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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA)

11th century; volume 2; ed. Diana Whaley;

2. Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi (Magn) - 14

Skj info: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, Islandsk skjald, d. 1066. (AI, 361-83, BI, 332-53).

Skj poems:
1. Magnúsflokkr
2. Runhent digt om Harald hårdråde
3. Sexstefja
4. Lausavísur

Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA) is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 254, 262) among the poets of Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson and Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-rule’ Sigurðarson, and virtually all his extant poetry seems to have been composed in honour of them, or in association with them; hence it dates from the period 1035-1066. The text of Skáldatal in AM 761 a 4°ˣ (SnE 1848-87, III, 259) also credits Þjóðólfr with poetry for Haraldr Þorkelsson, son of Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’ and one of the Dan. magnates present in Norway during the reign of Sveinn Álfífuson (1030-35). No identifiable fragments of this remain, but if true the tradition would suggest that Þjóðólfr was born not much later than 1010. Hemings þáttr Áslákssonar (Hem) has him die at the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, and there is no record of him after that date, though Lv 11 has the air of being composed after the battle. Þjóðólfr was, according to Skáldatal and Fsk (ÍF 29, 245), the brother of another skald, Bǫlverkr Arnórsson (Bǫlv), and according to Sneglu-Halla þáttr (Snegl) in Flat (1860-8, III, 415), was from an undistinguished family in Svarfaðardalur, northern Iceland. The same þáttr (p. 421) names his father not as Arnórr but as Þorljótr, in the context of a scurrilous anecdote told against Þjóðólfr by Sneglu-Halli (SnH), who also taunts him with having composed the otherwise unknown Sorptrogsvísur ‘Dustbin Vísur’. The þáttr nevertheless describes him as accomplished (menntr vel) and courteous (kurteis maðr), highly favoured by King Haraldr and chief of his poets (haufutskꜳlld sitt, p. 415). Þjóðólfr’s poetry, rich in allusion and imagery, has continued to be widely admired, and it gains colour and vigour from the fact that he participated in many of the campaigns he depicts. It undoubtedly also reflects the fact that he was one of an exceptional circle of poets patronised by Haraldr (see Turville-Petre 1968), and much of his poetry shares topics and imagery with that of his contemporary Arnórr jarlaskáld (Arn), though there is no account of the dealings between these two. Þjóðólfr figures in several anecdotes centring on poetic composition: see Contexts to Lv 2-6, though we have no way of knowing whether he was so touchy about his reputation as the Context to Lv 4, and Snegl, would suggest; he also features as a go-between figure in Brands þáttr ǫrva, which cites no poetry. For brief biographies of Þjóðólfr see, e.g. SnE 1848-87, III, 578-9; LH 1894-1901, I, 627-32; Hollander 1945, 189-96.

In addition to the works edited here as Þjóðólfr’s, there have been further attributions to him. Þfagr Sveinn 7 is attributed to Þjóðólfr in Mork (1928-32, 165-6) and Flat (1860-8, III, 341), but to Þorleikr fagri in other sources; ÞKolb Eirdr 17I is attributed to Þjóðólfr in the U ms. alone, and Þfisk Lv 3 is attributed to him in F. Further, Flat, by citing Okík Magn 1 after ÞjóðA Magnfl 18 without announcing a change of skald implicitly assigns the latter to Þjóðólfr. We might perhaps also imagine Þjóðólfr having a hand in Anon (HSig) 2, the st. collaboratively composed by Haraldr’s men. A further set of six sts presented are anonymous in the medieval sources but are presented in this edn as Halli XI Fl (for reasons explained in Halli Biography below). These are printed among Þjóðólfr’s works in CPB II, 210-11 and listed under his name in SnE 1848-87, III, 583-4; Poole also finds ‘the ascription to Þjóðólfr Arnórsson … tempting, on stylistic grounds’ (1991, 75).

Preserved mainly in the kings’ sagas, above all in Hkr, Þjóðólfr’s oeuvre presents exceptional problems of reconstruction, which are discussed at some length in the Introductions to the individual poems or sets of sts. The chief problem is that Þjóðólfr certainly composed a major dróttkvætt poem for each of his patrons Magnús (Magnússflokkr, Magnfl) and Haraldr (Sexstefja, Sex), but that in each case there is also a set of sts that may or may not belong in the main encomium. The decision has been taken here to print them separately: fourteen sts depicting the aftermaths of Magnús’s major battles at Århus (Áróss) and Helgenæs (Helganes) are presented as ‘Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi’ (Magn), and seven describing the launch of Haraldr’s great levied fleet from Nidelven (the river Nið) as ‘Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr’ (Har). As a reference aid, the arrangement of Þjóðólfr’s oeuvre in SkP and Skj is shown here.

Magnússflokkr (ÞjóðA Magnfl)
SkP Skj
15Náði jarl at eyða 19
16Rǫnn lézt, ræsir Þrœnda,20
17Hizig laut, es heitir 21
18Flýði jarl af auðu, 22
19Háðisk heilli góðu25
Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi (ÞjóðA Magn)
1Hrauð leifs mǫgr áðan Magnfl 15
2Misst hafa Sveins at sýnu, Magnfl 16
3Gær sák grjóti stóru Lv 1
4Spurði einu orði Magnfl 17
5Saurstokkinn bar svíra Magnfl 18
6Hrindr af hrókalandi Lv 2
7Menn eigu þess minnask, Lv 3
8Skjǫld bark heim frá hjaldri Magnfl 23
9Bauð leifs sonr áðan Magnfl 24
10Nú taka Norðmenn knýja,Lv 4
11Brum jǫrn at œrnuLv 5
12Svíðr of seggja búðirLv 6
13Fjǫrð lét fylkir verðaLv 7
14Ek hef ekki at drekkaLv 8
Runhent poem about Haraldr (ÞjóðA Run)
Sexstefja (ÞjóðA Sex)
6Þjóð veit, at hefr háðar7
7Stólþengils lét stinga6
8Ok hertoga hneykir25
9Reist eikikjǫlr austan8
10Vatn lézt, vísi, slitna,9
11Gegn skyli herr, sem hugnar10
12Frn hefr sveit við Sveini11
13Lét vingjafa veitir12
14Fast bað fylking hrausta13
15Alm dró upplenzkr hilmir14
16Flest vas hirð, sús hraustum15
17Sogns kvðu gram gegnan16
18Sveinn át sigr at launa17
19Nús of verk, þaus vísi,18
20Létu lystir sleitu19
21Tók Holmbúa hneykir20
22Gagn brann greypra þegna; 21
23Fœrði fylkir Hǫrða,22
24Áræðis naut eyðir23
25Refsir reyndan ofsa24
26Mǫrk lét veitt fyr verka26
27Ǫrð sær Yrsu burðar27
28Lét hræteina hveiti32
29Blóðorra lætr barri30a
30Geirs oddum lætr greddir30b
31Gera vas gisting byrjuð29
32Hár skyli hirðar stjóri35
Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr (ÞjóðA Har)
1Skeið sák framm at flœði, Lv 18
2Slyngr laugardag lǫngu Lv 19
3Rétt kann rœði slíta Lv 20
4Sorgar veit, áðr slíti Lv 21
5Eigu skjól und skógi Lv 22
6Hléseyjar lemr hvan Lv 23
7Haraldr þeysti nú hraustla Lv 24
Fragments (ÞjóðA Frag )
1 Nús valmeiðum víðisLv 9
2Jarl/Ǫrr lætr, odda skúrar Sex 28
3Ganga él of Yngva Sex 31
4Snart við sæþráð kyrtat Sex 33
5Útan bindr við enda Sex 34
Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur (ÞjóðA Lv)
1Leiða langar dauða Lv 10
2Sumar annat skal sunnar Lv 11
3[Logit hefr Baldr at Baldri]
brynþings fetilstingar
Lv 12
4Mildingr rauð í móðu Lv 13
5Varp ór þrætu þorpi Lv 14
6Sigurðr eggjaði sleggju Lv 15
7Haddan skall, en Halli Lv 16
8Út stendr undan báti Lv 17
9Ǫld es, sús jarli skyldi Lv 25
10Skalka frá, þótt fylkir Lv 26
11Ǫld hefr afráð goldit Lv 27

Reconstructions of the Þjóðólfr corpus are offered by Finnur Jónsson in SnE 1848-87, III, 579-90, which is the basis (almost unchanged) for Skj (AI, 361-83, BI, 332-53), and the Skj ordering is retained in Skald (I, 168-77); other major contributions are by Guðbrandur Vigfússon in CPB (II, 198-212) and by Fidjestøl (1982, 133-43, 172).

The principal eds consulted in the course of re-editing Þjóðólfr’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, 361-83; BI, 332-53 and Ernst Albin Kock’s in Skald I, 168-77, 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): CPB II, 198-212; Kock and Meissner 1931, I, 57-60; Hollander 1945,190-6 (annotated translations only), Poole 1991, 59-63; and (with seven sts) Turville-Petre 1976, 97-102. Such works as these, together with others containing comment on the poetry, are cited as appropriate in the Notes.


Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi — ÞjóðA MagnII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘ Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi’ 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. 88-103. <> (accessed 30 June 2022)

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Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson: (AI, 361-8, BI, 332-8)

in texts: H-Hr, Hkr, MGóð

SkP info: II, 88-103

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


1 Hrauð Ôleifs mǫgr áðan
— jǫfurr vá sigr — ins digra
(fregnat slíkt ór Sogni)
sjau skip (konur hnipnar).
The son of Óláfr inn digri (‘the Stout’) [= Magnús] had previously cleared seven ships; the ruler won victory; women from Sogn will not receive such news with sorrow.
2 Misst hafa Sveins at sýnu,
sverð-Gautr, fǫrunautar
(hǫrð es heldr of orðin)
heimkvômu (fǫr beima).
Hrœrir hausa þeira
hreggi œst ok leggi
— sær þýtr auðs of ôrum —
unnr á sanda grunni.
Sveinn’s comrades have clearly lost out on their home-coming, sword-Gautr <= Óðinn> [WARRIOR]; the men’s expedition has turned out rather harsh. The wave, stirred up by the storm, tosses their skulls and limbs on the floor of the sands; the sea roars over the envoys of wealth [GENEROUS MEN].
3 Gær sák grjóti stóru
— gein hauss fyrir — steini
— fóra fylking þeira
fast — harðliga kastat.
Ofan keyrðum vér — orðum
jǫrð muna Sveinn of varða —
(staðar hefr stafn í miðju)
strandhǫgg (numit landi).
Yesterday I saw massive stones, rock, hurled mightily; a skull gaped in their path; their troop did not advance strongly. We herded cattle for slaughter down to the shore; Sveinn will not defend the land with words [alone]; the prow has anchored midway along the coast.
4 Spurði einu orði
— ǫld blóðroðna skjǫldu,
satts, at svá mǫrg átti —
Selunds mær, hverr vé bæri.
Auðtróðu varð auðit
yfir of skóg at spróga;
títt bar týmargr flótti
til Hringstaða iljar.
The maiden in Sjælland (Selund, Zealand) learned in a single word who carried the standard; it is true that so many men had blood-reddened shields. For the wealth-pole [WOMAN] her lot was to dash through the forest; a great many fugitives took their soles [feet] speedily to Ringsted (Hringstaðir).
5 Saurstokkinn bar svíra
snarr Skônunga harri;
undrs, nema allvaldr Lundar
aldrprúðr fyrir haldi.
Gær flugu mold ok mýrar
(merki jarls ins sterkja
slóð drap framm at flóði)
flaugardǫrr (of hauga).
The valiant ruler of the Skánungar [= Magnús] went with a mud-spattered neck; it is a wonder unless the life-splendid overlord of Lund [= Magnús] holds out. Flighted spears flew yesterday over earth and bogs; the standard of the powerful jarl beat a track across the hills onwards to the sea.
6 Hrindr af hróka landi
hregg af eikiveggjum
— sunnr leikr eldr of unninn
óðr — í lopt upp glóðum.
Bœr logar hǫlfu hæra
hjónum nær á Fjóni;
ræfr þola nauð ok næfrar;
Norðmenn sali brenna.
A storm from the land of cormorants [SEA] flings embers from oak walls up into the air; to the south raging fire sports, once kindled. The settlement blazes twice as high hard by the households on Fyn; roof and shingles endure distress; Norwegians burn down halls.
7 Menn eigu þess minnask
manna Sveins at kanna,
víga Freyr, sízt vôru,
vef-Gefn, þríar stefnur.
Vôn es fagrs á Fjóni
fljóðs; dugir vôpn at rjóða;
verum með fylkðu folki
framm í vápna glammi.
Men have to remember, Freyr <god> of battles [WARRIOR], to get to know the weaving-Gefn <= Freyja> [WOMAN] of Sveinn’s men, since there were three encounters. There’s prospect of a lovely woman on Fyn; it’s good to redden weapons; let’s take our place with the ranked troop, forward in the tumult of weapons [BATTLE].
8 Skjǫld bark heim frá hjaldri
— hlauzk mér til þess — gauzkan
— ramr vas suðr á sumri
sverðdynr — ok þó brynju.
Vôpn gatk fríð, en fljóði
fyrr sagðak þat kyrru;
þar fekk’k hjalm, es hilmir
harðfengr Dani barði.
I carried a Gautish shield home from the battle, and even a byrnie; this was my lot; a mighty sword-tumult [BATTLE] took place in the south in the summer. I got handsome weapons, and I had said that before to the tranquil lady; I gained a helmet there, where the valiant ruler thrashed the Danes.
9 Bauð Ôleifs sonr áðan
upp á land at standa;
gekk með manndýrð mikla
Magnús reiðr af skeiðum.
Snarr bað hilmir herja
— hérs skark — í Danmǫrku;
fleygir hvasst of hauga
hestr of Skáney vestan.
Óláfr’s son [= Magnús] previously gave the order to advance onto the land; Magnús strode, angry, with great splendour from the ships. The bold ruler bade [them] go ravaging in Denmark; there is tumult here; the horse charges swiftly across the hills, from the west across Skåne.
10 Nú taka Norðmenn knýja
— nær gǫngum vér stǫngum —
(berkak) Magnúss merki
(minn skjǫld á hlið sjaldan).
Skýtra skeifum fœti
Skáney yfir sláni
— fár vegr es mér fegri
fundinn — suðr til Lundar.
Now the Norwegians start to press forward Magnús’s banners; we march close to the standard-poles; it’s not seldom that I carry my shield [lit. I don’t carry seldom my shield] at my side. The lanky fellow [I, the skald] does not dash with foot aslant across Skåne south to Lund; few routes have seemed lovelier to me.
11 Bôrum jôrn at œrnu
ískǫld á lið vísa;
skjótt ríða nú skreyttar
Skônunga lokvánir.
Rauðr leikr of bœ breiðum
bráðr at óru ráði
eldr, en ernir valda
atblásendr því vási.
We carried ice-cold irons [weapons] in good measure against the prince’s troop; the Skánungar’s fancy hopes for the outcome are now dispersing [lit. riding] swiftly. Red fire sports, hasty, over the broad settlement at our behest, and brisk inflamers bring about that trouble.
12 Svíðr of seggja búðir
— siklingr í her miklum
eyðir byggð sem bráðast —
bjartr eldr Danaveldi.
Móðr berr halr of heiði
halds Danmarkar skjǫldu;
vér hlutum sigr, en sárir
Sveins menn fyrir renna.
Bright fire flames across the dwellings of men in the realm of the Danes; the prince, in a great army, destroys the settlement with all haste. A warrior, weary of defending Denmark, carries shields across the heath; we won victory, but Sveinn’s men run wounded away.
13 Fjǫrð lét fylkir verða
forntraddan mó spornat
(leynumk lítt) á Fjóni
(liðs skjǫldunga á miðli).
Muna fyr Magnús synja
menn Sveins, þeirs nú renna,
— upp fara mǫrg í morgin
merki — stórra verka.
Last year the ruler had [men] tramp the anciently-trodden moor [lit. had the moor ancient-tramped] on Fyn; we [I] hardly hide in the midst of the princes’ troop. Sveinn’s men, who are now fleeing, will not deny great deeds on Magnús’s part; many banners mount aloft this morning.
14 Ek hef ekki at drekka
annars nema sjá þenna,
— sýgk ór sǫltum ægi
sylg — es jǫfri fylgik.
Liggr fyr oss, en uggum
alllítt Svía, kǫllum,
— drýgt hǫfum vás fyr vísa —
víð Skáneyrar síða.
I have nothing other to drink than this sea, as I follow the king; I suck a slurp from the salt ocean. The broad coast of Skanör lies before us, but we fear the Swedes very little, I [lit. we] declare; we have gone through hardship for the prince’s sake.
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