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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;

3. Magnússdrápa (Magndr) - 19

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.

Magnússdrápa (‘Drápa about Magnús’) — Arn MagndrII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, 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. 206-29. <> (accessed 23 January 2022)

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Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 3. Magnúsdrápa (AI, 338-43, BI, 311-15); stanzas (if different): 13 | 14

SkP info: II, 212-13

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Arn Magndr 4II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, 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. 212-13.

Flýði fylkir reiði
framr þjóðkonungs ramma;
stǫkk fyr auðvin okkrum
armsvells hati gellir.
Létat Nóregs njóta
nýtr þengill gram lengi;
hann rak Svein af sínum
sókndjarfr fǫðurarfi.

Framr fylkir flýði ramma reiði þjóðkonungs; {hati {armsvells}}, gellir, stǫkk fyr {auðvin okkrum}. Nýtr þengill létat gram njóta Nóregs lengi; sókndjarfr rak hann Svein af fǫðurarfi sínum.

The outstanding leader [Sveinn Álfífuson] fled the mighty fury of the nation’s king [Magnús]; {the hater {of arm-ice}} [SILVER > GENEROUS MAN], the howler, bolted from {our treasure-friend} [GENEROUS RULER = Magnús]. The worthy prince did not let the lord enjoy Norway for long; daring in attack, he drove Sveinn from his father’s legacy.

Mss: FskBˣ(53r), FskAˣ(204-205) (Fsk); Hr(4ra) (H-Hr); Flat(189va) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Flýði: ‘Fluðe’ FskAˣ, Fylldi Flat    [2] ‑konungs: konungr Hr, konung Flat    [3] fyr (‘fyrir’): frá Hr;    auðvin: ǫðrum Hr, oddvin Flat    [4] armsvells: so Hr, ‘armsnællz’ FskBˣ, ‘armsvælz’ FskAˣ, ‘arnsuelgr’ Flat;    hati: ‘hare’ FskAˣ;    gellir: hersir Flat    [5] Létat: ‘leitad’ Hr;    Nóregs: ‘nōr’ Hr, Nóreg Flat    [6] gram: gramr Hr    [7] hann: þat Hr;    Svein: so FskAˣ, Hr, sveinn FskBˣ, ‘S.’ Flat;    sínum: sínu Flat    [8] fǫður‑: so Hr, Flat, faðr FskBˣ, FskAˣ

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 3. Magnúsdrápa 4: AI, 339, BI, 311-12, Skald I, 158, NN §817; Fsk 1902-3, 194-5 (ch. 40), ÍF 29, 210 (ch. 47); Fms 6, 26 (Mgóð ch. 13), Fms 12, 127-8; Flat 1860-8, III, 264, Andersson and Gade 2000, 101-2, 466 (MH); Whaley 1998, 189-92.

Context: Fsk merely paraphrases the st., with minor elaboration. H-Hr cites it as evidence that King Sveinn Álfífuson fled from Norway as soon as Magnús entered the country, while Flat emphasises the Norwegians’ eagerness to throw off Dan. rule.

Notes: [All]: H-Hr names the source poem as Magnúsardrápa. Flat eccentrically attributes the st. to ‘skule’ (Skúli). — [3] okkrum ‘our’: This dual form is secured by the skothending with stǫkk, but it is not obvious with whom Arnórr would pair himself when speaking of Magnús as his ‘treasure-friend’ (auðvin(r)), unless it is Gellir (see below). — [4] gellir ‘howler’: This is a rare and problematic word. (a) One would expect from the verbs gella and gjalla the meaning ‘screecher, howler’ for the agent noun gellir, and this indeed fits the recorded usage. It is a derogatory nickname and, in the þulur, a heiti for ‘ox’ and ‘sword’ (Þul Øxna 3/5III, Þul Sverða 1/5III). In ModIcel. gellir is an appellative meaning ‘noisy, loud-voiced man’ (hávaðamaður; so Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4). Such a word could well suggest the empty bragging of a coward, and hence be an appropriate term for Sveinn, the enemy of the hero. If this is the meaning of gellir here, it must stand in apposition to armsvells hati ‘the hater of arm-ice [SILVER > GENEROUS MAN]’. (b) Gellir is also a proper name, and, as noted in his Biography above, Arnórr reputedly composed in memory of Gellir Þorkelsson. If gellir here were taken as an address to this or another Gellir, the dual poss. pron. in auðvin okkrum (l. 3), would be explained, especially since Gellir is said to have visited Magnús Óláfsson’s court and to have received lavish gifts from him (Laxdœla saga ch. 78, ÍF 5, 227-8). However, it would be curious if the encomiastic elegy for Magnús apostrophised another individual (especially in the light of þegi seimbrotar ‘let gold-breakers be silent’, st. 1). (c) Kock (NN §817) tentatively connects gellir with MHG gelle m. ‘contender, rival’ and emends ms. hate to gen. sg. hata so that armsvells hata gellir in l. 4 can be rendered ‘the rival of the hater of arm-ice [SILVER > GENEROUS MAN = Magnús > Sveinn]’. But on several counts this is unconvincing: (i) There is no evidence for ON gellir in this sense; (ii) MHG gelle is a weak noun, to which ON *gelli, not gellir, would be cognate (though Kock, in answer to this difficulty, cited ON doublets such as endi/endir and vísir/vísi); (iii) Gelle and its OHG counterpart are rare in German; (iv) the interpretation requires the slight emendation of ms. ‘hate’ to hata.

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