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Runic Dictionary

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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

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

2. Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa (Hryn) - 20

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.

Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa (‘Falling/flowing metre, Drápa about Magnús’) — Arn HrynII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa’ 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. 181-206. <> (accessed 5 July 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20 

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 2. Hrynhenda, Magnúsdrápa, 1046 (AI, 332-8, BI, 306-11); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3

in texts: Flat, FoGT, Gramm, H-Hr, Hkr, Knýtl, LaufE, LaufE, MGóð, MH, Mork, ÓH, Skm, SnE, SnEW, TGT

SkP info: II, 181-206

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Twenty whole or partial sts survive from Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson’s Hrynhenda (Arn Hryn) in praise of Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson (c. 1025-47), which must date to the last two years of Magnús’s life. The first performance is described in an anecdote in Mork (1928-32, 116-18), Flat (1860-8, III, 321-3), and H-Hr (Fms 6, 195-8). Newly arrived in Norway, Arnórr is summoned by the co-rulers Magnús Óláfsson and Haraldr Sigurðarson to recite his eulogies for them. He begins with Hryn, speaking first of the (Orkney) jarls ‘west across the sea’ and his own voyages (cf. sts 1 and 2), then praises Magnús with exceptional zeal, eliciting testy remarks from Haraldr at both points, who however commends the poem once complete, admiring it more than Blágagladrápa which Arnórr addresses to him, of which little or nothing now survives.

All that survives of Hryn, except for sts 11-12, is preserved in Mgóð in ms. Hr of H-Hr; its sister ms. H lacks sts 4-8 since it has a lacuna in the early chs of Mgóð. Mork (Mork) and Flat (Flat) have sts 3 and 16-19 in the anecdote about the first performance of the poem, and Flat also has sts 8-10, 13, 15 (Mork having a lacuna in the corresponding place). Hkr (Kˣ as main ms., 39, F, E, J2ˣ) has sts 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, and 14, while ÓH has sts 5 and 6/5-8 written continuously with st. 7 (see edn of these below for ms. listing). Fsk contains no citations from Hryn. Knýtl contains sts 14/5-8 and 15 concerning the war against Sveinn Úlfsson (mss 20dˣ, 873ˣ; 1005ˣ and 19ˣ have 14/5-8 but omit st. 15 from an otherwise full text). The remaining, usually less specific, sts are preserved in the treatises on poetry and grammar: sts 12/1-4 and 20 in SnE (R as main ms. Tˣ, B, C have both, U, A have only st. 20; B is supplemented by 744ˣ where illegible). The main SnE text in W lacks these but Orms Eddu-brot’ in the same ms. has sts 6/1-4 and 16/1-4. The C17th LaufE has texts of Hryn 6/1-4 and 16/1-4 (mss 2368ˣ, 743ˣ, plus papp10ˣ for 6/1-4 only), though since W was its main source (Jón Helgason 1966a, 175; LaufE 1979, 16, 30-2), they are not necessarily of independent value. TGT (W, A) is the sole witness to sts 1, 2 and also has st. 3/3-4, and the W text of FoGT also has st. 3/3-4.

Hrynhenda has become the traditional title of this poem, and it is preserved in ms. H, but there are variants: Hrunhenda/Hrúnhenda (Hr, ms. ‘i hrunhendu’), Hrynjandi (ÓH mss, except Holm2 which has ‘i hermandinni’), and Magnússdrápa (TGT and Knýtl mss); see Notes to sts 2, 4, 5, 8, 13, 14, 15 [All]). Hrynhenda is certainly the first known encomium in hrynhent metre, and may be the earliest example of the metre, since although the hrynhent fragment Anon HafgIV had been traditionally dated c. 1000, Jakob Benediktsson (1981) argued for a late C11th dating. The distinctive metre makes assignation of sts to the poem relatively uncontentious, added to which sts 3 and 16-19 are embedded in the Mork anecdote about the first performance of the poem, and sts 4-5 (with 6-7 by association), 8 and 13-15 are explicitly cited from the poem. Other sts contain details pointing to Magnús as hero: he is named in st. 3, and his ship Visundr in sts 9 and 16, while sts 11-12 concern the victory over the Wends ascribed to him by Adam of Bremen. Stanza 20 contains no factual detail and is preserved only in SnE, but its hrynhent metre and use of the word skjǫldungr (applied to Magnús in sts 4, 12, 13 and Arn Magndr 19) put its membership of Hryn beyond doubt.

The chronology of Magnús’s short life is well established in the prose sources and matches the internal logic of the sts insofar as it can be discerned. Setting aside sts possibly belonging to the exordium and conclusion, the poem moves through Magnús’s return from north-west Russia to claim Norway (1035, sts 4-8); his expedition to Denmark (c. 1042, sts 9-10); campaign against the Wends (c. 1043, sts 11-13); and war against Sveinn Úlfsson (c. 1043-5, sts 14-15). Hints at the structure of the original poem are afforded by st. 11, which announces itself as the beginning of a stefjamél ‘refrain-section’ while sts 4 and 9 might have begun further sections (see Edwards 1979, 43).

Problems over the detail of the ordering are relatively few, and the main one concerns the exordium. Stanza 3, with its sweeping apostrophes and call for a hearing, forms a fitting start to the praise, and is printed as such in Skj and Skald. However, a well-established tradition has it that Arnórr started Hryn with irrelevant material relating to his own travels: this is stated (and King Haraldr grumbles about it) in the Mork anecdote, and st. 2 is cited in TGT as an example of macrologia (see Context). Since two hrynhent couplets relate to the skald’s voyages, they are therefore presented in this edn as sts 1 and 2 (see further Cawley 1926-7; Edwards 1979, 40). There are other minor problems. The prose sources differ over the configuration of sts 6 and 7 (see Note on st. 6 [All]) and the order of sts 14-15 (where this edn follows Knýtl rather than H-Hr; see also Edwards 1979, 43). Stanzas 16-19 contain general praise and hence are difficult to order, but the sequence in the Mork anecdote is respected here as in previous eds. The extravagant, timeless praise in the couplet st. 20 (preserved only in SnE) makes a fitting conclusion and could have belonged to the original slœmr ‘close’, but there is no external evidence for that, and it could possibly have been a stef. The claim that the hero has no equal under the sun resembles that of the klofastef ‘split refrain’ of Steinn Óldr, and (somewhat less closely) the stef of Sigv KnútdrI and HSt RstI, though it is not clear how a two-l. stef would fit into Hryn. For further comment on the reconstruction of the poem and its original extent, see Edwards 1979.

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