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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

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

2. Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa (Hryn) - 20

Skj info: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, Islandsk skjald, 11. årh. (AI, 332-54, BI, 305-27).

Skj poems:
1. Rǫgnvaldsdrápa
2. Hrynhenda, Magnúsdrápa
3. Magnúsdrápa
4. Et digt om Hermundr Illugason
5. Þórfinnsdrápa
6. Erfidrápa om kong Harald hårdråde
7. Vers af ubestemmelige digte, samt én lausavísa

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 26 November 2021)

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

SkP info: II, 185-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Arn Hryn 3II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 3’ 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. 185-6.

Magnús, hlýð til máttigs óðar;
manngi veit ek fremra annan;
yppa rôðumk yðru kappi,
Jóta gramr, í kvæði fljótu.
Haukr réttr estu, Hǫrða dróttinn,
hverr gramr es þér stóru verri;
meiri verði þinn an þeira
þrifnuðr allr, unz himinn rifnar.

Magnús, hlýð til máttigs óðar; ek veit manngi annan fremra; rôðumk yppa kappi yðru, {gramr Jóta}, í fljótu kvæði. Estu réttr haukr, {dróttinn Hǫrða}; hverr gramr es stóru verri þér; allr þrifnuðr þinn verði meiri an þeira, unz himinn rifnar.

Magnús, hear a mighty poem; I know no other [to be] more outstanding; I mean to raise up your prowess, {prince of the Jótar} [DANISH KING = Magnús], in a swift poem. You are a just hawk, {lord of the Hǫrðar} [NORWEGIAN KING = Magnús]; every prince is far below you [lit. worse by much than you]; may your whole success be greater than theirs, until the sky tears apart.

Mss: Mork(5v) (Mork); Flat(196ra) (Flat); H(33r), Hr(24ra) (H-Hr); A(4v), W(103) (TGT, ll. 3-4); W(115) (FoGT, ll. 3-4)

Readings: [1] hlýð (‘hlyððu’): ‘hlyttu’ Flat    [3] rôðumk: ‘raduzt’ Flat, rðum W(115)    [4] fljótu: fljóta Flat    [6] stóru: stórum H, Hr    [7] þinn: so all others, þín Mork    [8] þrifnuðr: ‘þrif naudr’ Flat;    allr unz: áðr Flat;    himinn: heimr Flat, himininn H, Hr

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 2. Hrynhenda, Magnúsdrápa 1: AI, 332-3, BI, 306, Skald I, 155; Mork 1928-32, 116-17, Andersson and Gade 2000, 166, 474 (MH); Flat 1860-8, III, 322 (MH); Fms 6, 196 (HSig ch. 24), Fms 12, 147; SnE 1848-87, II, 116, 410, TGT 1884, 77, 17-18, TGT 1927, 53, TGT 1998, 136-7; SnE 1848-87, II, 218, FoGT 1884, 115, FoGT 2004, 43, 69-70, 122-3; Whaley 1998, 145-8.

Context: In Mork, H-Hr and Flat, the st. is quoted within the anecdote about Arnórr’s audience with Magnús and Haraldr of Norway (see Introduction). In TGT ll. 3-4 are cited to exemplify change of number as a form of solecism, and are followed by an explanation that pl. is here used in place of sg. In FoGT the same ll. are cited to illustrate lepos—the honorific use of the pl., here yðru ‘your’, to compliment a man in authority; it is explained that using the pl. for a common man is a solecism.

Notes: [1]: A classic instance of the skald’s ‘bid/call for a hearing’ (see Wood 1960). — [1] máttigs óðar ‘a mighty poem’: Kreutzer’s survey (1977, 239) of epithets used by skalds to describe their work includes only one other instance of a ‘strong, mighty poem’, Jór Send 5/1, 2I ramman hróðr ‘mighty praise-poem’. — [4, 5] gramr Jóta; dróttinn Hǫrða ‘prince of the Jótar [DANISH KING = Magnús]; lord of the Hǫrðar [NORWEGIAN KING = Magnús]’: Fittingly for the opening of an encomium, Magnús’s legitimate rule of Denmark and Norway is proclaimed; cf. references to lordship of Hordaland (Hǫrðaland) in Arn Magndr 1, 10, 16, of Møre (Mœrr) in Hryn 8 and of Sogn in Arn Magndr 6. — [4] í fljótu kvæði ‘in a swift poem’: Kreutzer (1977, 58-9) notes that Arnórr is the first skald to use the word kvæði (here and in st. 14 below), older skalds having preferred the more elevated, specifically poetic, bragr and óðr. The epithet fljótr ‘swift’ would be apt if hrynhent poetry had a faster tempo than dróttkvætt (Heusler 1925-9, I, 304), or it could refer to its tendency to fall into a regular trochaic pulse. Kreutzer (1977, 206) seems instead to link this with the comments of other (mainly later) skalds on their swiftness in composing, e.g. Egill in Arkv 1V. — [5] estu réttr haukr ‘you are a just hawk’: A rare instance of a metaphor that is not a kenning. The hawk image presumably conveys the hero’s boldness (see Whaley 1998, 147-8 and references there). Cf. the simile in st. 16 and other ‘hawk’ metaphors in ÞjóðA Lv 10 and Anon (MErl) l. 7. — [6] stóru ‘far’: Stóru (verri) ‘far (below you)’, lit. ‘(worse) by much’, is a n. dat. sg. indicating degree of comparison, cf., e.g., litlu síðarr ‘a little later’, miklu meira ‘much more’. — [8] allr ‘whole’: Construed here with þrifnuðr ‘success’ (l. 8). It could alternatively qualify himinn (l. 8), hence ‘whole sky’, but the interruption of attributive adj. and noun by a conj. would be exceptional in Arnórr’s poetry. — [8] unz himinn rifnar ‘until the sky tears apart’: A variant of a formula also found on Swed. rune-stones, e.g. (normalised) jǫrð skal rifna ok upphiminn ‘the earth and the upper heaven shall tear apart’ on the early C11th Skarpåker stone (Jansson 1977, 142-4; Run Sö154VI).

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