and his followers attacked Guðmundur and his supporters in Hjaltadalur by Víðines. The ensuing battle is known as the Battle of Víðines. Kolbeinn died in the conflict, his head bashed in with a rock.
Kolbeinn the poet
Notwithstanding his opposition to bishop Guðmundur, sources indicate that Kolbeinn was a devoutly religious man of some education. He is best known for composing the hymn Heyr himna smiður (English: "Hear, Smith of heavens") on his deathbed. It is now a classic and often-sung Icelandic hymn. The song, which accompanies the text was composed by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson (1938–2013), over 700 years later. The original text is presented here with 19th-century Icelandic spelling and, in the second column, a rough, literal translation into English. The third column is a looser translation regularized to a metrical pattern of 188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206 and stating all first-person pronouns in the singular.
Heyr, himna smiður,
Hear, smith of the heavens,
Hear, smith of heavens.
Höre, Allgestalter deines Dichters Psalter: Gieß auf mich herab deine Gnadengab. Darum bitt ich dich, der hat geschaffen mich. Ich, der Diener dein, du, der Herre mein.
Herr, ich bitte dich, heil und rette mich, mild gedenke mein wir bedürfen dein. Treib du, Sonngebieter, allgewalt’ger Hüter, Kummer, Leid und Schmerz aus der Menschen Herz.
Schutz und Beistand mein, wir bedürfen dein. Steh zu aller Zeit gnädig uns bereit. Sohn der Jungfrau, sende Gutes uns am Ende. Hilfe kommt von dir in das Herze mir.
© Bertram Kottmann
- Árni Daníel Júlíusson, Jón Ólafur Ísberg, Helgi Skúli Kjartansson Íslenskur sögu atlas: 1. bindi: Frá öndverðu til 18. aldar Almenna bókafélagið, Reykjavík 1989
- Sigurður Nordal et al., Sýnisbók íslenzkra bókmennta til miðrar átjándu aldar, Reykjavík 1953.