Jarl Rognvald Kali


Jarl Rognvald Kali of Orkney (d. 1158)

“I’ll swear, clever sweetheart,
you’re a slender delight
to grasp and to’cuddle,
my golden-locked girl.
Ravenous the hawk, crimson-
clawed, flesh-crammed –
but now, heavily hangs
the silken hair.”

  • This poem is attributed to Rognvald Kali, a 12th-century jarl (earl) of Orkney. He wrote this love poem after having met Viscountess Ermengarde of Narbonne (c. 1120-1194) while traveling on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Rognvald Kali’s poetry 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).

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