Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn)

9th century; volume 1; ed. R. D. Fulk;

1. Glymdrápa (Gldr) - 10

Skj info: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, Norsk skjald; omkr. 900. (AI, 22-29, BI, 20-26).

Skj poems:
1. Glymdrápa
2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál)
3. Lausavísa

Little is known about the Norwegian Þorbjǫrn hornklofi ‘Horn-cleaver (?)’. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273) names him as a poet of Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ (r. c. 860-c. 932). Judging from Fsk (ÍF 29, 59), he seems to have spent his whole life at the court of this king. Þorbjǫrn is the composer of two poems about Haraldr, Glymdrápa (Þhorn Gldr) and Haraldskvæði (Þhorn Harkv). Skálda saga, an anecdote about skalds preserved in Hb, and hardly likely to be historical, depicts him as one of three skalds, the other two being Auðunn illskælda ‘Bad-poet’ and Ǫlvir hnúfa ‘Snub-nose (?)’, each of whom attempts a romantic encounter with the same rich widow and then bemoans his failure in a lausavísa (see Auðunn Lv 2, Þhorn Lv, Ǫlv Lv 2). The three skalds are also named in Egils saga (ÍF 2, 19) as Haraldr’s favourites. They occupy places of honour in his hall, with Þorbjǫrn between the other two.

In the prose sources Þorbjǫrn is predominantly referred to only by his nickname Hornklofi. To date there is no satisfying explanation of this word. It is attested in the Þulur as a raven-heiti (see Þul Hrafns 1/5III and Note), but it does not occur in that sense in the surviving body of skaldic poetry. Scholars have claimed that the nickname refers to Þorbjǫrn’s device, in Þhorn Harkv, of having a raven speak in his stead (SnE 1848-87, III, 408; ÍF 26, 101 n. 1). Fidjestøl (1991, 126) is, however, justified in doubting this interpretation. An alternative possibility would be to link the nickname to Egill Hfl 16/6-7V (Eg 49): en jǫfurr heldr lǫndum hornklofi ‘and the ruler holds his lands by a hornklof’. But hornklofi here must be the dative of neuter hornklof, whereas Þorbjǫrn’s nickname is a masculine n-stem, and unfortunately the meaning of this passage is obscure, though hornklof seems to be some kind of tool.

my abbr.

Glymdrápa — Þhorn GldrI

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Glymdrápa’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 73.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9 

for reference only:  4x 

Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 1. Glymdrápa (AI, 22-4, BI, 20-1); stanzas (if different): 3, 4/1-4 | 4/5-8

SkP info: I, 78

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Þhorn Gldr 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Glymdrápa 2’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 78.

Gerðisk glamma ferðar
gný-Þróttr jǫru dróttar
helkannandi hlenna
hlymrœks of trǫð glymja,
áðr út á mar mœtir
mannskœðr lagar tanna
ræsinaðr ok rausnar
rak vébrautar nǫkkva.

{Gný-Þróttr jǫru}, helkannandi dróttar hlenna hlymrœks, gerðisk glymja of {trǫð ferðar glamma}, áðr {mannskœðr mœtir {vébrautar}} rak nǫkkva {tanna lagar} ok {ræsinaðr rausnar} út á mar.

{The din-Þróttr <= Óðinn> of battle} [WARRIOR = Haraldr], condemning the band of thieves of the battle-cultivator to death, made clangour on {the path of the pack of wolves} [HEATH], before {the man-harming attender {of the standard-road}} [BATTLEFIELD > WARRIOR] drove [his] ships {of the teeth of the sea} [STONES (steinar ‘colours’)] and {the excellent adder of the forecastle} [SHIP] out to sea.

Mss: (54v), F(9va), J1ˣ(29v), J2ˣ(31r) (Hkr); R(38r), Tˣ(39v), A(13r), C(7r) (SnE, ll. 5-8); 761aˣ(19v), 761aˣ(24v) (ll. 5-8)

