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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, ‘ 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 September 2021)

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, 240-1

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Arn Þorfdr 9II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 9’ 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. 240-1.

Ulfs tuggu rauð eggjar,
eitt þars Torfnes heitir,
— ungr olli því þengill —
— þat vas mánadag — fránar.
Sungu þar, til þinga,
þunn fyr Ekkjal sunnan
sverð, es siklingr barðisk
snarr við Skotlands harra.

Fránar eggjar rauð {tuggu ulfs}, þars eitt heitir Torfnes; ungr þengill olli því; þat vas mánadag. Þunn sverð sungu þar fyr sunnan Ekkjal, es siklingr, snarr til þinga, barðisk við harra Skotlands.

Bright blades grew red {on the wolf’s mouthful} [CORPSE], at a place called Tarbatness (Torfnes); young, the ruler caused that; it was a Monday. Slender swords sang there south of the Oykell, as the princeling, swift into conflict, fought with Scotland’s lord.

Mss: 332ˣ(28), Flat(131rb), R702ˣ(37v-38r) (Orkn)

Readings: [1] tuggu: ‑tugga R702ˣ;    rauð: ‘ręd’ R702ˣ    [3] því: so Flat, R702ˣ, ‘þi’ 332ˣ

Editions: Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 9: AI, 345, BI, 317-18, Skald I, 161, NN §§830, 2495D; Flat 1860-8, II, 407, Orkn 1913-16, 50, ÍF 34, 50 (ch. 20); Whaley 1998, 236-8.

Context: In the land battle at Tarbatness (Torfnes), Þorfinnr and his men attack, and Karl’s Irish division is thrown into disarray. Karl then advances his standard against Þorfinnr in a grim struggle. He eventually flees, though some say that he fell.

Notes: [1] tuggu ulfs ‘on the wolf’s mouthful [CORPSE]’: Tugga f. ‘chew, chewed mouthful’ also occurs in three examples of tugga Munins ‘Muninn’s <raven’s> mouthful [CORPSE]’ (LP: tugga). The noun tuggu appears to be dat. here, and the use of rauð ‘reddened’ impersonal. There could alternatively be an understood pronominal subject, hence ‘[He] reddened bright blades’. (b) The variant tugga (R702ˣ) would be nom. sg., subject to rauð in tugga ulfs rauð fránar eggjar ‘the corpse reddened bright blades’; this is definitely the lectio facilior. — [2] Torfnes ‘Tarbatness’: The ON name Torfnes, lit. ‘Peat Headland’, must represent a false etymology of the Gaelic tairbeart ‘isthmus’, common in place-names. There is—and presumably was—no peat at Tarbatness (Munch 1852-63, I, ii, 856, n. 1). — [5, 8] snarr til þinga ‘swift into conflict’: (a) This translation assumes that þing is equivalent to the battle-heiti in phrases such as such as HaukrV Ísldr 19/3-4IV (C12th) snarr til snerru ‘swift into battle’ or Eviðs Lv 2/2V (C11th) fúss til snerru; the phrase qualifies siklingr ‘princeling’ (so Skj B). (b) An alternative, favoured by Kock (NN §830), is to take sungu þar til þinga þunn ... sverð (reordered as þunn sverð sungu þar til þinga) together as a bold image, ‘slender swords sang there in anticipation of conflict’. (c) If þing were understood not as ‘conflict’ but as ‘goods, booty’ one could construe siklingr barðisk til þinga við harra Skotlands ‘the princeling fought for goods/booty against Scotland’s lord’. — [6] Ekkjal ‘the Oykell’: The river Oykell flows into the Dornoch Firth. Ekkjall here refers especially to the Firth itself.

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