Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn)

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

3. Lausavísa (Lv) - 1

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.

my abbr.

Lausavísa — Þhorn LvI

Margaret Clunies Ross 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Lausavísa’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Brepols, Turnhout, p. 117.


Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 3. Lausavísa (AI, 29, BI, 26); stanzas (if different): [v]

in texts: Hb, Skáld

SkP info: I, 117

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


This lausavísa (Þhorn Lv), together with one each by Auðunn illskælda (Auðunn Lv 2) and Ǫlvir hnúfa (Ǫlv Lv), is extant only in Skálda saga Haralds konungs hárfagra (Skáld), within a short narrative about King Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ and his poets preserved on a single leaf of Hauksbók (Hb, fol. 102r). For the background to the narrative, the poor state of the text in Hb, and the previous editions, see Introduction to Auðunn Lv 2.

The text of Þorbjǫrn’s lausavísa printed here depends primarily on what little can still be read of Hb today, augmented by readings from the paper mss 67aˣ and 67bˣ (both l. 1 only) and from the earlier editions Fms 3, n. p., SnE 1848-87, III, 412 and Hb 1892-6, 447; these editions are indicated in the Readings with the sigla HbFms n. p., HbSnE and HbFJ, respectively. As it is now impossible to confirm or deny readings from transcripts and earlier editions without current ms. evidence, they are given in italics and treated as on a par with emendations. The translation and interpretation of the stanza is suggestive only, given the poor state of preservation of the ms., and conjectures have not been used, although some are mentioned in the Notes.

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