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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 19 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, 236-7

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Arn Þorfdr 6II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 6’ 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. 236-7.

Endr hykk Karli kenndu
kyndóm jǫfur brynju
— land vasa lofðungs kundar
laust — fyr Dýrnes austan.
Fimm snekkjum réð frammi
flugstyggr við hug dyggvan
rausnarmannr at ræsis
reiðr ellifu skeiðum.

Hykk jǫfur endr kenndu Karli {kyndóm brynju} fyr austan Dýrnes; land {kundar lofðungs} vasa laust. Flugstyggr rausnarmannr réð reiðr fimm snekkjum við dyggvan hug frammi at ellifu skeiðum ræsis.

I believe the prince [Þorfinnr] once taught Karl {the monstrous verdict of the mail-coat} [BATTLE] east off Deerness; the land {of the ruler’s son} [RULER = Þorfinnr] was not for the taking. The flight-shunning man of splendour [Þorfinnr] steered, angered, five warships with steadfast heart forth against the eleven longships of the lord [Karl].

Mss: 332ˣ(23), Flat(131ra), 48ˣ(344r-v marg) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] Endr: ‘Andr’ Flat, Endr 48ˣmarg;    Karli: ‘k̄l.’ Flat, Karli 48ˣmarg    [2] kyndóm: kyndum Flat, kyndóm 48ˣmarg;    jǫfur: ‘lofut’ Flat, jǫfur 48ˣmarg    [3] kundar: kindar Flat, kundar 48ˣmarg    [5] réð: helt Flat    [6] við: af Flat;    dyggvan (‘dyggann’): dyggum Flat, dyggvan 48ˣmarg

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 6: AI, 344-5, BI, 317, Skald I, 160-1; Flat 1860-8, II, 405, Orkn 1913-16, 46, ÍF 34, 46 (ch. 20); Whaley 1998, 230-2.

Context: Þorfinnr, threatened with a two-pronged attack from Karl Hundason and the Scots, sails north across the Pentland Firth (Péttlandsfjǫrðr). He reaches Deerness (Dýrnes), just south of Sandwick (Sandvík), but there Karl catches up with him before his reinforcements arrive, and Þorfinnr chooses to fight rather than abandon his ships and goods.

Notes: [All]: 332ˣ cites the st. explicitly from Arnórr í Þorfinnsdrápu. — [1] Karli (dat. sg.) ‘Karl’: (a) This is treated here as the proper name Karl, as also in Orkn ch. 20, in which a king of the Scots named Karl Hundason figures prominently. Karl has been variously identified as a Mormaer (provincial ruler) of Ross, Sutherland or both who annexed Argyll on the death of the ruler whom Orkn names Malcolm (Melkólmr), in 1029 (Taylor 1937); as MacBeth (Crawford 1987, 71-2); as Duncan (Donaldson 1988, 2); or as a Mormaer of Moray (Thomson 1987, 47-9). The Scottish credentials of the name Hundi receive some support from its appearance as the name of a freedman of Scots family in Laxdœla saga ch. 6. (b) It should, however, be noted that there is no evidence in Celtic sources for a king with such a name, and it is conceivable that the karl in Arnórr’s st. is simply the appellative ‘old man, churl’, which was misinterpreted as a pers. n., and the patronymic Hundason added (as suggested by Munch, 1852-63, I, ii 854 n.). — [2] kyndóm brynju ‘monstrous verdict of the mail-coat [BATTLE]’: An unusual battle-kenning, but cf. dómr folkvandar ‘verdict of the battle-rod [SWORD]’ (VGl Lv 2/5, 8V), and other battle-kennings with base-words referring to assemblies, including brynþing ‘byrnie-assembly’ (several occurrences, including Arn Magndr 6/5-7, and see Note). — [3] kundar lofðungs ‘of the ruler’s son [RULER = Þorfinnr]’: The reference of lofðungs, if kundr is taken in its narrower sense of ‘son’ rather than ‘descendant’, is to Þorfinnr’s father, Sigurðr digri ‘the Stout’ Hlǫðvisson. The near-synonymous variant kindar is also possible. — [4] Dýrnes ‘Deerness’: A peninsula on the east side of Mainland, chief of the Orkney Islands. — [5, 8] fimm snekkjum; ellifu skeiðum ‘five warships; eleven longships’: Although there is uncertainty about the definition of both snekkja and skeið, the skeið seems to have been larger (see Note to ÞjóðA Magnfl 2/2, 3).

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