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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 May 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, 234-5

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Arn Þorfdr 4II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 4’ 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. 234-5.

Bera sýn of mik mínir
morðkennds taka enda
þess of þengils sessa
þung mein synir ungir.


My young sons begin to bear manifest, heavy sorrows for me at the death {of that battle-skilled bench-mate of the monarch}. [RULER = Þorfinnr]

context: In Skm and LaufE, the helmingr illustrates the statement that jarls and royal retainers can be referred to as the intimates or bench-mates of a king (konungs rúnar eða málar eða sessar).

notes: [1-4]: The syntactic relationships within this isolated helmingr are extremely elusive. The analyses presented here (beginning with the rationale for the construal above) have severe drawbacks, and one must suspect corruption in the text. (a) Taka is construed with the inf. bera, hence ‘begin to bear’, with mínir ungir synir ‘my young sons’ as the subject, and þung mein ‘heavy sorrows’ the object, to bera—all well-paralleled idioms. Sín en mik ‘his and I’ (l. 1) in R, and W does not make sense, however the helmingr is construed, so that the U reading ‘syn vm mik’, normalised sýn of mik, has been adopted. Sýn ‘manifest, visible’ qualifies mein, and of mik is assumed to mean ‘for me, on my account’, cf. of/um sik in expressions such as sýsla/hyggja of sik ‘trouble about oneself’ (so Konráð Gíslason 1877, 56, and Skj B; Kock’s interpretations of taka and sýn in NN §827 are on the other hand unsupported by recorded usage). Of in l. 3 can hardly be the intensive prefix to the word þengils since þengils alliterates and must be fully stressed; nor can it be an expletive particle, since þengill does not belong to any of the categories of noun that usually follow the particle (Kuhn 1929a, 26-31). It is therefore construed as a causal prep., governing enda þess sessa þengils, hence ‘at/because of the death of the bench-mate of the monarch’. Morðkennds ‘battle-skilled’ or ‘battle-renowned’ in a eulogy for Þorfinnr seems most likely to refer to him, in the kenning sessa þengils ‘of the bench-mate of the monarch’ rather than the unnamed þengils ‘monarch’ embedded in the kenning. Þengill could refer to Óláfr helgi or to Magnús inn góði, both of whom Þorfinnr was obliged to placate (Orkn chs 18 and 30). Of enda þess morðkennds sessa þengils is understood as an elaboration of mein, hence ‘sorrows at the death of the battle-skilled bench-mate of the monarch’. The main objection to this analysis is that it presupposes an extremely complex w. o. in the helmingr. In particular, the placing of the finite verb taka, far from the beginning of the cl., is abnormal, as is that of of (l. 3) if þung mein of enda ‘heavy sorrows at the death’ are taken together. (b) The following analysis obviates these difficulties, but involves the assumption of some usages that are not precisely paralleled in ON. The st. is construed as Þung, sýn mein bera of mik; mínir ungir synir taka enda þessum sessa morðkennds þengils ‘Heavy, manifest sorrows loom over me; my young sons learn of the death of that bench-mate of the battle-skilled monarch.’ Bera of mik is here taken as predicate to þung mein, hence ‘heavy sorrows loom over me’. This use of bera of/yfir is attested in Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4: bera (p. 71, col. a) in a quotation from 1908 in which an observer states that he saw a black speck or cloud bera yfir Látrafjöllin ‘looming over Látrafjöll’. Taka is assumed to have the sense ‘hear, learn, receive news of’. This receives some support from idioms such as hann tók því vel ‘he received that favourably’ where því refers to news or a greeting; cf. also the partially synonymous nema, whose meaning shades into ‘take in, understand’ or ‘listen to’ (as in nemi drótt ‘let the retinue take in’, st. 15/1). The U variant þessum is taken with (enda) sessa þengils as a dat. indicating possession or respect, hence ‘death of that bench-mate of the monarch’. Since sessa is assumed to be dat. sg., morðkennds ‘battle-skilled’ must qualify þengils. (c) For a further set of possibilities, see Whaley 1998, 227-8.

texts: LaufE 77 (363), Skm 292, SnE 294

editions: Skj Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 3 (AI, 344; BI, 316); Skald I, 160, NN §§827, 2521; SnE 1848-87, I, 460-1, II, 338, SnE 1931, 163, SnE 1998, I, 81; LaufE 1979, 363; Whaley 1998, 225-8.


GKS 2367 4° (R) 36r, 36 - 36v, 1 (SnE)  image  image  image  
Traj 1374x (Tx) 38r, 3 - 38r, 4 (SnE)  image  
AM 242 fol (W) 82, 19 - 82, 20 (SnE)  image  image  image  
DG 11 (U) 35v, 16 - 35v, 17 (SnE)  image  
GKS 2368 4°x (2368x) 106, 3 - 106, 4 (LaufE)  image  
AM 743 4°x (743x) 82r - 82r (LaufE)  image  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated