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Runic Dictionary

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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

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

4. Þorfinnsdrápa (Þorfdr) - 25

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.

Þorfinnsdrápa (‘Drápa about Þorfinnr’) — Arn ÞorfdrII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 7 July 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25 

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 5. Þórfinnsdrápa (AI, 343-8, BI, 316-21); stanzas (if different): 1 | 3 | 4 | 12 | 13 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18

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

SkP info: II, 229-60

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


ÞorfinnsdrápaDrápa about Þorfinnr’ (Arn Þorfdr) is relatively well preserved, and sixteen sts and nine helmingar are printed here. The poem honours Þorfinnr Sigurðarson (on whom, see ‘Biographies of Other Dignitaries’ in Introduction to this vol.), one of the two Orcadian jarls to whom Arnórr’s nickname jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’-poet’ refers. From internal evidence, not least the prayers for Þorfinnr’s soul in sts 24-5, this was clearly an erfidrápa ‘memorial drápa’ addressed to the drótt ‘retinue’ (st. 15), which points to composition soon after the jarl’s death c. 1064/5.

The authorship of the Þorfdr sts is unproblematic, and the poem’s title is preserved in Orkn (see st. 6: Note to [All]). Several sts clearly belong to the poem on the basis of evidence such as the naming of the hero in sts 23 and 24, and in the prose introductions to sts 3, 15 and 16 (see Notes to these sts: [All]), and several more are cited in Orkn as evidence for Þorfinnr’s campaigns, and hence implicitly from Þorfdr. Although some of these could equally well be from Rǫgndr (e.g. sts 9-12), it seems unlikely that Arnórr could have voiced too great admiration for Rǫgnvaldr while Þorfinnr was alive, since Rǫgnvaldr fell at the hands of Þorfinnr’s henchman Þorkell, and the same reasoning applies to the laments in sts 1 and 4, preserved only in SnE. The painful and potentially inflammatory topic of the clash between the two jarls and kinsmen Þorfinnr and Rǫgnvaldr at Rauðabjǫrg (probably Roberry) is commemorated by Arnórr in five sts, and seemingly at least two of them belong to Þorfdr, since the word endr ‘once, at that time’ in st. 20 suggests composition at some distance from the event, and the battle-description in st. 21 matches the remainder of Þorfdr well. One st. voices the skald’s agony of divided loyalties from the midst of the action and is therefore generally taken as a lv. (Arn Lv). This leaves two sts of uncertain status, which were printed as Fragments 2-3 in Whaley 1998, 34, but which are tentatively included in Þorfdr, as sts 19 and 22, in this edn (as also in Skj).

For the ordering of sts which are embedded in narratives in Orkn, there is no reason to challenge the chronology of the saga, which, together with the internal evidence of the sts, is the main evidence available. Stanza 5 praises the valour of Þorfinnr at the age of fourteen; sts 6-11 punctuate the account of his war against ‘Karl’ and the Scots (Orkn ch. 20); sts 16-18 fit together as commemoration of raids on the English (Orkn ch. 24), and st. 15, a single helmingr which addresses the drótt ‘retinue’ with praise of Þorfinnr’s seamanship, would form a fitting prelude to this group, though it is preserved only in SnE and its placing is therefore uncertain. Stanzas 19-22, as already noted, concern the tragic clash at Rauðabjǫrg. Stanzas 13-14, and their context in Orkn, do not offer so solid a narrative thread, but refer to raids in which Arnórr himself was involved (st. 13). The remaining sts are preserved in essentially non-narrative contexts, and are therefore difficult to place, but the wording of st. 1 in the present edn matches that of Magndr 1, and the sequence of sts 2-4 seems to have logic on its side, though no claim can be made for its authenticity, especially since sts 1-4 are all single helmingar. As a drápa the original poem would have had one or more stef ‘refrain(s)’, and though none is identified in the medieval sources, the general praise and skald’s self-reference in st. 12 makes it a likely candidate; it is also a useful divider between different parts of the action and is given its position in this edn for that reason (it is st. 18 in Skj). The statement of the extent of Þorfinnr’s power in st. 23, and the prayers in sts 24-5, suggest, though do not prove, that they belong in the close (slœmr) of the poem.

That there is scope for disagreement about the reconstruction of Þorfdr can be seen from the attempts in CPB II, 194-7, SnE 1848-87, III, 568-70, Skj AI, 343-48, BI, 316-21 and Fidjestøl 1982, 131-2, 268; for fuller comment on the reconstruction of the poem, see Edwards 1979, 49-54.

Þorfdr is preserved mainly in Orkn, and particularly in the Flat (Flat) text, which has sts 2, 5-11, 13-17, 19-24, with sts 20 and 24 appearing twice. Ms. 332ˣ is used as the main ms. for sts 2 and 5-11, but it lacks sts 13 onwards, while the vellum fragment 325III ß has only sts 2 and 11. Three supplementary mss, dependent on Orkn but not constituting complete saga texts, also supply readings for the poetry: the verse anthology R702ˣ (sts 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 16, 17, 18, 20); 48ˣmarg, the marginal notes from the lost Codex Academicus in 48ˣ (st. 2 and words from sts 5-8, 10-11); and the glossary SLR printed by Ole Worm in 1650 (words from sts 11, 13, 17). ÓH (see ms. listings) and ÓHHkr has st. 5/5-8 ( and 325XI 2 e only) and st. 23 ( only), and Fsk (FskBˣ, FskAˣ), Mork (Mork), Flat (Flat) and H-Hr (H, Hr) all cite st. 3 within Ólkyrr. The poem also supplied numerous illustrations for SnE. The main mss R and have the largest complement: sts 1, 4, 12, 15 (twice), 16/5-8, 22/1-4, 23; U has these except that it only has ll. 1-2 of st. 15 and no repeat, and W has all except st. 12 and the repeat of st. 15; B has sts 1, 5/1-2, 12, 22/1-4, C has sts 12, 15 and A has st. 15 only. Where necessary, the copy of B in 744ˣ has been used to supply illegible text. Stanzas 1-2, 4, 14 and 24/1-4 are also recorded in LaufE. Representing the Y version, 2368ˣ and 743ˣ have sts 1, 4 and 24/1-4, 743ˣ but not 2368ˣ has st. 2; st. 1 is also in ms. in papp10ˣ of the X version, and 21 6 7 IIˣ has st. 14.

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