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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 7 December 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, 244-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Arn Þorfdr 14II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 14’ 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. 244-6.

Ýmisst vann * unnar,
— írsk fell drótt — þás sótti,
Baldr, eða brezkar aldir
— brann eldr — Skotaveldi.


{That Baldr of the sword} [WARRIOR = Þorfinnr] won diverse [triumphs], as he attacked the British people and the realm of the Scots; the Irish troop fell; fire blazed.

context: In Orkn (Flat only), eight years pass after the battle off Rauðabjǫrg, during which Þorfinnr uncomplainingly allows Rǫgnvaldr Brúsason to hold two thirds of the isles. Their summers are spent harrying, sometimes together and sometimes independently. In the text of LaufE in ms. 21 6 7 IIˣ, the helmingr is cited to illustrate ‘biodelldr’ as a gold-kenning (though it is not clear how this works).

notes: The text as it stands in Flat is clearly corrupt, and that in 21 6 7 IIˣ is still more so, so that the focus here is on the Flat text. The chief problems are that the verbs unni and brá both require objects but do not both have them, and that Baldrs in isolation makes no sense. Since the problems are so closely interrelated two analyses are presented complete here, both possible but not entirely satisfactory; (a) is the one followed above. (a) Skotaveldi ‘the realm of the Scots’ (l. 4) could grammatically be construed as object to any one of the verbs unni ‘loved’ (l. 1), sótti ‘attacked’ (l. 2) or brá ‘changed, moved quickly’ (l. 4). Sótti Skotaveldi ‘attacked the realm of the Scots’ gives the best meaning, though brá Skotaveldi in the sense ‘ravaged Scotland’ is also conceivable, and is assumed by Finnur Jónsson (LP: bregða) and by Kock (NN §831), who assumes sótti to be intransitive. The co-ordinated noun phrase eða brezkar aldir ‘and the British people’ (l. 3) is here construed with Skotaveldi, as object of sótti (so Finnur Jónsson 1934, 45). That the conj. eða (ms. ‘edr’) precedes brezkar aldir, the first of the co-ordinated phrases, is not a difficulty: cf. the placing of ok Danmǫrk allri ‘and the whole of Denmark’ in Arn Magndr 7/2. Brezkar aldir could alternatively be subject, along with írsk drótt ‘Irish troop’ (l. 3), of fell ‘fell’ (l. 2) (so Skj B; the meaning of brezkr is discussed below). If sótti brezkar aldir eða Skotaveldi ‘he attacked the British people and the realm of the Scots’ is construed together, brá ‘changed’ is left without an object, and brá eldr is also metrically suspect, juxtaposing two vowels at the syllable boundary, so that on two counts emendation to the intransitive brann eldr ‘fire blazed’ is expedient. An original brann could have been ‘corrected’ to brá by someone who mistakenly read the l. brann eldr Skotaveldi as a syntactic unit and found the intransitive brann incompatible with the object Skotaveldi. The problems of the remaining object-less verb unni and the isolated Baldrs are perhaps best solved by Finnur Jónsson’s emendation of ms. ‘sa er unne ... balldrs’ to sá unnar ... Baldr ‘that Baldr of the sword’ (Skj B and 1934, 45). This would be an acceptable warrior-kenning built on the familiar pattern with a god’s name, here Baldr, as base-word, and fortunately the reading Baldr is confirmed by 21 6 7 IIˣ. The determinant unnr m. ‘sword’ is a rare word, which de Vries (AEW) connects with vinna ‘do, perform’ or ‘win’. It is attested in HelgÓl Lv ll. 3-4IV (C10th) ítrtungur unnar ‘sword’s bright tongues’, i.e. ‘sword-blades’, and possibly in Þorb Lv 2V (C14th). (b) Under the second analysis the ms. text is preserved but unni is assumed to have the implied object ‘battle’, so that sás unni ... þás sótti means ‘the one who bestowed/loved [battle] when he attacked’ (so Finnbogi Guðmundsson, ÍF 34, 59 n.). Brá in brá eldr Skotaveldi is understood as ‘destroyed’. Two interpretations of ms. balldrs are compatible with this analysis. (i) Finnbogi construes it with eða brezkar aldir and offers the ingenious (though unsubstantiated) conjecture that aldir Baldrs refers to the Norse-Gaelic settlers of western Scotland—Baldr was the most Christ-like figure in Norse paganism and would thus symbolise the mixed religion of these people. (ii) Eldr Baldrs could be an (otherwise unparalleled) variant on the kenning formula ‘Óðinn’s flame’ meaning ‘sword’ (Meissner 157). Hence eldr Baldrs brá Skotaveldi could be construed as a wittily concise reference to ravaging Scotland with fire (eldr) and the sword (eldr Baldrs).

texts: Flat 664, LaufE, Orkn 19

editions: Skj Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 14 (AI, 346; BI, 318-19); Skald I, 161, NN §831; Flat 1860-8, II, 411, Orkn 1913-16, 62, ÍF 34, 59 (ch. 22); Whaley 1998, 246-8.


GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 131vb, 38 - 131vb, 38 (Orkn)  image  image  image  
Adv 21 6 7 IIx (21 6 7 IIx) 28 - 28 (LaufE)  
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