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Runic Dictionary

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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

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

4. Þorfinnsdrápa (Þorfdr) - 25

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.

Þorfinnsdrápa (‘Drápa about Þorfinnr’) — Arn ÞorfdrII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa’ 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. 229-60. <> (accessed 18 October 2021)

stanzas:  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 

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 5. Þórfinnsdrápa (AI, 343-8, BI, 316-21); stanzas (if different): 1 | 3 | 4 | 12 | 13 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18

SkP info: II, 243-4

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

13 — Arn Þorfdr 13II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 13’ 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. 243-4.

Veitk, þars Vatnsfjǫrðr heitir,
(vask í miklum haska)
míns (við mannkyns reyni)
merki dróttins verka.
Þjóð bar skjótt af skeiðum
skjaldborg fríamorgin;
gǫrla sák, at gínði
grár ulfr of ná sôrum.

Veitk merki verka dróttins míns, þars heitir Vatnsfjǫrðr; vask í miklum haska við {reyni mannkyns}. Þjóð bar skjótt skjaldborg af skeiðum fríamorgin; sák gǫrla, at grár ulfr gínði of sôrum ná.

I know there are tokens of the exploits of my lord, where it is called Vatnsfjǫrðr; I was in great peril with {the trier of men} [RULER]. The crew carried swiftly the shield-wall from the warships on Friday morning; I saw clearly that the grey wolf gaped over the wounded corpse.

Mss: R702ˣ(39v), Flat(131vb), SLR(90) (ll. 7-8) (Orkn)

Readings: [2] vask (‘uásk’): so Flat, ‘varsk’ R702ˣ    [4] merki: so Flat, merkin R702ˣ    [6] fría‑: fira Flat;    ‑morgin: morgun or morgum Flat    [7] sák (‘sa ek’): frá ek Flat;    gínði: so Flat, grínði R702ˣ, SLR    [8] of (‘um’): so Flat, at R702ˣ, SLR;    ná: ‘gna’ Flat;    sôrum: sárann Flat

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 12: AI, 346, BI, 318, Skald I, 161; Flat 1860-8, II, 411, Orkn 1913-16, 61, ÍF 34, 58 (ch.  22); Whaley 1998, 243-5.

Context: A great and bloody battle is fought at Vatnsfjǫrðr, beginning early in the day and ending in victory for the jarls.

Notes: [All]: The relevant part of the text in 332ˣ ends just before this st. would have appeared. — [1] Vatnsfjǫrðr: The most convincing location for Vatnsfjǫrðr, because of the equivalence of the two names, is Loch Vatten, an arm of the sea branching off Loch Bracadale on the west coast of Skye (so, e.g., Anderson 1873, 27, n. 2). It is relatively fertile—a suitable target for plundering and cattle-raiding. An alternative is Waterford in Ireland (Crawford 1987, 74 and 233, n. 74). — [2] vask; haska ‘I was; peril’: Arnórr rhymes háski on bráskat ‘did not cease’ in st. 11/2 and on sásk ‘did not fear’ in Arn Hardr 10/4, but in the present case the suggestion of Konráð Gíslason (1877, 49-50) must be considered, that vowel shortening produced a variant form haski. — [3] reyni mannkyns ‘the trier of men [RULER]’: The kenning probably denotes Þorfinnr and means specifically ‘he who tries men’s strength (in battle)’, as does Mark Eirdr 28 reynir máttar hersa ‘trier of the strength of hersar’. However, it is conceivable that Arnórr also intended the kenning (and perhaps dróttins míns ‘of my lord’ in ll. 3 and 4) to refer to God, thus implying that God was supporting the skald and Þorfinnr. All other recorded kennings meaning ‘trier of men’ (Mark Eirdr 25/7 reynir hǫlða among them) refer to God. — [7] gínði ‘gaped’: This is quite a common image: cf. vargar gínðu of hræ ‘wolves gaped over carrion’ in ESk Geisl 29/7, 8VII. Grínði ‘grinned, stretched his jaws’ in R702ˣ and SLR may reflect a scribal error in a previous stage of transmission, but as the lectio difficilior cannot be ruled out as the original reading. The verb grína ‘grin, stare, squeal, grunt’ is rare in ON and normally strong (AEW), but grínði is supported by the fact that the verb is weak in ModIcel. Either way, the l. lacks the expected skothending, but no obvious emendation suggests itself. — [8] of sôrum ná ‘over the wounded corpse’: The reading is supported by Geisl 29VII (see previous Note). At ‘at, towards’ (so R702ˣ, SLR) would also be possible.

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