Readings: [2] jǫru: so F, í orrustu Kˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 761aˣ(19v)    [3] hlenna: so F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 761aˣ(19v), hlanna Kˣ    [4] ‑rœks: ‑reks F, J2ˣ;    trǫð: so F, ‘truð’ Kˣ, J1ˣ, 761aˣ(19v), troð J2ˣ    [5] áðr: þá er R, Tˣ, A, C, 761aˣ(24v);    mœtir: meita R, Tˣ, C, 761aˣ(24v)    [6] ‑skœðr: so F, R, Tˣ, A, C, 761aˣ(24v), ‑skjóðr Kˣ, J1ˣ, ‘‑skjǫðr’ J2ˣ, 761aˣ(19v);    lagar: laðar R, C;    tanna: ‘(t)anna’(?) R, ‘haðir’ Tˣ    [7] ‑naðr: so F, R, Tˣ, A, C, 761aˣ(24v), ‑maðr Kˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 761aˣ(19v);    ok: so F, til Kˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, R, A, C, 761aˣ(19v), 761aˣ(24v), om. Tˣ    [8] ‑brautar: ‘bratar’ R, ‘bratar’ corrected from ‘brautar’ 761aˣ(24v)

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 1. Glymdrápa 2: AI, 22, BI, 20, Skald I, 13, NN §§230-1, 2985E, 3396D; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 108-9, IV, 29-30, ÍF 26, 102, Hkr 1991, I, 62 (HHárf ch. 9), F 1871, 42; SnE 1848-87, I, 494, II, 449, 598 SnE 1931, 174, SnE 1998, I, 93.

Context: On Hkr, see st. 1. In SnE (Skm), the second helmingr is given as an example of marr used as a sea‑heiti.

