Kolbeinn Tumason

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 and stating all first-person pronouns in the singular.

Heyr, himna smiður,
hvers skáldið biður.
Komi mjúk til mín
miskunnin þín.
Því heit eg á þig,
þú hefur skaptan mig.
Eg er þrællinn þinn,
þú ert drottinn minn.

Guð, heit eg á þig,
að þú græðir mig.
Minnst þú, mildingur, mín,
mest þurfum þín.
Ryð þú, röðla gramur,
ríklyndur og framur,
hölds hverri sorg
úr hjartaborg.

Gæt þú, mildingur, mín,
mest þurfum þín,
helzt hverja stund
á hölda grund.
Send þú, meyjar mögur,
málsefnin fögur,
öll er hjálp af þér,
í hjarta mér.

Hear, smith of the heavens,
what the poet asks.
May softly come unto me
thy mercy.
So I call on thee,
for thou hast created me.
I am thy slave,
thou art my Lord.

God, I call on thee
to heal me.
Remember me, mild one,[1]
Most we need thee.
Drive out, O king of suns,
generous and great,
human every sorrow
from the city of the heart.

Watch over me, mild one,
Most we need thee,
truly every moment
in the world of men.
send us, son of the virgin,
good causes,
all aid is from thee,
in my heart.

  1. ^ Or mild king. This is a pun on the word mildingur.

Hear, smith of heavens.
The poet seeketh.
In thy still small voice
Mayest thou show grace.
As I call on thee,
Thou my creator.
I am thy servant,
Thou art my true Lord.

God, I call on thee;
For thee to heal me.
Bid me, prince of peace,
Thou my supreme need.
Ever I need thee,
Generous and great,
O’er all human woe,
City of thy heart.

Guard me, my savior.
Ever I need thee,
Through ev’ry moment
In this world so wide.
Virgin–born, send me
Noble motives now.
Aid cometh from thee,
To my deepest heart.

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



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