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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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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, 251-2

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

19 — Arn Þorfdr 19II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 19’ 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. 251-2.

Ek em, síz ýtar hnekkðu
jarla sætt, es vættik,
— jǫfn fengusk hræ hrǫfnum —
hegju trauðr at segja.
Sleit fyr eyjar útan
allvaldr blôu tjaldi;
hafði hreggsvǫl dúfa
hrími fezk of líma.

Ek em trauðr at segja hegju, síz ýtar hnekkðu sætt jarla, es vættik; jǫfn hræ fengusk hrǫfnum. Allvaldr sleit blôu tjaldi fyr útan eyjar; hreggsvǫl dúfa hafði fezk hrími of líma.

I am loath to speak of events, since men thwarted the truce between the jarls, as I anticipated; from both sides alike flesh was found for ravens. The mighty ruler wore to shreds the dark awnings out beyond the islands; the snow-cold billow had fastened itself in frost about the mast.

Mss: Flat(135rb) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] Ek em: Em ek Flat    [4] trauðr: ‘trudr’ Flat    [6] blôu: ‘blꜳ’ Flat    [8] fezk: ‘fast’ Flat

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 19: AI, 347, BI, 320, Skald I, 162, NN §§834, 835; Flat 1860-8, II, 439, Orkn 1913-16, 130-1 n., ÍF 34, 122 n. 2 (ch. 56); Whaley 1998, 303-6.

Context: The st. is cited at the same curiously unsuitable point as sts 20 and 24 (see Context to st. 20).

Notes: [All]: The st. seems to open a sequence containing sts 19-22 about the battle off Rauðabjǫrg (probably Roberry) between Þorfinnr and his nephew Rǫgnvaldr; cf. also Arn Lv. — [1] ek em ‘I am’: The emendation (or normalisation) of ms. ‘em ek’ to ek em is necessary in order to supply hending with hnek-. — [1] ýtar ‘men’: It seems likely that the men who, directly or indirectly, destroyed the peace between the jarls were Kálfr Árnason and his Norw. followers who, according to Orkn ch. 25, stirred up discontent in Þorfinnr over Rǫgnvaldr controlling two thirds of the Isles. Kálfr’s support for Þorfinnr is commemorated in BjHall Kálffl 8I. — [3] jǫfn hræ fengusk hrǫfnum ‘from both sides alike flesh was found for ravens’: As Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1909a, 299) pointed out, the sentence cannot mean that an equal number of men were slain on both sides at Rauðabjǫrg, since st. 22/3-4 state that one jarl’s losses were much smaller. — [4] trauðr ‘loath’: Ms. ‘trudr’ looks like trúðr ‘juggler’, but can have no meaning in this context. — [5-8]: The helmingr is difficult to interpret, and its second couplet is almost certainly corrupt. Its content, detailed seafaring description, contrasts so sharply with that of the first helmingr that one might suspect that the two originally belonged to separate sts. — [5, 6] sleit blôu tjaldi ‘wore to shreds the dark awnings’: (a) Slíta ‘tear, break’ usually governs an acc. object, but it is also used in the sense ‘wear out’ with a dat. object denoting some kind of clothing or footwear. Jesch (2001a, 164-5) suggests that tjald here, as in Arn Hryn 16/4, refers to a sail. She points out that a sail is more likely than awnings to have been worn out at sea and that sails are described as ‘blue, dark’ in Sigv Knútdr 8/2I bl segl; reference to a sail would also be consonant with the probable reference to a mast in l. 8 (líma). (b) An attractive alternative would be to take slíta tjǫldum as a phrase synonymous with bregða tjǫldum ‘strike tents/take down awnings’ and related idioms. Clearing a ship of its awnings would be a pregnant action: a necessary preliminary to a battle or a great voyage (cf. ÞjóðA Har 2), but slíta tjǫldum/tjaldi does not appear to have been used in this sense. (c) Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1909a, 299) suggested that sætt ‘truce, peace’ in l. 2 is carried over into the second helmingr and understood as object to allvaldr sleit ‘the mighty ruler tore’ in l. 5, but this seems improbable, especially since there is no trace of such a linkage between the two helmingar in any other st. by Arnórr. — [5] eyjar ‘the islands’: It is impossible to know whether the word is to be read as the common noun or as the place-name equivalent to Orkneyjar ‘Orkney Islands’, as apparently in st. 24 (see Note to st. 24/5). — [7-8] hreggsvǫl dúfa hafði fezk hrími ‘the snow-cold billow had fastened itself in frost’: The nom. hreggsvǫl dúfa ‘snow-cold billow’ is subject to hafði which, since it has no object, must be an auxiliary verb, forming a pluperfect tense with a p. p. (a) There is no p. p. in the helmingr as it stands but the emendation of ‘fast’ to fezk, i.e. fest-sk from festa ‘fasten’, adopted here produces one. Alternatives are: (b) Björn Magnússon Ólsen suggested emending hrími to hrímat ‘encrusted with frost’ (1909, 301; also Finnbogi Guðmundsson, ÍF 34). This is plausible, and the verb hríma is known in ModIcel. (Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4), but the only trace of it in ON is in the past participles óhrímaðr and óhrímðr, which mean ‘not encrusted with soot’ (Fritzner: úhrímaðr; úhrímðr). (c) Kock (NN §835) emends líma to límat ‘encrusted’ and reads: Hafði hreggsvǫl dúfa | hrími fast um límat ‘The snow-cold billow had encrusted [it] thickly with frost’. An objection to this is that the object of hafði ... límat must be understood as a repetition, now acc. sg., of blu tjaldi ‘dark sail/awnings’ in l. 6. An advantage is that sleit tjaldi ‘wore out the sail/awnings in the previous cl. would be explained. — [8] of líma ‘about the mast’: (a) Lími ‘rod, twig, broom’ here probably has the sense ‘mast’ (so also Finnbogi Guðmundsson, ÍF 34), just as vǫndr can mean ‘twig, rod’ and ‘mast’ and indeed is used by Arnórr in this sense in Hryn 4/5; cf. also laukr ‘leek, upright plant, mast’. The resulting image of sea-spray frosting the mast is entirely credible and finds approximate parallels in OE poetry (Whaley 1998, 306). (b) Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1909a, 300-1) suggested that lími shares with vǫndr another meaning: the stripe or coloured decoration on a sail, or here on the ship’s awnings. He reads líma blu tjaldi ‘the decoration of the dark awnings’ together as object to ‘the wave had thickly encrusted with frost’. But this assumes tjaldi to be a poss. dat., which is otherwise very unusual when the possessor is an inanimate object. (The parallels cited by Björn, in NS §100 anm. 3, are not close.)

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