Notes: [1-4]: No fewer than seven different interpretations have been suggested. Those of Finnur Jónsson (1884, 69-72; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) and Eggert Ó. Brím (ÓT 1892, 345) require numerous emendations: Drótt (mss dróttar) hlenna helkannanda (mss ‑kannandi) Þróttar (mss Þróttr) hlymræks gerði (mss gerðisk) jǫru gný glymja of trǫð glamma ferðar ‘the troop of the one condemning thieves to death, cultivating the din of Þróttr <= Óðinn> [BATTLE], made the noise of battle clatter on the path of the pack of wolves [HEATH]’. By contrast, Kock (NN §230), ÍF 26, Holtsmark (1927, 5-8) and Fidjestøl (1982, 76-8) all prefer to avoid emendations. They all share the following assumptions, which have also been accepted in this edn: (1) Gný-Þróttr ‘din-Þróttr <= Óðinn>’ is taken as the subject of the sentence. It is interpreted as a warrior-kenning, though the choice of determinant varies. (2) Helkannandi hlenna ‘condemning thieves to death’ is regarded as qualifying the subject. (3) Trǫð ferðar glamma ‘the path of the pack of wolves’ is understood as a kenning for ‘wilderness, heath, woodland’. The structural pattern of the helmingr, under the interpretation adopted here, closely matches that of st. 1/1-4, as follows: hilmir ‘ruler’ : gny-Þróttr jǫru ‘din-Þróttr <= Óðinn> of battle [WARRIOR]’; réð heyja þrimu hjaldrskíðs ‘commanded that the noise of the battle-plank [SWORD > BATTLE] be launched’: gerðisk glymja ‘made clangour’; á heiði ‘on the heath’: of trǫð ferðar glamma ‘on the path of the pack of wolves [HEATH]’; ey óðr ‘ever furious’: helkannandi ‘condemning … to death’; œskimeiða galdra vébrautar ‘wishing trees of the incantations of the standard-road [BATTLEFIELD > BATTLE > WARRIORS]’: dróttar hlenna hlymrœks ‘the band of thieves of the battle-cultivator’. — [1, 4] of trǫð ferðar glamma ‘on the path of the pack of wolves [HEATH]’: The referent is uncertain. ‘Heath’ is assumed here, as a suitable battleground. LP: trǫð favours fjæld ‘mountain’, and cf. the wolf-kenning skœðasǫgnum skógs ‘harm-crew of the forest’ in Anon Óldr 22/7-8, which associates wolves with forests. — [1] gerðisk ‘made’: The interpretation of this m. v. verb is problematic. (a) Finnur Jónsson (1884, 71; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B), Eggert Ó. Brím (ÓT 1892, 345) and Kock (NN §230) emend to gerði and combine it with jǫru-gný glymja, hence ‘made the din of battle resound’. (b) ÍF 26, Fidjestøl (1982, 78), Hkr 1991 and this edn avoid emendation and interpret gerðisk glymja, lit. ‘made himself resound’ as ‘made clangour’ or similar. (c) Holtsmark (1927, 7), on the other hand, separates the two words and forms two sentences: gerðisk helkannandi hlenna ‘he became the punisher of thieves’, and a second in which dróttir (mss dróttar) ‘hosts’ is the subject of 3rd pers. pl. pres. glymja; on this see Note to l. 4 glymja. — [1, 4] gerðisk glymja ‘made clangour’: Lit. ‘did resound’. The verb is used in an impersonal sense, cf. Anon Eirm 4/4 glymr fyr Eireki ‘the clangour is made for Eiríkr’. See also Note to l. 1 gerðisk, above. — [2-3] helkannandi dróttar hlenna ‘condemning the band of thieves to death’: Lit. ‘death-condemning of the band of thieves’. Hel can refer to death, the realm of the dead or the monstrous goddess presiding over it; see Note to HSt Rst 34/1, 4. — [2] gný-Þróttr jǫru ‘the din-Þróttr <=Óðinn> of battle [WARRIOR = Haraldr]’: (a) Gný- ‘din’ normally needs a determinant such as ‘valkyrie’ or ‘weapon’ to form a kenning for ‘battle’. Here, no such determinant can be found, unless Fidjestøl (1982, 76) is correct in interpreting dróttar jǫru ‘troop of battle’ as a valkyrie-kenning. He claims drótt dreyra ‘army of blood’ (Meissner 398) as a parallel; but Meissner’s interpretation of this kenning as ‘valkyries’ is only tentative. (b) Kock (NN §230) and ÍF 26 construe gný-Þróttr dróttar jǫru as ‘the noise-Þróttr of the troop of battle [WARRIORS > BATTLE > WARRIOR]’, but the resulting kenning is flawed, with ‘warrior’ as both referent and determinant. (c) Holtsmark (1927, 22), Hkr 1991 and this edn limit the kenning to gný-Þróttr jǫru ‘the Þróttr of the din of battle’ in which gný- characterizes the whole kenning and is not part of its essential structure. Although unusual, this is supported by a structurally similar kenning in Hskv Útdr 7/7-8II: Gǫndlar þings gný-Þróttr ‘Þróttr <= Óðinn> of the din of Gǫndul’s <valkyrie’s> assembly [(lit. ‘din-Þróttr of Gǫndul’s assembly’) BATTLE > WARRIOR]’. On this cf. Meissner 191; Meissner notes that such kennings are rare but gives some further examples. — [4] hlymrœks ‘of the battle-cultivator’: The second element of the cpd as preserved in the mss (‘-ræks’, ‘-rœks’, ‘-reks’) is normalised to ‑rœks (see Note to Yt 25/7). (a) This edn interprets hlymrœks as a nominalised form of an adj. referring to Haraldr’s opponent. This produces a structural pattern for ll. 1-4 which closely matches the first helmingr of st. 1 (see Note to ll. 1-4). A drawback to this solution, however, is that hlym- ‘noise (of battle)’ normally needs a determinant, and various alternatives have therefore been proposed. (b) Finnur Jónsson (1884, 71; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) and Eggert Ó. Brím (ÓT 1892, 345) combine it with their emendation of Þróttr to Þróttar <= Óðinn>. Without emendation, this solution is not possible. (c) Sveinbjörn Egilsson (LP (1860): hlenni), Kock (NN §230) and Hkr 1991 take hlymrœks to be an adj. and combine it with hlenna (gen. sg.), thus ‘noise-making thief’. (d) Fidjestøl (1982, 77) reads of trǫð ferðar hlymrœks glamma ‘on the path of the troop of the noise-making wolf’. However, hlymrœks glamma is gen. sg., whereas in most of the comparable cases ferð ‘troop’ is construed with a gen. pl., cf. LP: ferð. (e) Guðbrandur Vigfússon (CPB II, 30 n.), followed by ÍF 26, attempts an entirely different interpretation according to which the word is the Irish p. n. Limerick. He connects Hlymræks to hlenna ‘thieves’. Helkannandi dróttar hlenna Hlymreks ‘the one who hands the band of thieves of Limerick over to Hel’ then forms an apposition to the subject of the sentence, praising him for a presumed campaign against the Irish. However, the Irish are not mentioned elsewhere in the poem, only the Scots (see st. 8/6), and the structural parallels between the first helmingar of sts 1 and 2 favour the interpretation (a). — [5-8]: This helmingr is also the subject of numerous conflicting interpretations, though its statement about the king sending his warships out to sea is uncontroversial, as are mannskœðr mœtir ... ‘the man-harming attender ...’ as its subject and ræsinaðr ‘the frightening adder’ as one of its objects. — [5, 8] mœtir vébrautar ‘attender of the standard-road [BATTLEFIELD > WARRIOR]’: (a) This interpretation appears less problematic than the alternatives, although the kenning is slightly unusual in that warrior-kennings with mœtir ‘meeter, attender’ as base-word normally use a word for ‘battle’ rather than ‘battlefield’ as the determinant (see Meissner 298). On the interpretation of vébraut as ‘battlefield’, see Note to st. 1/1-4. Several eds add to this kenning tanna lagar ‘of the teeth of the sea [STONES]’, but none gives a credible interpretation of the resulting vébraut tanna lagar. (b) One interpretation takes it to be a sword-kenning ‘holy path of the teeth of the sea [STONE (= whetstone) > SWORD]’ (ÓT 1892, 345; Hkr 1893-1901, IV). (c) In another view it is a kenning for ‘gold’: ‘teeth of the sea [STONES] of the standard-road [SEA > GOLD]’. Here the mœtir ‘enemy’ of ‘gold’ is interpreted as ‘generous ruler’ (Reichardt 1928, 20-1, followed by Faulkes in SnE 1998, I, 214). However, this supposed gold-kenning deviates from the rules of kenning formation in several ways (see Finnur Jónsson 1929b, 135-6). (d) Kock (NN §231) emends lagar tanna to íugtanna ‘of the bear’, combines it with mœtir, and views the resulting ‘confronter of the bear’ as a reference to a youthful adventure of Haraldr hárfagri. However, the emendation itself and the resulting interpretation are improbable. (e) ÍF 26 (followed by Hkr 1991) conjoins mœtir and Nǫkkva, referring to a Nǫkkvi who is named in HHárf (ÍF 26, 103) as a king of Naumdalr (Namdalen) who participates in a rebellion against Haraldr. However, this is highly unlikely because the supposed king is probably an extrapolation from this stanza on Snorri’s part. — [6, 8] nǫkkva tanna lagar ‘ships of the teeth of the sea [STONES (steinar ‘colours’)]’: I.e. painted ships. The kenning ‘teeth of the sea’ is interpreted as an ofljóst here; the interpretations given in ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991 are similar though sceptical. Steinn means not only ‘stone’ but also ‘colour (mineral paint)’. Ships may have been painted, as suggested by references to colour, also using the word steinn, in Þfagr Sveinn 3/5, 6-7II glæsidýr lauks … fagrdrifin steini ‘the splendid beasts of the mast [SHIPS] … beautifully covered with colour’ and Refr Ferðv 3/1, 3-4III runnit rauðum steini ‘covered with red paint’, in reference to a ship’s bow; while in Hallm Hallkv 9/5V steinnǫkkva must be not a ‘stone ship’ but a ‘painted ship’. While in the first two examples steini is a dat. with a p. p. (fagrdrifin, runnit, both ‘covered’), the use of stein- in the cpd steinnǫkkva can be regarded as a parallel to the use of tanna lagar as a gen. with adjectival function (cf. NS §135). The use of the pl. tanna ‘teeth’ in the present case may be explained as necessary to fulfil metrical requirements.  — [7] ok ræsinaðr rausnar ‘and the excellent adder of the forecastle [SHIP]’: Based on its form, ræsinaðr must be a cpd of a verb and a noun. A fitting verb is ræsa ‘to impel, set in motion’, and the usage of ræsi- here may be comparable with that in the hap. leg. ræsimaðr (Ljósvetninga saga ch. 21(31), ÍF 10, 105), which refers to a capable, assertive man (who puts things in motion). This derivation is preferable to the one given at LP: rœsinaðr, which links the word to ModNorw. dialect røseleg ‘large, handsome’. Because naðr ‘adder’ alone cannot designate a ship except for Óláfr Tryggvason’s renowned Ormr ‘Serpent’, rausnar ‘of the forecastle’ must be the obligatory determinant of the kenning (for the term rausn see the explanation in Hkr, ÍF 26, 100). It follows that F’s reading ok ‘and’ is to be preferred (so also ÓT 1892, 345; Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B; NN §231; Holtsmark 1927, 24-5), since it can precede the ship-kenning ræsinaðr rausnar, while til ‘to’ in the other mss cannot. In itself, til also makes good sense, forming til rausnar ‘for glory, in splendour’ (so ÍF 26; Fidjestøl 1982, 78; Hkr 1991).

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