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Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA)

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

7. Lausavísur (Lv) - 11

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.


Lausavísur — ÞjóðA LvII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur’ 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. 163-76. <> (accessed 1 December 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11 

Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson: 4. Lausavísur (AI, 377-83, BI, 347-53); stanzas (if different): 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 | 26 | 27

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Gramm, H-Hr, Hb, Hkr, HSig, MH, Mork, Skm, SnE, Snegl, TGT

SkP info: II, 163-76

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


1 Leiða langar dauða
limar illa mik stillis;
bôrut menn inn mæra
Magnús í grǫf fúsir.
The long branches of the death of the ruler affect me grievously; men did not carry the glorious Magnús gladly [lit. glad] into the grave.
2 Sumar annat skal sunnar
— segik eina spô — fleini
— vér aukum kaf króki —
kaldnefr furu halda.
Next summer shall cold-beak [the anchor] hold the fir vessel with its fluke further south; I speak a prophecy; we will increase the plunging of the hook.
3 [Logit hefr Baldr at Baldri]
brynþings fetilstinga,
linns, sás land á sunnar,
láðbrjótr, fyrir ráða.
Sjá mun Njǫrðr inn nørðri
(norðr) glymhríðar borða
(gramr est frœkn) ok fremri
fastmálari hôla.
[The Baldr <god>] of the byrnie-assembly [BATTLE > WARRIOR = Sveinn] [has broken faith with the Baldr <god>] of sword-belt stabbers [SWORDS > WARRIOR = Haraldr (= me)], the breaker of the land of the snake [(lit. ‘snake’s land-breaker’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = Sveinn] who has a land farther south to rule over. That, the more northerly, Njǫrðr <god> of the clashing storm of shields [BATTLE > WARRIOR = Haraldr] must be vastly more true to his word and more outstanding; lord, you are bold in the north.
4 Mildingr rauð í móðu
— mót hart vas þar — spjóta
(Dǫnum vôru goð) geira,
(grǫm) en þat vas skǫmmu.
Setti niðr á sléttu
Serklandi gramr merki;
— stóð at stillis ráði
stǫng — en þat vas lǫngu.
The gracious ruler reddened lances in the river of spears [BLOOD]; a harsh encounter took place there; and that was a short time ago; the gods were wrathful towards the Danes. The lord planted his banner on level Serkland; the standard stood [high] at the command of the ruler; but that was a long time ago.
5 Varp ór þrætu þorpi
Þórr smiðbelgja stórra
hvapteldingum hǫldnum
hafra kjǫts at jǫtni.
Hljóðgreipum tók húða
hrøkkviskafls af afli
glaðr við galdra smiðju
Geirrøðr síu þeiri.
The Þórr <god> of huge forge-bellows [SMITH] flung jaw-lightnings [INSULTS] from his quarrel hamlet [MOUTH] at the proud giant of goats’ flesh [TANNER]. The cheerful Geirrøðr <giant> of the curving scraper of hides [TANNER] took in with his sound-grabbers [EARS] that molten substance of the smithy of spells [MOUTH > INSULTS], powerfully.
6 Sigurðr eggjaði sleggju
snák váligrar brákar,
en skafdreki skinna
skreið of leista heiði.
Menn sôusk orm, áðr ynni,
ilvegs búinn kilju,
nautaleðrs á naðri
neflangr konungr tangar.
The Sigurðr of the sledge-hammer [SMITH] incited the snake of the dangerous tanning tool [TANNER], and the scraping-dragon of skins [TANNER] slithered across the heath of feet [FLOOR]. People were afraid of the reptile clad in the covering of the sole-path [FOOT > SHOE], before the long-nosed king of tongs [SMITH] overcame the serpent of ox-leather [TANNER].
7 Haddan skall, en Halli
hlaut offylli grautar;
hornspônu kveðk hônum
hlýða betr an prýði.
The pot-handle clattered, and Halli got more than his fill of porridge; I declare that a horn spoon suits him better than finery.
8 Út stendr undan báti
ilfat; munt nú gilja?
A sole-vessel [SHOE/FOOT] is sticking out from under the boat; are you seducing someone now?
9 Ǫld es, sús jarli skyldi
ógnteitum lið veita,
— sterkr olli því stillir —
Steinkels gefin helju.
En, þvít illa reynðisk
aflsvôn þaðan hônum,
fyrir lét Hôkon hǫrfa,
hvat segr, hinns þat fegrir.
Steinkell’s men have been handed over to death’s realm, those who should have given support to the battle-joyous jarl; the mighty ruler [Haraldr] caused that. But, because the expectation of support from there turned out badly for him, Hákon effected a retreat, whatever anyone says who puts a gloss on it.
10 Skalka frá, þótt fylkir
falli sjalfr til vallar,
— gengr, sem goð vill — ungum
grams erfingjum hverfa.
Skínnat sól á sýnni
(snarráðs) an þá báða
(Haralds eru haukar gǫrvir
hefnendr) konungsefni.
I shall not desert the young heirs of the king, although the commander himself should fall to the ground; it will go as God wills. The sun will not shine on clearer material for kingship than those two; the avengers of swift-counselled Haraldr [= Magnús and Óláfr] are complete hawks.
11 Ǫld hefr afráð goldit
illt; nú kveðk her stilltan;
bauð þessa fǫr þjóðum
þarflaust Haraldr austan.
Svá lauk siklings ævi
snjalls, at vér ’róm allir
— lofðungr beið inn leyfði
lífs grand — í stað vǫndum.
People have paid a dire penalty; now I declare the host is quelled; Haraldr commanded troops onto this expedition westwards needlessly. The life of the bold prince ended in such a way that we are all in a difficult position; the praised sovereign endured destruction of life.
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated