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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 21 January 2022)

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, 253-4

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

20 — Arn Þorfdr 20II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 20’ 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. 253-4.

Óskepna varð uppi
endr, þás mǫrgum kenndi
hôligt róg at hníga,
hǫrð, þars jarlar bǫrðusk.
Nær réðusk ástmenn órir,
eldhríð es varð síðan
— ǫld fekk mein in milda
mǫrg — fyr Rauðabjǫrgum.

Endr varð hǫrð óskepna uppi, þás hôligt róg kenndi mǫrgum at hníga, þars jarlar bǫrðusk. Ástmenn órir réðusk nær, es {eldhríð} varð síðan fyr Rauðabjǫrgum; in milda ǫld fekk mǫrg mein.

At that time a harsh, monstrous thing came to pass, as mighty strife taught many to fall where jarls fought. Our [my] dear friends almost destroyed each other, as {the sword-blizzard} [BATTLE] came about then off Rauðabjǫrg; the gracious men received many injuries.

Mss: Flat(133ra), Flat(135rb) (Orkn)

Readings: [3] róg: ‘ro᷎g’ Flat(135rb)    [5] Nær: so Flat(135rb), nærr Flat(133ra)    [6] es (‘er’): so Flat(135rb), en Flat(133ra)    [7] ǫld: ǫll Flat(135rb)

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 20: AI, 347, BI, 320, Skald I, 162, NN §836, 2021; Flat 1860-8, II, 422, 440, Orkn 1913-16, 87-8, 131 n., ÍF 34, 83, 122 n. (chs 32, 56; st. not printed at repeat); Whaley 1998, 257-9.

Context: Stanzas 20 and 24 are first quoted at the end of ch. 32, a summary chapter on the life and death of Þorfinnr. They are introduced as witnesses to the battle between the jarls Rǫgnvaldr Brúsason and Þorfinnr. They occur again, together with st. 19 and BjHall Kálffl 8I, at the end of ch. 56, which concerns Páll, son of Þorfinnr. The sts have no connection with the preceding prose, and there are no introductory words to explain their inclusion at this point.

Notes: [5] réðusk ‘destroyed each other’: (a) Ráða occurs with the meaning ‘betray’ or ‘seal another’s fate’, often specifically by killing or causing death (see LP: ráða 9), and ráða e-n can mean ‘plot someone’s death’ (Fritzner: ráða 7). The juxtaposition of ráða in this sense with nær ‘almost’ is matched in ÞjóðA Magnfl 15/8. (b) The alternative translation ‘attacked each other’ is suggested by the context and would be supported by idioms with that sense such as ráða(sk) á and ráða til e-s, or expressions where ráðask implies motion, such as ráðask þangat ‘make one’s way there’, ráðask frá ‘leave’. — [5] ástmenn órir ‘our [my] dear friends’: Lit. ‘our [my] beloved men’, Arnórr’s patrons Þorfinnr and Rǫgnvaldr. — [6] eldhríð ‘sword-blizzard [BATTLE]’: Eldr, like logi, usually means ‘fire’, but is also a heiti for ‘sword’ in Þul Sverða 8/2III; cf. runnr elda ‘tree of swords [WARRIOR]’ in Anon Óldr 11I (C12th). It would be a strange coincidence if, as Finnur Jónsson assumes in Skj B, an original oddr ‘point’ had been corrupted to eldr both in Óldr 11 and in st. 20 (where emendation to odd- was originally proposed by Gudbrand Vigfusson, Orkn 1887, 59 n. 4). — [6] es ‘as’: This reading is adopted in preference to en ‘and, but’, since es varð síðan ‘as (the battle) came about then’ gives immediacy to the description of the onslaught, whereas the conjunction in en varð síðan ‘and then (a battle) came about’ would imply a different conflict and a different temporal frame. — [7] ǫld ‘men’: The ‘gracious men’ who ‘received many injuries’ could be Rǫgnvaldr’s own men, or the moderate men of both sides who had no wish for strife. — [8] mǫrg ‘many’: Formally mǫrg could either be n. acc. pl. qualifying mein, hence ‘many injuries’, as assumed here; or f. nom. sg. qualifying in milda ǫld, hence ‘many gracious men’, as in Skj B and ÍF 34, 83. — [8] Rauðabjǫrgum ‘Rauðabjǫrg’: Lit. ‘red (iron ore?) rocks’, probably Ruberry or Roberry on the east coast of Hoy, Orkney. Both the geographical situation and phonetic form of Roberry are compatible with the Rauðabjǫrg of the st. and the saga, especially if Roberry derives from Rauðabergi, locative sg. of Rauðaberg, a by-form of Rauðabjǫrg (see Taylor 1931, 43-4 for discussion of alternative locations).

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