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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

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

1. Rǫgnvaldsdrápa (Rǫgndr) - 3

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.

Rǫgnvaldsdrápa (‘Drápa about Rǫgnvaldr’) — Arn RǫgndrII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Rǫgnvaldsdrápa’ 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. 178-81.

stanzas:  1   2   3 

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 1. Rǫgnvaldsdrápa, o. 1046 (AI, 332, BI, 305-6)

SkP info: II, 178-80

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Arn Rǫgndr 1II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Rǫgnvaldsdrápa 1’ 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. 178-80.

Deildisk af, svát aldin
él grafninga þélar
gǫndlar Njǫrðr í Gǫrðum
gunnbráðr tíu háði.

Deildisk af, svát {gunnbráðr Njǫrðr gǫndlar} háði {tíu aldin él {þélar grafninga}} í Gǫrðum.

It fell out in such a way that {the war-hasty Njǫrðr <god> of battle} [WARRIOR = Rǫgnvaldr] brought about {ten ancient blizzards {of the file of graven shields}} [SWORD > BATTLES] in Russia.

Mss: Holm2(69r), 972ˣ(538va), 321ˣ(260), Holm4(64vb), 325VII(39r), 325V(82rb), 61(126va), Bb(200ra), Tóm(157r) (ÓH); 332ˣ(34), Flat(131va), R702ˣ(37r), 325III β(1r) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] svát (‘sva at’): so Holm4, 325VII, 325V, Bb, 332ˣ, Flat, R702ˣ, svá́ Holm2, sem 321ˣ, 325III β, þvíat 61, ‘seri’ Tóm;    aldin: ‘alldun’ 325VII, aldri 325V, 61, Bb, Tóm, R702ˣ, aldir Flat    [2] él: éls 61, ‘ęl’ Bb;    grafninga: ‘gramninga’ 325VII, Bb, 332ˣ, ‘garfinga’ or ‘garfniga’ 325V, ‘grafningia’ 325III β;    þélar: ‘þelaz’ 321ˣ, ‘þęlar’ Bb    [3] gǫndlar: gunnar 325V, 332ˣ, Flat, R702ˣ, 325III β, ‘gunnlar’ 61, ‘go᷎nlar’ Bb;    Njǫrðr: so Holm4, 325VII, 325V, 61, Bb, Tóm, 332ˣ, Flat, ‘nioðr’ or ‘moðr’ Holm2, ‘ar’ 321ˣ, vǫrðr R702ˣ, 325III β;    Gǫrðum: ‘go᷎rdu’ Flat    [4] ‑bráðr: ‑bráð Bb

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 1. Rǫgnvaldsdrápa 1: AI, 332, BI, 305, Skald I, 155, NN §§809, 2710A; ÓH 1941, I, 581 (ch. 232), ÍF 27, 440; Flat 1860-8, II, 409, Orkn 1913-16, 55, ÍF 34, 54 (ch. 21); Whaley 1998, 137-40.

Context: After the battle of Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir), Rǫgnvaldr Brúsason journeys eastwards and stays, together with Haraldr Sigurðarson, at the court of King Jaroslav (Jarizleifr) in north-west Russia (Garðaríki). In ÓH, the st. is simply prefaced by a loose paraphrase referring to Rǫgnvaldr’s long service and his many battles there as landvarnarmaðr ‘commander of defensive forces’. Orkn gives a fuller account and specifies that Rǫgnvaldr fought ten pitched battles in Novgorod (Hólmgarðr).

Notes: [1] deildisk af ‘it fell out’: (a) Af must be an adv. here rather than a prep. since it bears full stress and alliteration. The phrasal verb deilask af is rare, but is attested in Stu, where the meaning is ‘be dealt out, carried on’: Kǫlluðu þeir at lengi mundi vǫrnin deilaz af úti ‘They said that the defence would be carried on for a long time out there’ (Stu 1906-11, I, 191). In the present context, where there is no explicit subject, the meaning could well be ‘it fell out, happened’ (cf. the verb skipta, which also means both ‘divide, deal’ and ‘happen’). (b) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B and Finnbogi Guðmundsson in ÍF 34, 54 n. regard af as a prep. and construe deildisk af aldri svát gǫndlar Njǫrðr… ‘it happened thus in [that period of the jarl’s] life that the warrior…’. But aldri has support from only one branch of the ÓH stemma, and the postulated interruption of af ... aldri by svát, which introduces the next cl., rules out this construal. (c) Kock (NN §§809 and 2710A) construes af as an adv., but does not account satisfactorily for aldri. — [1] svát ‘in such a way that’: The reading of most mss, though not of main ms. Holm2, this links deildisk af ‘it fell out, happened’ with the succeeding l. of explanation; the Holm2 reading svá fails to do this. — [1] aldin ‘ancient’: (a) This reading, which has by far the strongest ms. authority, is taken here to be n. acc. pl., qualifying the battles expressed by él þélar grafninga ‘blizzards of the graven shields’ file’. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson reads it thus, and interprets it as ‘in the ancient manner’ (að fornum hætti, ÍF 27, 440 n.). The battles could alternatively be ‘old’ in the sense of being far in the past, cf. forn in expressions such as forn rǫc ‘ancient (long-past) events’, Lok 25/6 (NK 101). To describe battle as ‘old’ has no skaldic parallel, but the remaining possibilities for analysis of the l. are still less satisfactory. (b) The minority variant aldri, if the shorter form of aldrigi ‘never’, would produce the nonsensical statement that the hero never fought ten battles in Russia (Garðar). (c) For further, rejected possibilities, see Whaley 1998, 139. — [2] grafninga ‘of graven shields’: Grafningr is recorded with the sense ‘(graven) shield’ only here and in Arn Magndr 5; it occurs otherwise as a heiti for ‘snake’ (LP: 1. grafningr, and cf. LP: grafa 5 for p. p. grafinn in the sense ‘carved, engraved, incised’). — [3] Njǫrðr gǫndlar ‘Njǫrðr <god> of battle [WARRIOR]’: Although the main ms. Holm2 has ‘nioðr’ or ‘moðr’, Njǫrðr is clearly correct, forming a warrior-kenning also used in the contemporary ÞSjár Þórdr 4I. Gǫndul is a valkyrie name, but since ‘Njǫrðr of the valkyrie’ would be unsatisfactory, it is here probably an appellative meaning ‘battle’, as also in the C12th Hst Rst 32I.

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