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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, 238-40

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Arn Þorfdr 8II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 8’ 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. 238-40.

Þrima vas þvígit skemmri;
þat vas skjótt, at spjótum
mætr við minna neyti
minn dróttinn rak flótta.
Gall, áðr grams menn fellu,
gunnmôr of her sôrum;
hann vá sigr fyr sunnan
Sandvík; ruðu branda.

Þrima vas þvígit skemmri; þat vas skjótt, at mætr dróttinn minn rak flótta spjótum við minna neyti. {Gunnmôr} gall of sôrum her, áðr menn grams fellu; hann vá sigr fyr sunnan Sandvík; ruðu branda.

The battle was none the briefer for that; it happened swiftly that my precious lord put them to flight with spears [and] with a smaller company. {The battle-gull} [RAVEN/EAGLE] screamed above the wounded host, before the ruler’s men fell; he won victory south of Sandwick (Sandvík); they reddened swords.

Mss: 332ˣ(24-25), Flat(131rb), 48ˣ(344v marg) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] Þrima: Þruma Flat, Þrima 48ˣmarg;    þvígit: þeygi Flat, þvígit 48ˣmarg    [2] at: með Flat, at 48ˣmarg    [5] Gall: so Flat, gól 332ˣ, 48ˣmarg;    fellu: so Flat, ‘foli’ 332ˣ, ‘fǫli’ 48ˣmarg    [6] of (‘um’): und Flat, um 48ˣmarg

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 8: AI, 345, BI, 317, Skald I, 161, NN §§828, 829; Flat 1860-8, II, 406, Orkn 1913-16, 48, ÍF 34, 48 (ch. 20); Whaley 1998, 234-6.

Context: The men of Orkney overrun Karl’s flagship before it can be rowed free. Karl, with the few survivors on his ship, leaps onto another and flees, with Þorfinnr in pursuit.

Notes: [1-4]: The helmingr is difficult, as no interpretation adequately explains the contradiction between þrima vas þvígit skemmri ‘the battle was none the briefer for that’ (l. 1) and þat vas skjótt ‘it happened swiftly’ (l. 2). It is possible that því(git skemmri) originally referred to some action of Þorfinnr’s enemies which was described in a previous st., now lost. — [2, 3, 4] þat vas skjótt, at mætr dróttinn minn rak flótta ‘it happened swiftly that my precious lord put them to flight’: The best overall assumption seems to be that at dróttinn minn ‘that my lord’ explains þat vas skjótt ‘it happened quickly’ (so also Skj B and ÍF 34, 48). However, it entails that the consecutive at spjótum do not form a unitary phrase ‘by/near spears’, and the scribal emendation to með in Flat may result from a feeling that they ought to. See the following Note. — [2] spjótum ‘with spears’: (a) This is construed above with the cl. rak flótta in which it is embedded, hence ‘put (them) to flight with spears’. (b) The alternative is to take it with þrima vas þvígit skemmri ‘the battle was none the briefer’ (l. 1) (so Björn Magnússon Ólsen 1909a, 296). This analysis entails the separation of at ‘that’ from the cl. it introduces, and, although it might explain þvígit skemmri (‘the battle was none the briefer with spears’, i.e. ‘for all the number of spears’), it does not explain how, after a long battle, Þorfinnr ‘swiftly’ routed his enemies. — [5] gall; fellu ‘screamed; fell’: ‘Foli’ in 332ˣ is, as Ólafur Halldórsson (1964, 148) points out, a mis-spelling of fǫli, i.e. fœli, 3rd pers. sg. pret. subj. of fela ‘hide, entrust, bury’. This is established by fǫli in 48ˣmarg. But there is no suitable object to this verb (Björn Magnússon Ólsen’s suggestion being eccentric, 1909, 296-7), so that the reading must be rejected in favour of the variant fellu. The variant gall ‘screamed’ not gól ‘sang’ must accordingly be chosen in order to complete the skothending. This is the best solution, but not a perfect one, since it would be difficult to account for the presumed corruption of fellu to fœli. — [5, 6] menn grams; sôrum her ‘the ruler’s men; the wounded host’: In view of Arnórr’s usual practice of emphasising the enemy’s losses, these phrases are best taken as references to Scots, while the victorious hann of l. 7 is doubtless Þorfinnr. — [8] Sandvík ‘Sandwick’: Etymologically ‘Sandy bay’, the p. n. is quite common, with examples in Shetland and mainland Scotland. The chief Orcadian Sandwick is an inlet and parish on the west coast of Mainland, but since sts 6-8 all seem, on internal evidence and from Orkn, to refer to the same battle, the one off Deerness (Dýrness) on the east coast, it seems that this Sandvík must be just north of Deerness (see st. 6/4 and Context to st. 6). — [8] ruðu branda ‘they reddened swords’: (a) This is taken as a cl. complete in itself (so also Kock, NN §829). The understood subject must be Þorfinnr and his men (the minna neyti ‘smaller company’ of l. 3). Another probable example of a pl. verb lacking an explicit subject is brenndu ‘burned’ in st. 11/1. (b) Ruðu has an explicit subject if áðr grams menn fellu ‘before the ruler’s men fell’ (l. 5) and ruðu branda ‘they reddened swords’ are read together as a single sentence, ‘before the ruler’s men fell, they reddened their swords’ (so Skj B, marking off grams menn by commas so that it is subject to ruðu); but it is rare for a subordinate cl. beginning with áðr ‘before’ to precede its main cl. (c) Ólafur Halldórsson (1964, 149-50, followed by Finnbogi Guðmundsson, ÍF 34, 48) emended to ruðum ‘we reddened’, but this seems unnecessary, and there is no other mention of Arnórr’s presence at this battle.

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