Jarl Rognvald Kali of Orkney (ruled approximately 1137-1158)
“I’ll pace warily,
give no peace to the plotter,
chance nothing, cherish
the beard on my chin.”
- This poem is attributed to Rognvald Kali, a 12th-century jarl (earl) of Orkney. In the poem, the jarl describes his paranoid life amidst the dangerous political climate of medieval Orkney, where multiple jarls precariously shared power over the islands. Rognvald Kali’s paranoia was well founded, as he was violently killed in 1158. The verse was preserved in the Orkneyinga Saga, written c. 1200 by an anonymous Icelander. The translation used here was by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards (Penguin Classics, 1981).