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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorfinnsdrápa — Arn ÞorfdrII

Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 229-60.

 

Nú hykk slíðrhugaðs segja
— síð léttir mér stríða —
(þýtr Alfǫður) ýtum
jarls kostu (brim hrosta).
 
‘Now I mean to tell men of the excellence of the tough-minded jarl; not soon [lit. late] will my anguish lighten; the surf of malt [ALE] of Alfaðir <= Óðinn> [POETRY] roars.
Orms felli drakk allan
alkostigr fen hrosta
— rausn drýgði þá ræsir —
Rǫgnvalds niðr í gǫgnum.
 
‘The excellent descendant of Rǫgnvaldr [= Þorfinnr] drank the swamp of malt [ALE] through all the serpent’s slayer [WINTER]; the ruler practised bounty then.
Hétk, þás hvern vetr sôtum
hrafns verðgjafa, jafnan
— líð drakk gramr — á góðar,
gagnvert, skipa sagnir.
 
‘I called always to the worthy ships’ companies, as we [I] sat each winter facing the meal-giver of the raven [WARRIOR]; the lord drank strong drink.
Bera sýn of mik mínir
morðkennds taka enda
þess of þengils sessa
þung mein synir ungir.
 
‘My young sons begin to bear manifest, heavy sorrows for me at the death of that battle-skilled bench-mate of the monarch [RULER = Þorfinnr].
Hilmir rauð í hjalma
hreggi skelkings eggjar;
fór, áðr fimmtán væri,
fetrjóðr Hugins, vetra.
Gǫrr lézk grund at verja
geðfrœkn ok til sœkja
œri Einars hlýra
engr mannr und skýranni.
 
‘The ruler reddened the sword’s edges in the storm of helmets [BATTLE]; the foot-reddener of Huginn <raven> [WARRIOR] set forth before he was fifteen winters. No man under the cloud-hall [SKY/HEAVEN] younger than Einarr’s brother [= Þorfinnr] has declared himself ready to guard his realm, mind-bold, and to mount attacks.
Endr hykk Karli kenndu
kyndóm jǫfur brynju
— land vasa lofðungs kundar
laust — fyr Dýrnes austan.
Fimm snekkjum réð frammi
flugstyggr við hug dyggvan
rausnarmannr at ræsis
reiðr ellifu skeiðum.
 
‘I believe the prince [Þorfinnr] once taught Karl the monstrous verdict of the mail-coat [BATTLE] east off Deerness; the land of the ruler’s son [RULER = Þorfinnr] was not for the taking. The flight-shunning man of splendour [Þorfinnr] steered, angered, five warships with steadfast heart forth against the eleven longships of the lord [Karl].
At lǫgðu skip skatnar
skilit; fell herr á þiljur;
svômu jôrn í ômu
óðhǫrð Skota blóði.
Stall drapa — strengir gullu;
stál beit, en rann sveiti;
broddr fló; bifðusk oddar
bjartir — þengils hjarta.
 
‘Men steered ships decisively to the attack; troops slumped to the decking; rage-hard iron blades swam in the dark blood of Scots. The ruler’s heart was not struck with terror; bow-strings shrilled; steel bit, and gore flowed; the spear-head flew; shining sword-points quivered.
Þrima vas þvígit skemmri;
þat vas skjótt, at spjótum
mætr við minna neyti
minn dróttinn rak flótta.
Gall, áðr grams menn fellu,
gunnmôr of her sôrum;
hann vá sigr fyr sunnan
Sandvík; ruðu branda.
 
‘The battle was none the briefer for that; it happened swiftly that my precious lord put them to flight with spears [and] with a smaller company. The battle-gull [RAVEN/EAGLE] screamed above the wounded host, before the ruler’s men fell; he won victory south of Sandwick (Sandvík); they reddened swords.
Ulfs tuggu rauð eggjar,
eitt þars Torfnes heitir,
— ungr olli því þengill —
— þat vas mánadag — fránar.
Sungu þar, til þinga,
þunn fyr Ekkjal sunnan
sverð, es siklingr barðisk
snarr við Skotlands harra.
 
‘Bright blades grew red on the wolf’s mouthful [CORPSE], at a place called Tarbatness (Torfnes); young, the ruler caused that; it was a Monday. Slender swords sang there south of the Oykell, as the princeling, swift into conflict, fought with Scotland’s lord.
Hátt bar Hjalta dróttinn
hjalm at geira jalmi
— ógnstœrir rauð Írum
odd — í ferðar broddi.
Minn dróttinn naut máttar
mildr und brezkum skildi;
hendi Hlǫðvis frændi
hermenn ok tók brenna.
 
‘The lord of Shetlanders [= Þorfinnr] bore his helmet high in the vanguard of his troop in the tumult of spears [BATTLE]; the sweller of battle-dread [WARRIOR] reddened his point on Irishmen. My bounteous lord made use of his strength beneath a British shield; Hlǫðvir’s kinsman [= Þorfinnr] captured warriors and began burning.
Týndusk ból, þás brenndi
— bráskat þat dœgr háski —
— stǫkk í reyr in roknu
rauðr eldr — Skotaveldi.
Morðkennir galt mǫnnum
mein; á sumri einu
fengu þeir við þengil
þrimr sinnum hlut minna.
 
‘Dwellings perished, as he burned the Scots’ realm; red fire leapt in the smoking thatch; that day peril did not cease. The battle-master [WARRIOR] paid men for their injuries; in a single summer they got three times over the poorer deal from the ruler.
Harri fekk í hverri
Hjaltlands þrumu branda
— greppr vill grams dýrð yppa —
gagn, sás hæstr vas bragna.
 
‘The lord of Shetland [= Þorfinnr], he who was highest of heroes, won victory in every thunderclap of swords [BATTLE]; the poet wishes to extol the worth of the ruler.
Veitk, þars Vatnsfjǫrðr heitir,
(vask í miklum haska)
míns (við mannkyns reyni)
merki dróttins verka.
Þjóð bar skjótt af skeiðum
skjaldborg fríamorgin;
gǫrla sák, at gínði
grár ulfr of ná sôrum.
 
‘I know there are tokens of the exploits of my lord, where it is called Vatnsfjǫrðr; I was in great peril with the trier of men [RULER]. The crew carried swiftly the shield-wall from the warships on Friday morning; I saw clearly that the grey wolf gaped over the wounded corpse.
Ýmisst vann sá * unnar,
— írsk fell drótt — þás sótti,
Baldr, eða brezkar aldir
— brann eldr — Skotaveldi.
 
‘That Baldr <god> of the sword [WARRIOR = Þorfinnr] won diverse [triumphs], as he attacked the British people and the realm of the Scots; the Irish troop fell; fire blazed.
Nemi drótt, hvé sæ sótti
snarlyndr konungr jarla;
eigi þraut við ægi
ofvægjan gram bægja.
 
‘Let the retinue take in how the quick-mettled king among jarls made out to sea; there was no end to the over-powering lord striving against the ocean.
Enn vas, sús Engla minnir,
egghríð, né mun síðan
hôr við helming meira
hringdrífr koma þingat.
Bitu sverð, en þar þurði,
þunngǫr, fyr Mǫn sunnan
Rǫgnvalds kind, und randir
ramlig folk, ins gamla.
 
‘Then came the edge-blizzard [BATTLE] which the English remember, and never after will a lofty ring-strewer [GENEROUS RULER] come there with a larger force. Slender-wrought swords bit the mighty troops beneath their shields, and the descendant of Rǫgnvaldr inn gamli (‘the Old’) [= Þorfinnr] rushed forth there south of Man.
Stǫng bar jarl at Engla
ættgrund, en rauð stundu
— vé bað vísi knýja —
verðung ara tungu.
Hyrr óx; hallir þurru;
herdrótt rak þar flótta;
eim hratt, en laust ljóma,
limdolgr, náar himni.
 
‘The jarl bore his standard onto the native soil of the English, and his retinue reddened at once the eagle’s tongue; the leader called for banners to advance. Flame grew; halls collapsed; the war-band drove [men] to flight there; the foe of branches [FIRE] flung out smoke, and hurled light close to the sky.
Margr vas millum borga
— mildingr þrǫng at hildi —
horna blôstr, þars hristisk
hugsterks jǫfurs merki.
Vætr brá, ’s vígljóst þótti,
vargsteypis her greypum,
(skulfu jôrn, en ulfar)
uggs (morginhræ tuggu).
 
‘Many a blast of horns sounded between the defences, where the banner of the stout-hearted hero waved; the bountiful one stormed into battle. Not a trace of fear seized the grim troop of the thief-feller [JUST RULER = Þorfinnr], once it seemed light enough for battle; iron blades quivered, and wolves chewed morning-carrion.
Ek em, síz ýtar hnekkðu
jarla sætt, es vættik,
— jǫfn fengusk hræ hrǫfnum —
hegju trauðr at segja.
Sleit fyr eyjar útan
allvaldr blôu tjaldi;
hafði hreggsvǫl dúfa
hrími fezk of líma.
 
‘I am loath to speak of events, since men thwarted the truce between the jarls, as I anticipated; from both sides alike flesh was found for ravens. The mighty ruler wore to shreds the dark awnings out beyond the islands; the snow-cold billow had fastened itself in frost about the mast.
Óskepna varð uppi
endr, þás mǫrgum kenndi
hôligt róg at hníga,
hǫrð, þars jarlar bǫrðusk.
Nær réðusk ástmenn órir,
eldhríð es varð síðan
— ǫld fekk mein in milda
mǫrg — fyr Rauðabjǫrgum.
 
‘At that time a harsh, monstrous thing came to pass, as mighty strife taught many to fall where jarls fought. Our [my] dear friends almost destroyed each other, as the sword-blizzard [BATTLE] came about then off Rauðabjǫrg; the gracious men received many injuries.
Hvárntveggja sák hǫggva
hirð á Péttlandsfirði
— ór þrifusk mein at meiri —
mínn auðgjafa sína.
Sær blezk, en dreif dreyri
døkkr á saumfǫr kløkkva;
skaut á skjaldrim sveita;
skokkr vas blóði stokkinn.
 
‘I watched both my wealth-givers [GENEROUS MEN] hack down their own retainers in the Pentland Firth; our [my] pain grew the more. The sea churned, and dark blood dashed on the pliant nail-row; gore spurted on the shield-rail; decking was spattered with blood.
Gramr myndi sá gǫmlu
gunnbráðr und sik láði
— hann fekk miklu minna
mannspjall — koma ǫllu,
ef ílendra Endils
ættstafr hafa knætti
(vélti herr of Hjalta)
hjalm-Þrótta lið (dróttin*).
 
‘That battle-hasty ruler would have brought all of the ancient land under his sway—he had much the less loss of men—if he, the kin-stave of Endill <sea-king> [RULER], could have had the support of the land-restored helmet-Þróttar <= Óðinn’s> [WARRIORS]; the troop betrayed the Shetlanders’ lord [= Rǫgnvaldr].
Hringstríði varð hlýða
herr frá Þursaskerjum
— rétt segik þjóð, hvé þótti
Þórfinnr — til Dyflinnar.
 
‘People had to heed the ring-harmer [GENEROUS RULER] from Þursasker to Dublin; I tell men truly how Þorfinnr was regarded.
Bjǫrt verðr sól at svartri;
søkkr fold í mar døkkvan;
brestr erfiði Austra;
allr glymr sær á fjǫllum,
áðr at Eyjum fríðri
(inndróttar) Þórfinni
(þeim hjalpi goð geymi)
gœðingr myni fœðask.
 
‘The bright sun will turn to black; the earth will sink in the dark ocean; the toil of Austri <dwarf> [SKY/HEAVEN] will split; all the sea will roar over the mountains, before a chieftain finer than Þorfinnr will be born on the Islands; God help that guardian of his retinue [RULER].
Ættbœti firr ítran
allríks, en biðk líkna
trúra tyggja dýrum,
Torf-Einars, goð, meinum.
 
‘God, keep the splendid kin-ennobler of all-powerful Torf-Einarr [= Þorfinnr] far from harms, and I ask true mercies for the precious prince.
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