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Runic Dictionary

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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

11th century; volume 2; ed. Diana Whaley;

5. Haraldsdrápa (Hardr) - 17

Arnórr jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’-poet’ came from Hítarnes in western Iceland, the son of the prosperous farmer and poet Þórðr Kolbeinsson (ÞKolbI, born 974) and Oddný eykyndill ‘Island-candle’ Þorkelsdóttir, who was the subject of the long-running personal and poetic rivalry between Þórðr and Bjǫrn Hítdœlakappi (BjhítV) which is commemorated in Bjarnar saga Hítdœlakappa. According to that saga chronology, Arnórr would have been born c. 1011/12, and he features as a boy in ch. 23 of the saga, and in ch. 60 of Grettis saga. He went abroad, probably in his early twenties, for he is named in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267) among the skalds of King Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great) (d. 1035). From the evidence of the memorial poems Rǫgnvaldsdrápa (Arn Rǫgndr), especially st. 2, and Þorfinnsdrápa (Arn Þorfdr), especially sts 3, 4 (cf. Lv 1), he spent several years in the Orkney Islands as poet and intimate of the jarls Rǫgnvaldr (d. c. 1045) and Þorfinnr (d. c. 1065). It is to this that his nickname refers. Arnórr was in Norway during the brief joint rule of Magnús Óláfsson and Haraldr Sigurðarson (c. 1045-6), and his performance of Hrynhenda (Arn Hryn) for Magnús and Blágagladrápa ‘The drápa of Dark Geese (= Ravens (?))’ for Haraldr is the subject of a spirited anecdote (Mork 1928-32, 116-18, Flat 1860-8, III, 321-3, Fms 6, 195-8; referred to below as ‘the Mork anecdote’). The later part of Arnórr’s career is obscure, but there is a second, memorial poem for Magnús, Magnússdrápa (Arn Magndr), and his composition of a Haraldsdrápa (Arn Hardr) in memory of Haraldr (d. 1066) suggests continuing links of some kind with Norway, though he also composed about Icelanders: a fragmentarily preserved poem for Hermundr Illugason (d. c. 1055; Arn HermIII) and a poem for Gellir Þorkelsson (d. 1073) of which Arn Frag 1III might be a remnant. For further outlines of Arnórr’s life and works, see Hollander 1945, 177-83; Turville-Petre 1968, 5-10, 1976, 93-4; Whaley 1998, 41-7.

The majority of Arnórr’s surviving oeuvre takes the form of memorial encomia (erfidrápur) for rulers of Norway or Orkney in the dróttkvætt metre: ten ll. only of Rǫgndr and longer fragments of Magnússdrápa (Magndr), Þorfdr and Hardr. His greatest contribution to the development of skaldic poetry, however, is his authorship of the first known encomium in the hrynhent metre: the Hrynhenda which, since it apostrophises Magnús góði, must predate the memorial Magndr. Arn Frag 1III is in the same metre but probably unconnected (see above). It is possible that Arn Frag 4III is in praise of Knútr inn ríki and the non-royal dedicatees of Herm and Frag 1 have been mentioned above. Arnórr also appears in one recension of Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 262) as a poet of Óláfr kyrri ‘the Quiet’ Haraldsson (d. 1093), and the pres. tense praise of Arn Frag 3III could have been addressed to him, or alternatively to Haraldr in Blágagladrápa. Only one st., Arn Lv 1, seems clearly to be a lv.; it was spoken during a civil conflict in the Orkneys. Herm and the eight other Fragments are printed in SkP III since they are preserved in SnE and LaufE and cannot be certainly assigned to any of the poems in the present volume.

The principal eds consulted in the course of editing Arnórr’s poetry for SkP are listed for each st., and are of two main types: eds of the skaldic corpus (Finnur Jónsson’s in Skj AI, 332-54, BI, 305-27, BI, and E. A. Kock’s in Skald I, 155-65, supported by numerous NN) and eds of the various prose works in which the poetry is preserved. Extracts are also included in anthologies, articles and other works including (with ten or more sts): Munch and Unger 1847, 119-20; CPB II, 184-98; Wisén 1886-9, I, 44-6, 141-2, 199-200 (Hryn only); Kock and Meissner 1931, I, 48-53; Hollander 1945,177-88 (annotated translations only, mainly Hryn); and (with five sts): Turville-Petre 1976, 93-7. Other works containing comment on the poetry are cited as appropriate in the Notes.

Haraldsdrápa (‘Drápa about Haraldr’) — Arn HardrII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Haraldsdrápa’ 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. 260-80. <> (accessed 7 July 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17 

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 6. Erfidrápa om kong Harald hårdråde, o. 1067 (AI, 349-53, BI, 322-6); stanzas (if different): 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19

in texts: Flat, Fsk, H-Hr, Hkr, HSig, LaufE, MH, Mork, ÓH, ÓHHkr, Skm, SnE

SkP info: II, 260-80

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Judging from the twelve sts and five helmingar printed here as HaraldsdrápaDrápa about Haraldr’ (Arn Hardr), the scope of the poem was not the entire colourful career of King Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-rule’ Sigurðarson (c. 1015-66), but simply the last few years. According to the anecdote set c. 1045-6 in Mork (1928-32, 116-18, cf. Flat 1860-8, III, 321-3, Fms 6, 195-8), Arnórr would have covered Haraldr’s life up to that time in his BlágagladrápaDrápa of the Dark Geese’; the anecdote also has Arnórr promise Haraldr a memorial poem in his honour if he outlives him. Hardr’s focus on the final years, and its character—grandiose but lacking the engaged specificity of Arnórr’s coverage of Orcadian events in Þorfdr (cf. Edwards 1979, 89-90)—tallies with the fact that Arnórr features little in the prose tales of Haraldr, and obviously did not enjoy a position with him equal to that of Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA). From the prayer in st. 17, Hardr was clearly an erfidrápa ‘memorial drápa’, but there is no address to an audience of retainers such as has been preserved from Arn Magndr and Arn Þorfdr.

The authorship of the Hardr sts is unproblematic, and the assignment of sts to the poem mainly so. The poem is not explicitly named Haraldsdrápa in medieval sources, though the reference in Mork, Flat and H-Hr to an erfidrápa for Haraldr is a close approximation (see Note to st. 14 [All]), and st. 5 is cited from a poem about Haraldr. Haraldr is named in st. 16 and the kenning vǫrðr Grikkja ok Garða ‘guardian of Greeks and of Russia (Garðar)’ in st. 17/3 is highly appropriate to Haraldr (see Note). As would be expected given Haraldr’s outstanding patronage of skalds, there is usually other poetic evidence for his leadership of the campaigns celebrated in Hardr, all of which date between 1062 and 1066: the sea-battle off the Nissan estuary (Niz, Halland) against Sveinn Úlfsson (sts 2-4); the punitive attacks on the Oppland (Upplǫnd) provinces of Norway (sts 5-6); and the Engl. campaign: victory by the Ouse (sts 7-9) and defeat at Stamford Bridge (sts 10-13). Stanzas 8 and 11 lack specific detail but are cited alongside more diagnostic sts in the prose sources. In the case of st. 1, which depicts the prince reddening bright blades on Fyn (Fjón), the subject could theoretically be Magnús inn góði (who reddens bright banners on Fyn in Arn Magndr 18), and here only the prose tradition identifies him as Haraldr and implies placement at the beginning of the chronology. There is no reason to apportion the sts about Haraldr to two different poems, one of ‘Praise’ and the other an erfidrápa about the Engl. campaign (so CPB II, 191-2), and the compilers of Mork and Flat seem only to have known one poem (see Note to st. 11 [All]). Two part-sts describing battle-carnage and preserved only in SnE or TGT are printed in Skj as Hardr 5 and 6, but in the absence of internal or external evidence that they concern Haraldr they are printed in SkP III as Arn Frag 2III and Arn Frag 7III respectively.

The main problem of ordering concerns the relative chronology of the battle of the Nissan (sts 2-4) and the Oppland rebellion (sts 5-6). This also arises for ÞjóðA Sex and is discussed in the Introduction to that poem; the same ordering has been tentatively adopted here. A less significant difficulty is the internal ordering of the Stamford Bridge sts: st. 10 makes a fitting start, and the others are ordered in this edn as st. 11 (praise of Haraldr’s valour in battle), st. 12 (regret that his excessive heroism caused his death) and st. 13 (his fall, loyalty of his followers). This departs from the ordering sts 12, 11, 13 in the prose sources (and in Skj), but the sts are separated there both by prose passages and by citations from other skalds, so they do not necessarily constitute a continuous extract from Hardr. The vague praises of sts 14-17 progress from thoughts of worldly pre-eminence to the ‘holy land on high’ and so ordered make a fitting conclusion to the poem, perhaps not unlike the original one, though this remains conjectural given that all four are sole helmingar and external pointers are lacking.

As with Arnórr’s poems for Magnús góði (Arn Hryn and Arn Magndr), Hardr is best represented (in quantity if not quality) in H-Hr: mss H and Hr have all the sts printed here except sts 5, 6 and 17. Mork (Mork) and Flat (Flat) have the same complement except that they lack st. 1. Fsk has only sts 11 and 13, and they are only in FskAˣ, not FskBˣ. Hkr ( as main ms., F, E, J2ˣ) has sts 1, 4, 11 and 13, and 39 has sts 1, 4, all in HSig. Stanza 5 is also in ÓHHkr in and 325XI 2 f but not in other Hkr mss, and in the ÓH mss listed in the edn of that st. below. SnE cites sts 6, 17 (R as main ms., , U, A), while W (and ms. 2368ˣ of LaufE) has st. 17 only and B, C have st. 6 only. The B text is badly damaged and is represented mainly by the copy in 744ˣ.

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