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Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA)

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

1. Magnússflokkr (Magnfl) - 19

Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA) is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 254, 262) among the poets of Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson and Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-rule’ Sigurðarson, and virtually all his extant poetry seems to have been composed in honour of them, or in association with them; hence it dates from the period 1035-1066. The text of Skáldatal in AM 761 a 4°ˣ (SnE 1848-87, III, 259) also credits Þjóðólfr with poetry for Haraldr Þorkelsson, son of Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’ and one of the Dan. magnates present in Norway during the reign of Sveinn Álfífuson (1030-35). No identifiable fragments of this remain, but if true the tradition would suggest that Þjóðólfr was born not much later than 1010. Hemings þáttr Áslákssonar (Hem) has him die at the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, and there is no record of him after that date, though Lv 11 has the air of being composed after the battle. Þjóðólfr was, according to Skáldatal and Fsk (ÍF 29, 245), the brother of another skald, Bǫlverkr Arnórsson (Bǫlv), and according to Sneglu-Halla þáttr (Snegl) in Flat (1860-8, III, 415), was from an undistinguished family in Svarfaðardalur, northern Iceland. The same þáttr (p. 421) names his father not as Arnórr but as Þorljótr, in the context of a scurrilous anecdote told against Þjóðólfr by Sneglu-Halli (SnH), who also taunts him with having composed the otherwise unknown Sorptrogsvísur ‘Dustbin Vísur’. The þáttr nevertheless describes him as accomplished (menntr vel) and courteous (kurteis maðr), highly favoured by King Haraldr and chief of his poets (haufutskꜳlld sitt, p. 415). Þjóðólfr’s poetry, rich in allusion and imagery, has continued to be widely admired, and it gains colour and vigour from the fact that he participated in many of the campaigns he depicts. It undoubtedly also reflects the fact that he was one of an exceptional circle of poets patronised by Haraldr (see Turville-Petre 1968), and much of his poetry shares topics and imagery with that of his contemporary Arnórr jarlaskáld (Arn), though there is no account of the dealings between these two. Þjóðólfr figures in several anecdotes centring on poetic composition: see Contexts to Lv 2-6, though we have no way of knowing whether he was so touchy about his reputation as the Context to Lv 4, and Snegl, would suggest; he also features as a go-between figure in Brands þáttr ǫrva, which cites no poetry. For brief biographies of Þjóðólfr see, e.g. SnE 1848-87, III, 578-9; LH 1894-1901, I, 627-32; Hollander 1945, 189-96.

In addition to the works edited here as Þjóðólfr’s, there have been further attributions to him. Þfagr Sveinn 7 is attributed to Þjóðólfr in Mork (1928-32, 165-6) and Flat (1860-8, III, 341), but to Þorleikr fagri in other sources; ÞKolb Eirdr 17I is attributed to Þjóðólfr in the U ms. alone, and Þfisk Lv 3 is attributed to him in F. Further, Flat, by citing Okík Magn 1 after ÞjóðA Magnfl 18 without announcing a change of skald implicitly assigns the latter to Þjóðólfr. We might perhaps also imagine Þjóðólfr having a hand in Anon (HSig) 2, the st. collaboratively composed by Haraldr’s men. A further set of six sts presented are anonymous in the medieval sources but are presented in this edn as Halli XI Fl (for reasons explained in Halli Biography below). These are printed among Þjóðólfr’s works in CPB II, 210-11 and listed under his name in SnE 1848-87, III, 583-4; Poole also finds ‘the ascription to Þjóðólfr Arnórsson … tempting, on stylistic grounds’ (1991, 75).

