Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn)

9th century; volume 1; ed. R. D. Fulk;

2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) (Harkv) - 23

Skj info: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, Norsk skjald; omkr. 900. (AI, 22-29, BI, 20-26).

Skj poems:
1. Glymdrápa
2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál)
3. Lausavísa

Little is known about the Norwegian Þorbjǫrn hornklofi ‘Horn-cleaver (?)’. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273) names him as a poet of Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ (r. c. 860-c. 932). Judging from Fsk (ÍF 29, 59), he seems to have spent his whole life at the court of this king. Þorbjǫrn is the composer of two poems about Haraldr, Glymdrápa (Þhorn Gldr) and Haraldskvæði (Þhorn Harkv). Skálda saga, an anecdote about skalds preserved in Hb, and hardly likely to be historical, depicts him as one of three skalds, the other two being Auðunn illskælda ‘Bad-poet’ and Ǫlvir hnúfa ‘Snub-nose (?)’, each of whom attempts a romantic encounter with the same rich widow and then bemoans his failure in a lausavísa (see Auðunn Lv 2, Þhorn Lv, Ǫlv Lv 2). The three skalds are also named in Egils saga (ÍF 2, 19) as Haraldr’s favourites. They occupy places of honour in his hall, with Þorbjǫrn between the other two.

In the prose sources Þorbjǫrn is predominantly referred to only by his nickname Hornklofi. To date there is no satisfying explanation of this word. It is attested in the Þulur as a raven-heiti (see Þul Hrafns 1/5III and Note), but it does not occur in that sense in the surviving body of skaldic poetry. Scholars have claimed that the nickname refers to Þorbjǫrn’s device, in Þhorn Harkv, of having a raven speak in his stead (SnE 1848-87, III, 408; ÍF 26, 101 n. 1). Fidjestøl (1991, 126) is, however, justified in doubting this interpretation. An alternative possibility would be to link the nickname to Egill Hfl 16/6-7V (Eg 49): en jǫfurr heldr lǫndum hornklofi ‘and the ruler holds his lands by a hornklof’. But hornklofi here must be the dative of neuter hornklof, whereas Þorbjǫrn’s nickname is a masculine n-stem, and unfortunately the meaning of this passage is obscure, though hornklof seems to be some kind of tool.

notes
my abbr.

Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) — Þhorn HarkvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál)’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 91.

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Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál), Flere af de herhenhørende vers tillægges i forskellige håndskrifter Tjodolf hvinverske. (AI, 24-9, BI, 22-5)

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Gylf, HarHárf, HHábr, HHárf, Hkr, LaufE, ÓT, ÓTFlat, Skm, SnE

SkP info: I, 91

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

1 Hlýði hringberendr,
meðan ek frá Haraldi segi
odda íþróttir
inum afarauðga.
Frá môlum mun ek segja,
þeim es ek mey heyrða
hvíta haddbjarta,
es við hrafn dœmði.
Let sword-bearers [WARRIORS] listen, while I recount feats of weapon-points concerning Haraldr the exceedingly wealthy. I shall recount the words that I heard a white, bright-haired girl [utter] when she spoke with a raven.
2 Vitr þóttisk valkyrja;
verar né óru þekkir
feimu inni framsóttu,
es fugls rǫdd kunni.
Kvaddi in kverkhvíta
ok in glæ*hvarma
Hymis hausreyti,
es sat á horni of bjarga.
The valkyrie thought herself wise; men were not pleasing to the aggressive maid, who understood the voice of the bird. The white-throated and the bright-eyelashed one greeted the skull-picker of Hymir <giant> [RAVEN], which sat on the edge of a cliff.
3 ‘Hvat es yðr, hrafnar?
Hvaðan eruð ér komnir
með dreyrgu nefi
at degi ǫndverðum?
Hold loðir yðr í klóum;
hræs þefr gengr ór munni;
nær hygg ek yðr í nótt bjoggu,
því es vissuð nái liggja.’
‘What is the matter with you, ravens? From where have you come with gory beaks at break of day? Flesh hangs from your claws; the stench of carrion comes from your mouths; I think you lodged last night near where you knew corpses were lying.’
4 Hreyfðisk inn hǫsfjaðri,
ok of hyrnu þerrði,
arnar eiðbróðir,
ok at andsvǫrum hugði:
‘Haraldi vér fylgðum
syni Halfdanar
ungum ynglingi
síðan ór eggi kvômum.
The grey-feathered sworn-brother of the eagle [RAVEN] gloated and wiped its bill, and gave thought to an answer: ‘We have followed Haraldr son of Hálfdan, the young king, since we emerged from the egg.
5 ‘Kunna hugða ek þik konung myndu,
þann es á Kvinnum býr,
dróttin Norðmanna;
djúpum ræðr hann kjólum,
roðnum rǫndum
ok rauðum skjǫldum,
tjǫrgum ôrum
ok tjǫldum drifnum.
‘I thought you would recognise the king, the one who lives at Kvinnar, lord of Norwegians [NORWEGIAN KING = Haraldr]; he commands deep ships, reddened shield-rims and red shields, tarred oars and foam-spattered awnings.
6 ‘Úti vill jól drekka,
ef skal einn ráða,
fylkir inn framlyndi,
ok Freys leik heyja.
Ungr leiddisk eldvelli
ok inni at sitja,
varma dyngju
eða vǫttu dúns fulla.
The courageous leader wants to toast the Yuletide out at sea, if he alone has his way, and practise the sport of Freyr <god> [BATTLE]. [When] young he grew tired of cooking by the fire and sitting indoors, of a warm women’s chamber and of mittens filled with down.
7 ‘Heyrðir þú, í Hafrsfirði
hvé hizug barðisk
konungr inn kynstóri
við Kjǫtva inn auðlagða?
Knerrir kvômu austan
kapps of lystir
með gínǫndum hǫfðum
ok grǫfnum tinglum.
‘Have you heard how the high-born king fought with Kjǫtvi inn auðlagði (‘the Wealthy’) there in Hafrsfjorden? Ships came from the east, eager for battle, with gaping figure-heads and graven prow-boards.
8 ‘Hlaðnir vôru þeir hǫlða
ok hvítra skjalda,
vigra vestrœnna
ok valskra sverða.
Grenjuðu berserkir;
guðr vas þeim á sinnum;
emjuðu ulfheðnar
ok ísǫrn dúðu.
‘They [the ships] were loaded with men and white shields, western spears and Frankish swords. Berserks bellowed; battle was under way for them; wolf-skins [berserks] howled and brandished iron spears.
9 ‘Freistuðu ins framráða,
es þeim flýja kenndi,
allvalds austmanna,
es býr at Útsteini.
Stóðum Nǫkkva brá stillir,
es honum vas styrjar væni;
hlǫmmun vas á hlífum,
áðr Haklangr felli.
‘They tested the forward-striving mighty ruler of the Norwegians [NORWEGIAN KING = Haraldr], who taught them to flee, who resides at Utstein. The ruler set in motion the stud-horses of Nǫkkvi <sea-king> [SHIPS] when he expected combat; there was thundering on shields before Haklangr fell.
10 ‘Leiddisk þá fyr Lúfu
landi at halda
hilmi inum halsdigra;
holm lét sér at skjaldi.
Slógusk und sessþiljur,
es sárir vôru;
létu upp stjǫlu stúpa;
stungu í kjǫl hǫfðum.
‘The fat-necked prince [Kjǫtvi] grew tired then of holding the land against Lúfa (‘Shaggy-locks’) [Haraldr]; he let an islet be a shield to himself. They threw themselves under the bench-planks, those who were wounded; they let their rumps stick up; they plunged their heads into the bilge.
11 ‘Á baki létu blíkja
— barðir vôru grjóti —
Sváfnis salnæfrar
seggir hyggjandi.
Œstusk austkylfur
ok of Jaðar hljópu
heim ór Hafrsfirði
ok hugðu á mjǫðdrykkju.
‘Sensible men made shingles of the hall of Sváfnir <= Óðinn> [(lit. ‘hall-shingles of Sváfnir’) = Valhǫll > SHIELDS] gleam on their backs [in flight]; they were pelted with stones. The east-cudgels were stirred up and ran across Jæren, homewards from Hafrsfjorden, and concentrated on mead-drinking.
12 ‘Valr lá þar á sandi
vitinn inum eineygja
Friggjar faðmbyggvi;
fǫgnuðum dôð slíkri.
‘The slain lay there on the sand, dedicated to the one-eyed embrace-occupier of Frigg <goddess> [= Óðinn]; we welcomed such doings.
13 ‘Annat skulu þær eiga,
ambáttir Ragnhildar,
dísir dramblátar,
at drykkjumôlum,
an ér séð hergaupur,
es Haraldr hafi
sveltar valdreyra*,
en verar þeira bræði.
‘They shall have other things, Ragnhildr’s ladies-in-waiting, haughty women, for chatter over drink, than that you should see war-lynxes [WOLVES] which Haraldr has starved of the blood of the slain, while their men-folk feed [the wolves].
14 ‘Hafnaði Holmrygjum
ok Hǫrða meyjum,
hverri inni heinversku
ok Hǫlga ættar
konungr inn kynstóri,
es tók konu ina dǫnsku.’
‘The high-born king [Haraldr] who took the Danish wife rejected the Hólmrygir and the maidens of the Hǫrðar, every single one from Hedmark and of the family of Hǫlgi.’
15 ‘Hversu es fégjafall,
þeim es fold verja,
ítr* ógnflýtir
við íþróttarmenn sína?’
‘How generous is [he] to those who guard [his] land, the excellent war-hastener [WARRIOR] to his men of skills?’
16 ‘Mjǫk eru reifðir
rógbirtingar,
þeir es í Haralds túni
húnum verpa.
* Féi eru þeir gœddir
ok fǫgrum mætum,
malmi húnlenzkum
ok mani austrœnu.
‘Strife-displayers [WARRIORS] are greatly enriched, those who cast dice at Haraldr’s court. They are endowed with valuables and handsome treasures, with Hunnish metal and an eastern bondwoman.
17 ‘Þá eru þeir reifir,
es vitu rómu væni,
ǫrvir upp at hlaupa
ok árar at sveigja,
hǫmlur at brjóta
en hái at slíta;
ríkuliga hygg ek þá vǫrru þeysa
at vísa ráði.’
‘Then they are glad, when they know [there is] prospect of battle, ready to leap up and to bend oars, to break thongs and to shatter oarports; I think they speed the oar-strokes powerfully at the bidding of the leader.’
18 ‘At skalda reiðu vil ek þik spyrja,
alls þykkisk skil vita;
greppa ferðir
þú munt gǫrla kunna,
þeira es með Haraldi hafask.’
‘I want to ask you about the equipment of skalds, since you seem to have knowledge; you must know all about the companies of poets who reside with Haraldr.’
19 ‘Á gerðum sér þeira
ok á gollbaugum,
at þeir eru í kunnleikum við konung:
feldum ráða þeir rauðum,
fôðum rǫndum,
sverðum silfrvǫfðum,
serkjum hringofnum,
gyltum andfetlum
ok grǫfnum hjǫlmum,
hringum handbærum,
es þeim Haraldr valði.’
‘One sees from their gear, and from their gold rings, that they are on friendly terms with the king: they possess red cloaks, painted shields, swords wrapped with silver [wires], mail-shirts woven with rings, gilded sword-straps and engraved helmets, rings, which Haraldr chose for them’.
20 ‘At berserkja reiðu vil ek þik spyrja,
bergir hræsævar:
hversu es fengit,
þeim es í folk vaða,
vígdjǫrfum verum?’
‘I want to ask you about the equipment of berserks, taster of the corpse-sea [BLOOD > RAVEN]: what provision is made for war-daring men, those who surge into battle?’
21 ‘Ulfheðnar heita,
þeir es í orrostu
blóðgar randir bera;
vigrar rjóða,
es til vígs koma;
þeim es þar sist saman.
Áræðismǫnnum einum,
hygg ek, þar undir felisk
skyli sá inn skilvísi,
þeim es í skjǫld hǫggva.’
‘They are called wolf-skins, who bear bloody shields in combat; they redden spears when they come to war; there [at Haraldr’s court] they are seated together. There, I believe, he, the sovereign wise in understanding, may entrust himself to men of courage alone, those who hew into a shield.’
22 ‘At leikurum ok trúðum
hef ek þik lítt fregit;
hverr es ørgáti
þeira Andaðar
at húsum Haralds?’
‘I have asked you little about jesters and jugglers; what is the hospitality for Andaðr and his fellows in Haraldr’s estate?’
23 ‘At hundi elskar Andaðr
ok heimsku drýgir
eyrnalausum
ok jǫfur hlœgir.
Hinir eru ok aðrir,
es of eld skulu
brennanda spôn bera;
logǫndum húfum
hafa sér und linda drepit
hældræpir halir.’
‘Andaðr fondles an earless dog, and he plays the fool and makes the king laugh. There are also others whose practice is to pass a burning wood-chip across a fire; those men who deserve kicking have tucked blazing caps under their belts.’
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