Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þórarinn loftunga (Þloft)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Matthew Townend;

2. Tøgdrápa (Tøgdr) - 8

Skj info: Þórarinn loftunga, Islandsk skjald, 11. årh. (AI, 322-7, BI, 298-301).

Skj poems:
1. Hǫfuðlausn
2. Tøgdrápa
3. Glælognskviða

Few biographical facts are known about Þórarinn loftunga ‘Praise-tongue’ (Þloft). In introducing Þórarinn’s service to King Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great), Snorri Sturluson (ÍF 27, 307; cf. ÓH 1941, I, 473) records in general terms that he was an Icelander and a great poet (skáld mikit) who had spent a great deal of time with kings and other chieftains. Knýtl (ÍF 35, 124) gives a similar portrait, and adds that Þórarinn was gamall ‘old’ when he first came to Knútr. However, all of Þórarinn’s extant poetry derives from his service to Knútr and his son Sveinn, and these are the only monarchs for whom Þórarinn is recorded as a poet in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267). Þorm Lv 10/1-2 also refers to Knútr rewarding Þórarinn with gold over a long period (for the anecdote in which it is quoted see ÓHLeg 1982, 124-8; ÓH 1941, II, 799-804), and his pre-Knútr career must remain hypothetical. Parts of three poems are preserved: Hǫfuðlausn (Hfl) and Tøgdrápa (Tøgdr) for Knútr, and Glælognskviða (Glækv) for Sveinn, probably composed in this order, and between c. 1027 and 1034; for circumstances of composition and preservation see individual Introductions below. The evidence of the poems suggests that Þórarinn entered Knútr’s service in either England or Denmark, accompanied him on his journey to Norway in 1028, and after 1030 remained at Sveinn’s court in Norway at least until c. 1032. For previous discussions of Þórarinn’s career see LH I, 601-3, Malcolm (1993), and Townend (2005, 256-7).

Tøgdrápa — Þloft TøgdrI

Matthew Townend 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þórarinn loftunga, Tøgdrápa’ 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. 851.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

Skj: Þórarinn loftunga: 2. Tøgdrápa, 1028 (AI, 322-324, BI, 298-299); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Hkr, Knýtl, ÓH, ÓHHkr, ÓHLeg, Skm, SnE

SkP info: I, 851

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Þórarinn loftunga’s Tøgdrápa (Þloft Tøgdr), possibly ‘Journey drápa’, dates from the late 1020s: after the annexation of Norway by King Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great) in 1028, but, as appears from st. 6, before the death of his regent Hákon jarl Eiríksson in 1030, at which point Danish rule in Norway was entrusted to Knútr’s son Sveinn and Sveinn’s English mother Álfífa (Ælfgifu of Northampton). Knútr’s conquest of Norway was apparently achieved without violence, following his alliance-making with various Norwegian magnates. King Óláfr Haraldsson of Norway went into exile at his approach, and so most of the extant stanzas of Þórarinn’s poem record not the battles by which Norway was gained, but rather the voyage up the Norwegian coast which Knútr undertook as he assumed control. The poem thus has an itinerary-like structure, which helps to guarantee the order of most of the extant stanzas. It names (with grammatical forms as in the text): Limafirði (Limfjorden) in st. 1; Egðir (the people of Agder) in st. 2; Lista (Lista), Hádýrs (Hådyret) and Eikundasund (Eigersund) in st. 3; Hjǫrnagla (Tjernagel) and Stað (Stad) in st. 4; and Stim (Stemmet) and Nið (Nidelven) in st. 5. After st. 6, the stanza recording Knútr’s acts on arrival, it is likely that several stanzas are missing, as all we have otherwise are a stanza and a half concerning the poet’s reward and the poem’s title, presumably from the end of the poem. This division between sts 1-6 and 7-8 is reflected in the poem’s preservation in Snorri Sturluson’s Óláfs saga helga (the Separate (ÓH) and Hkr (ÓHHkr) versions, jointly ÓH-Hkr below), in ÓHLeg and in Fsk. Stanzas 1-6 are quoted as a block in ÓH-Hkr and ÓHLeg, and in ÓH-Hkr the block of stanzas is introduced as a stefjabálkr ‘refrain section’, though it is clearly not a complete one, as the klofastef ‘split refrain’ opened at the beginning is not concluded at the end; meanwhile Fsk has sts 1-4, also quoted as a block. Stanza 7, on the other hand, is preserved only in Knýtl, and st. 8 only in SnE.

The mss used in this edition for sts 1-6 are: the Hkr ms. ; the ÓH mss Holm2, J2ˣ (lacking sts 2, 4-5), Bæb, 68, Holm4, 61, 75c (lacking sts 4-6), 325V, 325VII, 325XIg, Flat and Tóm; the ÓHLeg ms. DG8; the Fsk ms. FskAˣ (lacking sts 5-6, though st. 5 is copied into the margin of the A-class transcript 301ˣ). Some stanzas are incomplete in one or more of these mss. Stanza 7 (only) is in Knýtl, represented by JÓ (the printed edition of 1741) and mss 20dˣ, 873ˣ and 41ˣ; and st. 8 (only) is in the SnE mss R, W, A and C. The ms. of Hkr is here adopted as the main ms., except in st. 7 (JÓ) and st. 8 (R).

The title Tøgdrápa is supplied both within the poem itself (in st. 8/4) and by ÓH-Hkr and Knýtl at the point of quotation (see, e.g., Context to st. 7), while the attribution to Þórarinn is made in all six of the prose texts that preserve parts of the poem. The meaning of tøg-, however, is uncertain (see SnE 2007, 156). It might be derived from tøgr ‘ten’, perhaps indicating a poem in ten stanzas. More likely, though, is that it means ‘journey’, and is related to ON toga ‘to pull, to row’ or tog n. ‘rope’. The poem’s metre is tøglag or tøgdrápulag, a label that may derive from the title of the poem itself. A lausavísa attributed to the ninth-century skald Bragi Boddason and supposedly addressed to a troll-woman (Bragi TrollIII) is in an irregular form of tøglag, but its authenticity and its place in the history of the metre are uncertain. Tøglag in its ideal form involves four-syllable lines showing the same patterns of alliteration and hendingar as dróttkvætt (on the features of tøglag see ‘The metres of skaldic poetry’ in General Introduction; SnSt Ht 68-70IIISnE 2007, 67-8, 87-8; Turville-Petre 1976, xxxv-xxxvi). The same metre is also used for Sigvatr Þórðarson’s Knútsdrápa (Sigv Knútdr), implying a particular association between the metre and poems for Knútr. The date of Sigvatr’s poem is, however, disputed, so it is uncertain whether (discounting the Bragi stanza) the innovation should be credited to Sigvatr or Þórarinn. One possibility is that the metre originated with Sigvatr, but soon became known by the title of Þórarinn’s poem which used it. Finally, the likelihood of Old English influence on the language of the poem has been noted by both Kock (NN §§786-9, 1129D) and Hofmann (1955, 94-7): see Notes to sts 1/4, 2/3, 7/8 and 8/1 below.

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