Preserved mainly in the kings’ sagas, above all in Hkr, Þjóðólfr’s oeuvre presents exceptional problems of reconstruction, which are discussed at some length in the Introductions to the individual poems or sets of sts. The chief problem is that Þjóðólfr certainly composed a major dróttkvætt poem for each of his patrons Magnús (Magnússflokkr, Magnfl) and Haraldr (Sexstefja, Sex), but that in each case there is also a set of sts that may or may not belong in the main encomium. The decision has been taken here to print them separately: fourteen sts depicting the aftermaths of Magnús’s major battles at Århus (Áróss) and Helgenæs (Helganes) are presented as ‘Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi’ (Magn), and seven describing the launch of Haraldr’s great levied fleet from Nidelven (the river Nið) as ‘Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr’ (Har). As a reference aid, the arrangement of Þjóðólfr’s oeuvre in SkP and Skj is shown here.

Magnússflokkr (ÞjóðA Magnfl)
SkP Skj
15Náði jarl at eyða 19
16Rǫnn lézt, ræsir Þrœnda,20
17Hizig laut, es heitir 21
18Flýði jarl af auðu, 22
19Háðisk heilli góðu25
Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi (ÞjóðA Magn)
1Hrauð leifs mǫgr áðan Magnfl 15
2Misst hafa Sveins at sýnu, Magnfl 16
3Gær sák grjóti stóru Lv 1
4Spurði einu orði Magnfl 17
5Saurstokkinn bar svíra Magnfl 18
6Hrindr af hrókalandi Lv 2
7Menn eigu þess minnask, Lv 3
8Skjǫld bark heim frá hjaldri Magnfl 23
9Bauð leifs sonr áðan Magnfl 24
10Nú taka Norðmenn knýja,Lv 4
11Brum jǫrn at œrnuLv 5
12Svíðr of seggja búðirLv 6
13Fjǫrð lét fylkir verðaLv 7
14Ek hef ekki at drekkaLv 8
Runhent poem about Haraldr (ÞjóðA Run)
Sexstefja (ÞjóðA Sex)
6Þjóð veit, at hefr háðar7
7Stólþengils lét stinga6
8Ok hertoga hneykir25
9Reist eikikjǫlr austan8
10Vatn lézt, vísi, slitna,9
11Gegn skyli herr, sem hugnar10
12Frn hefr sveit við Sveini11
13Lét vingjafa veitir12
14Fast bað fylking hrausta13
15Alm dró upplenzkr hilmir14
16Flest vas hirð, sús hraustum15
17Sogns kvðu gram gegnan16
18Sveinn át sigr at launa17
19Nús of verk, þaus vísi,18
20Létu lystir sleitu19
21Tók Holmbúa hneykir20
22Gagn brann greypra þegna; 21
23Fœrði fylkir Hǫrða,22
24Áræðis naut eyðir23
25Refsir reyndan ofsa24
26Mǫrk lét veitt fyr verka26
27Ǫrð sær Yrsu burðar27
28Lét hræteina hveiti32
29Blóðorra lætr barri30a
30Geirs oddum lætr greddir30b
31Gera vas gisting byrjuð29
32Hár skyli hirðar stjóri35
Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr (ÞjóðA Har)
1Skeið sák framm at flœði, Lv 18
2Slyngr laugardag lǫngu Lv 19
3Rétt kann rœði slíta Lv 20
4Sorgar veit, áðr slíti Lv 21
5Eigu skjól und skógi Lv 22
6Hléseyjar lemr hvan Lv 23
7Haraldr þeysti nú hraustla Lv 24
Fragments (ÞjóðA Frag )
1 Nús valmeiðum víðisLv 9
2Jarl/Ǫrr lætr, odda skúrar Sex 28
3Ganga él of Yngva Sex 31
4Snart við sæþráð kyrtat Sex 33
5Útan bindr við enda Sex 34
Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur (ÞjóðA Lv)
1Leiða langar dauða Lv 10
2Sumar annat skal sunnar Lv 11
3[Logit hefr Baldr at Baldri]
brynþings fetilstingar
Lv 12
4Mildingr rauð í móðu Lv 13
5Varp ór þrætu þorpi Lv 14
6Sigurðr eggjaði sleggju Lv 15
7Haddan skall, en Halli Lv 16
8Út stendr undan báti Lv 17
9Ǫld es, sús jarli skyldi Lv 25
10Skalka frá, þótt fylkir Lv 26
11Ǫld hefr afráð goldit Lv 27

Reconstructions of the Þjóðólfr corpus are offered by Finnur Jónsson in SnE 1848-87, III, 579-90, which is the basis (almost unchanged) for Skj (AI, 361-83, BI, 332-53), and the Skj ordering is retained in Skald (I, 168-77); other major contributions are by Guðbrandur Vigfússon in CPB (II, 198-212) and by Fidjestøl (1982, 133-43, 172).

The principal eds consulted in the course of re-editing Þjóðólfr’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, 361-83; BI, 332-53 and Ernst Albin Kock’s in Skald I, 168-77, 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): CPB II, 198-212; Kock and Meissner 1931, I, 57-60; Hollander 1945,190-6 (annotated translations only), Poole 1991, 59-63; and (with seven sts) Turville-Petre 1976, 97-102. Such works as these, together with others containing comment on the poetry, are cited as appropriate in the Notes.


Magnússflokkr — ÞjóðA MagnflII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Magnússflokkr’ 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. 61-87. <> (accessed 28 November 2021)

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

Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson: 1. Magnúsflokkr, omtr. 1045 (AI, 361-8, BI, 332-8); stanzas (if different): 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

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

SkP info: II, 61-87

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


1 Vast, Ôleifs sonr, austan
eflðr á vatn it skeflða.
Óláfr’s son [= Magnús], you were powerfully launched from the east onto the heaped water.
2 Út rétt, allvaldr, skjóta
— ekin dúðisk rô — snekkju,
en þrítøgt skip þrautar
þann tíð í haf skríða.
Vægðit vendi sveigðum
veðr ótt of þér, dróttinn;
hlóðu hirðmenn prúðir
húnskript í Sigtúnum.
Mighty ruler, you launched [lit. did launch] a warship out, and [made] the thirty-benched ship glide at full stretch over the sea at that time; the driven sailyard shuddered. The raging wind did not spare the swayed mast above you, lord; splendid retainers took down the decorated cloth [SAIL] of the mast-top in Sigtuna (Sigtúnir).
3 Aur spornuðuð, arnar
ilrjóðr, af Svíþjóðu;
herr fylgði þér, harri,
hraustr í Nóreg austan.
Flýði Sveinn enn síðan
sannráðinn frá láði;
erlendis frák undan
Alfífu son drífa.
You trod the soil, sole-reddener of the eagle [WARRIOR], on the way from Sweden; a valiant army followed you, prince, from the east into Norway. Later again Sveinn fled, truly betrayed, from the land; I learned that Ælfgifu’s son [= Sveinn] dashed away abroad.
4 Djarft neyttir þú, dróttinn
dolgstrangr, skipa langra,
af þvít ýtar hǫfðu
austr sjau tøgu flausta.
Suðr gnauðuðu súðir;
segl hýnd við stag rýndu;
vík skar vandlangt eiki;
Visundr hneigði þrǫm sveigðan.
You used long ships boldly, battle-strong lord, as men steered seventy vessels eastwards. Strakes roared south; high-hoisted sails conversed with the forestay; the tall-masted oak sliced the sound; Visundr (‘Bison’) plunged its curved rail.
5 Sjalfr vas austr við Elfi
Ulfs mǫgr ok hét fǫgru;
þar réð Sveinn at sverja
sínar hendr at skríni.
Réð Ôleifs sonr eiðum,
— átt hafa þeira sáttir
skemmra aldr an skyldi —
Skônunga gramr, hônum.
Úlfr’s kinsman [= Sveinn Úlfsson] himself was east at the Götaälv (Elfr), and promised fine things; there Sveinn did pledge himself [lit. his hands] at the shrine. Óláfr’s son [= Magnús], the lord of the Skánungar [= Magnús], dictated oaths to him; their peace-agreements have had a shorter life than they ought.
6 Minn vá sigr fyr sunnan
snjallr Heiðabý spjalli;
nær frák skarpa skœru
Skotborgarô gotna.
Unði ótal Vinða
Ellu konr at fella;
hvar hafi gumnar gǫrva
geirhríð fregit meiri?
My valiant confidant won victory south of Hedeby (Heiðabýr); I learned of a bitter conflict of men near the Kongeå (Skotborgará). The descendant of Ella <legendary king> [= Magnús] relished cutting down countless Wends; where might men have heard of a greater spear-storm [BATTLE] being made?
7 Hykk í hundraðs flokki
Haralds bróðurson stóðu
— hrafn vissi sér hvassast
hungrbann — framast manna.
Vítt lá Vinða flótti;
varð, þars Magnús barðisk,
hǫggvinn valr at hylja
heiði rastar breiða.
I believe the brother’s son of Haraldr [= Magnús] stood foremost of the men in a force of a hundred; the raven knew there was the strictest ban on hunger. The Wends forced to flee lay far and wide; the felled slain came to cover the heath a league wide, where Magnús fought.
8 Lǫgðu (grœðis glóða)
gramr ok jarl fyr skǫmmu
(þar kom bitr á bǫrva
brandleikr) saman randir,
svát manþinga munðut
merkjendr Heðins serkjar
— herr náði gný gørva
geirs — orrostu meiri.
The king and the jarl clashed shields a short time ago; biting sword-sport [BATTLE] came there upon the trees of the embers of the ocean [GOLD > MEN], so that stainers of the shirt of the assembly of Heðinn’s <legendary hero’s> maiden [(lit. ‘of Heðinn’s maiden-assembly’) = Hildr > BATTLE > ARMOUR > WARRIORS] did not remember a greater battle; the army got to carry out tumult of the spear [BATTLE].
9 Skotit frák skeptiflettum
skjótt ok mǫrgu spjóti,
— brôð fekk hrafn — þars hôðum
hjaldr, á breiða skjǫldu.
Neyttu mest sem môttu
menn at vápna sennu,
baugs en barðir lôgu
bǫrvar, grjóts ok ǫrva.
I have learned that shafted javelins and many a spear were shot swiftly onto broad shields, where we joined battle; the raven got meat. Men made the best use they could of stones and arrows in the slander-match of weapons [BATTLE], and trees of the ring [MEN] lay beaten down.
10 Bôru bǫslar fleiri
bogmenn at hǫr tognum;
mundit þann dag Þrœndi
þreyta fyrr at skeytum.
Svá þykkt flugu síðan
snœridǫrr of skœru
— ótt vas ǫrdrif látit —
illa sátt á milli.
Bowmen placed more arrows on the drawn bowstring; that day the Þrœndir would not be the first to let up with their missiles. Then the thonged javelins flew over the fight so densely [that] you could hardly see between them; a raging arrow-drift was sent.
11 Mjǫk bað Magnús rekka
mannr rǫskliga annan
— hǫrð þrifusk boð, þars bǫrðusk —
bǫðský framar knýja.
Magnús urged heroes strongly, one man [urging] another boldly, to drive battle-clouds [SHIELDS] onwards; stern commands brought results where they fought.
12 Vǫrðr gekk meir at morði
Magnús kjalar vagna
— þat vas frægt — í fagran
framstafn varar Hrafni.
Gerðum þar, svát þverrði,
þengill, en óx fengi,
— skeiðr nam herr at hrjóða —
húskarla lið jarli.
The guardian of waggons of the keel [SHIPS > SEAFARER], Magnús, went further into the slaughter in the beautiful forestem of the Hrafn <horse> of the landing-stage [SHIP]; that was renowned. We brought it about there, prince, that the jarl’s troop of housecarls reduced, and booty increased; the army started to clear the warships.
