Hjálmar Jónsson (1796-1875), better known as Bólu-Hjálmar (after his homestead in Bóla)), was a 19th century Icelandic farmer and poet, known for his sharp style and biting wit.
Hjálmar was born in Hallandi in Eyjafjörður. He first became a farmer in Bakkinn in Öxnadalur, but subsequently moved to Skagafjörður where he dwelled in Bóla (Bólstaðargerði), from whence his nickname is derived. Hjálmar was a poor farmer, and had difficulty making ends meet. He was constantly engaged in disputes with his neighbours, who accused him of stealing sheep. In his own way, Hjálmar was an artistic and creative soul. His style of poetry is marked by economy and clever use of metaphors. Many of his poems are tinged with bitterness, which may partly be attributed to his constant rows and disputes, and partly to what seems to have been a general dislike of humanity.
An example of his bitterness, is this stanza, composed after he had received an anonymous donation. The stanza is the beginning of a longer poem, To an anonymous benefactor:
The benefactor eventually turned out to be bishop Pétur Pétursson.
He could also be tender, although examples are rare. But this is one, called Mannslát (News of a death):
Here are sorrow and remorse woven together.
This is from Göngu-Hrólfs rímur.
But his talent also exstended to the on-the-spot. This is one example, where he met a rather tragic household on the move:
But Hjálmar could be bested. It used to be a national sport in Iceland to throw the two beginning lines of a ferskeytla at somebody, and the recipient was supposed to complete the stanza or one could play the game with whole stanzas at a time. Once, as he had leaned his skis against a wall and went back to retrieve them, he found they had interfered with a maid's work, and she had put them somewhere else.
Hjálmar found his skis and said to the maid:
The maid answered, and for once in his life, Hjálmar was at a loss for words: