This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Runic Dictionary

login: password: stay logged in: help

Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

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

3. Magnússdrápa (Magndr) - 19

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.

Magnússdrápa (‘Drápa about Magnús’) — Arn MagndrII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, 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. 206-29. <> (accessed 7 July 2022)

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

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 3. Magnúsdrápa (AI, 338-43, BI, 311-15); stanzas (if different): 13 | 14

in texts: Flat, Fsk, H-Hr, Hkr, LaufE, MGóð, MH, ÓH, Skm, SnE

SkP info: II, 206-29

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Fifteen sts and four helmingar are printed here (as in Skj) as Arnórr’s second, dróttkvætt poem for Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson (Arn Magndr). Judging by its content and its retrospective mode, replete with 3rd pers. pret.-tense verbs (not least in st. 19), the poem was an erfidrápa ‘memorial drápa’ presumably composed not long after Magnús’s death in 1047. The call for a hearing, þegi seimbrotar ‘let gold-breakers be silent’ (st. 1) implies a collective audience, perhaps Magnús’s retinue, who are praised in sts 2 and 17.

The preservation of Magndr quite closely resembles that of Arn Hryn as now preserved, with the notable difference that the poem is quite well represented in Fsk, while Mork as now preserved contains none of it. H-Hr has all the known sts except for st. 19, and st. 9 is cited twice. Again, Hr is the more complete witness while H lacks the early sts (1-4). Flat (Flat) has all except sts 3, 12/5-8 and 19, but Mork (Mork) is defective. Hkr ( as main ms., F, 39, E, J2ˣ) has sts 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17 and 18, except that F omits st. 14; ÓH has sts 1, 2 and 10 (see these below for ms. listing). Fsk cites sts 4, 5, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17/1-4 and 18 in the FskBˣ text, while FskAˣ additionally has st. 1 but omits four helmingar: sts 10/5-8 and 18/5-8, and the incomplete sts 14 and 16. SnE has texts of sts 12/5-8, 17/5-8 and 19 in R (as main ms.), , U, W and of st. 2/5-8 in R, , A, C; B has st. 19 only in a partially damaged text that is supplemented by selective use of 744ˣ.

The sts below are all credited to Arnórr in medieval sources, except that Flat erroneously attributes st. 4 to ‘Skúli’ (and by implication Arn Hryn 8, which immediately follows it). The poem is entitled Magnússdrápa or Magnúsardrápa in mss of ÓH and H-Hr (see Notes to sts 1, 4 [All]), while ‘Magnússdrápa’ in Knýtl and TGT refers to Arn Hryn. Stanzas 1 and 4 are explicitly cited from Magndr in their sources, and the subject of sts 3 and 15 is clearly identified as sonr leifs ‘Óláfr’s son’. Most of the remainder can be confidently associated with Magndr since they depict triumphs associated with Magnús elsewhere, especially in Arnórr’s own Hryn and in ÞjóðA Magnfl or Magn: the conquest of Denmark (c. 1042, sts 5-7); the sack of Wollin (Jóm, c. 1043, st. 8); the battle off Helgenæs (Helganes, c. 1043-4, sts 12-15); and ravaging of Skåne, Falster and Fyn (Skáney, Falstr and Fjón, c. 1044, sts 16-18). The encounter with vikings off Rügen (Ré) in st. 9 does not carry such a weight of tradition as the remaining events (see Context and below). Stanza 19 lacks defining detail and is preserved only in SnE. It was printed within Arn Þorfdr in CPB II, 196, and is considered of uncertain origin by Fidjestøl (1982, 130), but the use of the adj. ungr ‘young’ and the ‘ruler’ term skjǫldungr associated with Magnús (see Notes to Arn Hryn 8/4 and 4/3 respectively) point to origins in Magndr

The bid for a hearing in st. 1 makes it a plausible opening to the poem, and most of the remaining sts fit into what seems a quite stable tradition about the chronology of Magnús’s campaigns (listed above). The ordering of st. 8 (Wollin), st. 9 (Rügen), and sts 10-11 (Lyrskovshede, ON Hlýrskógsheiðr) is somewhat in doubt, but the witness of Fsk (ÍF 29, 220), which does not cite st. 9 and Flat (1860-8, III, 275, which does) is that Magnús engaged with vikings at Rügen on his way from the sack of Wollin to the victory at Lyrskovshede, and this is supported by the location of Rügen close to the Baltic coast on the route between Wollin and the Dan. territories. Of sts 12-15 only H-Hr and Flat cite all four, and Flat disagrees with the other prose sources about the event commemorated (citing 12, 14 and 15 as evidence for the battle off Århus (Áróss) rather than Helgenæs). The ordering of H-Hr is supported by the internal evidence of the sts and is adopted here (Skj has 13 and 14 in the opposite order). The case of the hyperbolic st. 19 is parallel with Arn Hryn 20 (see Introduction to that poem), and could be part of the slœmr ‘close’ or a stef ‘refrain’.

© 2008-