13 Áðr svanfoldar seldi
sólrýrandi inn dýri
— jarls lá ferð á ferli —
fjǫrgrið stǫfum hjǫrva.
Before the excellent diminisher of the sun of the swan-land [(lit. ‘sun-diminisher of the swan-land’) SEA > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] granted life-truce to the staves of swords [WARRIORS]; the jarl’s troop were on the move.
14 Rǫmm vas hildr, sús Hramma
harðéls viðir bǫrðusk,
— herr gekk snart at snerru —
sunnudags of unnin.
Flaut, þás feigir létu
fjǫr gnýstafir hjǫrva,
— þjóð sǫkk niðr at nauðum —
nár á hverri bôru.
A mighty battle was fought on a Sunday, which trees of the harsh storm of Hrammi <= Óðinn> [BATTLE > WARRIORS] waged; the army advanced keenly to the onslaught. A corpse floated on every wave, as the doomed staves of the din of swords [(lit. ‘din-staves of swords’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] gave up life; people sank down under duress.
15 Náði jarl at eyða
jǫfra setr á vetri;
lézt eigi þú lítla
landvǫrn af þér standa.
Máttir, Magnús, hætta,
mildr, í folk und skildi;
nefa Knúts vas þá nýtum
nær sem ráðinn væri.
The jarl succeeded in clearing the seat of princes in the winter; you caused no meagre defence of territory to issue from you. Generous Magnús, you were able to venture into battle behind a shield; for the capable nephew of Knútr [= Sveinn] it was then almost as though he were destroyed.
16 Rǫnn lézt, ræsir Þrœnda,
— reiðr þorðir bú meiða —
(hús namt hvert ok eisu)
hyrfeld (gefa eldi).
Grôu vildir þú gjalda,
gœðinga vinr, skœðar
— ǫrt renndu þeir undan —
jarls fylgjurum dylgjur.
You made buildings fire-razed, ruler of the Þrœndir [NORWEGIAN KING = Magnús]; angry, you dared to damage homesteads; you proceeded to give every house to fire and embers. Friend of nobles [RULER], you wanted to pay back the followers of the jarl grimly for their noxious hostilities; they ran rapidly away.
17 Hizig laut, es heitir
Helganes, fyr kesjum
(sukku sárir rekkar)
Sveins ferð (bana verðir).
Mætr helt mǫrgu spjóti
Mœra gramr í snœri;
odd rauð aski studdan
ǫrr landreki dǫrrum.
Sveinn’s troop stooped before halberds there, where it is called Helgenæs; wounded champions sank down, deserving death. The excellent lord of the Mœrir [NORWEGIAN KING = Magnús] held many a spear in its thong; the valiant land-ruler reddened with spears the point hafted [lit. supported] with ash.
18 Flýði jarl af auðu
ótvínn skipi sínu
morð, þars Magnús gerði
meinfœrt þaðan Sveini.
Réð herkonungr hrjóða
hneitis egg í sveita;
sprændi blóð á brýndan
brand; vá gramr til landa.
The unwavering jarl fled the killing, from his empty ship, where Magnús made it perilous for Sveinn to go from there. The army-king painted [lit. did paint] the sword’s edge in gore; blood spurted onto the sharpened sword; the prince fought for lands.
19 Háðisk heilli góðu
hildr, sem Magnús vildi;
selr of sigr at þylja
sóknstœrir mér fœri.
Brand rauð buðlungr Þrœnda;
berr íðula síðan
hann ept hervíg þrennin
hæra skjǫld at gjǫldum.
The battle was waged with good fortune, as Magnús wished; the onslaught-sweller [WARRIOR] gives me opportunity to recite about victory. The prince of the Þrœndir [NORWEGIAN KING = Magnús] reddened the sword; after threefold pitched battle he carries the higher shield ever afterwards in repayment.
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated