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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

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

2. Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa (Hryn) - 20

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 28 November 2021)

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

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

SkP info: II, 187-9

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Arn Hryn 4II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Hrynhenda, Magnússdrápa 4’ 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. 187-9.

Herskip vannt af harða stinnum
hlunni geyst í Salt it Eystra;
skjǫldungr, stétt á skǫrum hvéldan
skeiðar húf með girzku reiði.
Vafðir lítt, en vendir bifðusk;
varta hrǫkk, en niðr nam søkkva;
geystisk hlýr, en hristi* bára,
hrími stokkin, búnar grímur.

Vannt herskip geyst af harða stinnum hlunni í it Eystra Salt; skjǫldungr, stétt á húf skeiðar, hvéldan skǫrum, með girzku reiði. Vafðir lítt, en vendir bifðusk; varta hrǫkk, en nam søkkva niðr; hlýr geystisk, en bára, stokkin hrími, hristi* búnar grímur.

You made warships surge [lit. surged, propelled] from the most firm launcher into the Baltic; king, you boarded the warship’s hull, curved by its jointed planks, [and] with Russian tackle. You wavered little, but masts shuddered; the prow jolted, and started to plunge; the bow surged on, and the billow, flecked with rime, shook the adorned figure-heads.

Mss: Hr(3vb) (H-Hr)

Readings: [4] reiði: skrúði Hr    [6] varta: ‘verda’ or ‘virda’ Hr    [7] hristi*: ‘hristiz’ Hr    [8] grímur: ‘grimr’ Hr

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 2. Hrynhenda, Magnúsdrápa 4: AI, 333, BI, 306-7, Skald I, 155-6, NN §811; Fms 6, 23 (Mgóð ch. 10), Fms 12, 127; Whaley 1998, 148-52.

Context: This is one of a sequence of sts cited to authenticate Magnús Óláfsson’s journey westwards from Russia into the Baltic and then to Sweden.

Notes: [All]: Hr cites the st. from Arnórr ‘i hrunhendu’. — [1] herskip ‘warships’: About half of the skaldic instances of this word are in the works of Arnórr (Jesch 2001a, 123). — [2] hlunni ‘launcher’: Hlunnr is a roller or, more usually, as a collective term, the slipway of hardwood rollers used to launch ships or drag them ashore (see Jesch 2001a, 170). — [2] it Eystra Salt ‘the Baltic’: Lit. ‘the Eastern Salt’. The details of Magnús’s journey are discussed in Schreiner 1927-9. — [3] skjǫldungr ‘king’: Lit. ‘descendant of Skjǫldr’. A son of Óðinn and mythical ruler of Jylland (Jutland; SnE 2005, 6). Arnórr uses the heiti five times, always in reference to Magnús. He may have intended the Dan. associations of the word to flatter Magnús as the rightful ruler of Denmark, especially since the term was also much favoured by the skalds of Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great, Frank 1994, 194). — [3] hvéldan ‘curved’: Hvéldr (or hveldr), here applied to húfr ‘hull’, is not otherwise known in ON. Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4 contains two ModIcel. citations, though both are from Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s translations of Homer, and in one of them the adj. qualifies skipa ‘ships’. Hvéldr is apparently related to hvél ‘wheel’, and although an ON verb *hvéla ‘shape like a wheel’ is not recorded, cf. modern kvela (New Norw.) and, possibly, kvelva (Vest-Agder dialect) ‘arch’ (Heggstad 1930: hvéldr; Torp 1963 on the other hand derives kvelva from ON hvelfa ‘overturn’). The length of the vowel in hvél/hvel is discussed, with references, in Fritzner IV: hvel. — [4] húf ‘hull’: Húfr denotes the hull of a ship (as in Arn Magndr 2) or the central body of the ship as distinct from the bow and stern (as in the phrase húfr ok halsar ‘hull and stems’), but it may already in OIcel. have developed a particular reference to the strakes at the level of the water-line and, internally, of the decking. This latter sense works especially well in the present context of stepping onboard (Jesch 2001a, 144). — [4] girzku reiði ‘Russian tackle’: The adj. girzkr can mean ‘Greek, Byzantine’, but it also occurs as a doublet of gerzkr with the sense ‘Russian, from Garðar’, as, probably, in st. 9/8, where Hr reads ‘girzkum’ and Flat ‘gerzskum’ (see also Fritzner: girzkr). ‘Russian’ may be more appropriate here since Magnús is sailing from Russia. Ms. skrúði ‘ornamentation’ would add a supernumary member to the alliterative sequence on sk- and would fail to produce aðalhending with skeiðar. Emendation to the synonymous reiði seems justifiable especially since st. 9/1 affords a definite instance of the scribe of Hr (or its archetype) displacing the original rhyme-word by a synonym. The emendation was first proposed by Konráð Gíslason (1877, 54). Reiði can refer either to the whole of a ship’s equipment or else specifically to the rigging; see Fritzner: reiði and Jesch 2001a, 165. Jesch (2001a, 165) points out that, while it may be that Russian tackle was special, the Norwegians who fetched Magnús from Russia (Garðar) may simply have needed to re-rig their ship for the return voyage. — [5] vafðir lítt ‘you wavered little’: (a) So too Skj B (du betænkte dig ikke). The verb vefja commonly has the meaning ‘fold, wrap (material etc.)’. When used, as here, of human subjects the sense is usually ‘become embroiled’ (in some difficult affair). From this it is not far to the sense ‘hesitate, waver’, and this is supported by SnSt Ht 64/1III. Under this interpretation the st. contrasts the immovable courage of Magnús with the turbulence of the sea. (b) Foote suggests that vefja ‘wrap’ here has the specific nautical sense ‘take in sail, reef’, which is attractive and contextually plausible but not supported by usage elsewhere (Foote 1978, 63 and n. 26; followed by Jesch 2001a, 174, who points out that the references in the st. to tackle and masts, and the fact that the noun vefr can mean ‘sail’ ‘mak[es] a connection with “sail” … almost inevitable’). (c) A further possibility is the 2nd pers. sg. pret. indic. of váfa ‘swing, hang’, for which a figurative use ‘waver, be uncertain’ is attested (LP: váfa 3), though not with a personal subject. — [6] varta ‘prow’: Ms. ‘vda’ with superscript ‘r’ above the ‘v’ could be expanded to normalised verða or virða, but the known senses of these do not fit the context. The syntax seems to demand a nom. sg. noun. Varta is the most widely accepted suggestion (first made in CPB II, 592). Varta occurs in Þul Skipa 8/6III (with variant vortr) among heiti for parts of a ship. It occupies the same metrical l. there as brandar ‘(decorated) prows’, and Falk (1912, 45) held that varta too meant ‘prow’. This conjecture yields good sense in the present context, and it is perhaps supported by the occurrence of ON varta ‘wart’ and geirvarta ‘nipple (of a man)’. A word meaning ‘wart, nipple’ could, because of its reference to a projection, have developed the metaphorical sense ‘prow’, and other anatomical terms have nautical applications, e.g. hals ‘neck, part of the forecastle’, hlýr ‘cheek, bows’, or brjóst ‘breast’, which means ‘prow’ in Refr Ferðv 3/4III. See further Whaley 1998, 151 n. 6. — [7] hristi* ‘shook’: Ms. ‘hristiz bara’, normalised hristizk bára ‘the billow shook’ (intransitive) is an adequate reading, but it leaves búnar grímur ‘adorned figure-heads’ (l. 8) outside the syntax of the helmingr. The simplest solution, adopted here, is to emend to hristi, transitive ‘shook’, so that bára is the subject, and búnar grímur object, to the verb (as proposed in Nj 1875-8, II 159). The ‑z in ms. hristiz may be an error influenced by the preceding reflexives, ms. ‘bífduzst’ (l. 5) and ‘geystiz’ (l. 7); or it may represent an attempt to make the syntax of the l. complete, regardless of the syntax of the helmingr. This would be characteristic of the compiler of H-Hr (Louis-Jensen 1977, 152). — [7-8] bára, stokkin hrími ‘the billow, flecked with rime’: The alternative construction, with stokkin hrími ‘flecked with rime’ qualifying varta ‘prow’ (l. 6), is adopted in Skj B but rejected by Kock, NN §811. — [8] grímur ‘figure-heads’: Ms. ‘grimr’; the form grímur is established by both sense and metre, and is probably to be regarded as an emendation, since Hr does not normally use desyllabified spellings in <ur> that would allow <r> to be read as a back-spelling for <ur>.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated