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, 84

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Þhorn Gldr 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Glymdrápa 5’ 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. 84.

Háði gramr, þars gnúðu,
geira hregg við seggi,
— rauð fnýsti ben blóði —
bryngǫgl í dyn Skǫglar,
þás á rausn fyr ræsi
(réð egglituðr) seggir
— æfr gall hjǫrr við hlífar —
hnigu fjǫrvanir (sigri).


The king fought {a storm of spears} [BATTLE] against men where {mail-shirt-goslings} [ARROWS] roared in {the din of Skǫgul}; [BATTLE] the red wound spurted blood as men sank down lifeless before the ruler on the forecastle; the furious sword resounded against shields; {the blade-stainer} [WARRIOR = Haraldr] gained victory.

context: Fsk cites this stanza in connection with the battle of Hafrsfjǫrðr (Hafrsfjorden; see Context to st. 3). In Hkr, it follows a narrative about a further sea-battle near Sólskel (Solskjel), against a force led by the kinsmen Arnviðr and Sǫlvi and their ally King Auðbjǫrn. Arnviðr and Auðbjǫrn fall, and Sǫlvi flees. In SnE, the first helmingr is among citations illustrating terms for ‘battle’.

notes: Several commentators note this stanza’s artfully convoluted sentence structure. It is composed of a main clause in the first helmingr and a subordinate clause in the second, each of which contains an intercalary clause located in the third line of the helmingr (ll. 3 and 7 respectively). Further, each helmingr contains an additional syntactic unit: another subordinate clause in ll. 1 and 4, and a separate main clause in ll. 6 and 8 (Engster 1983, 189-90; Kuhn 1969b, 68). Reichardt (1928, 226) sees in this the poet’s attempt to convey the turmoil of battle, and Holtsmark (1927, 34-5) perceives a representation of the battle in the rhythm of the short sentences. These trace the battle’s development from engagement to victory, with sigri ‘victory’ as the last word of the stanza.

texts: Fsk 25, HarHárf 8, HHárf 4 (I 36), LaufE 139 (382-3) [1-4], Skm 221 [1-4], Flat 402, Hkr 46 (I 36), SnE 223 [1-4]

editions: Skj Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 1. Glymdrápa 5 (AI, 23; BI, 21);

Skald I, 13; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 112-13, IV, 31, ÍF 26, 105-6, Hkr 1991, I, 64 (HHárf ch. 11), F 1871, 44; Fsk 1902-3, 18 (ch. 2), ÍF 29, 70 (ch. 3); Fms 10, 187, Fms 12, 225, Flat 1860-8, I, 572 (HarHárf); SnE 1848-87, I, 418-19, II, 326, 437, 586, SnE 1931, 148, SnE 1998, I, 66.


AM 35 folx (Kx) 56v, 4 - 56v, 11 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 9vb, 25 - 9vb, 28 (Hkr)  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 31r, 2 - 31r, 6 (Hkr)  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 32r, 19 - 32r, 26 (Hkr)  image  
OsloUB 371 folx (FskBx) 6r, 20 - 6r, 27 (Fsk)  image  
AM 51 folx (51x) 5r, 17 - 5r, 24 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 302 4°x (302x) 8v, 3 - 8v, 10 (Fsk)  transcr.  
AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 18, 5 - 18, 12 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 52 folx (52x) 7v, 22 - 8r, 2 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 6r, 12 - 6r, 15 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 76vb, 2 - 76vb, 5 (Flat)  image  image  image  
GKS 2367 4° (R) 33v, 17 - 33v, 18 [1-4] (SnE)  transcr.  image  image  image  
Traj 1374x (Tx) 35r, 11 - 35r, 13 [1-4] (SnE)  image  
AM 242 fol (W) 77, 5 - 77, 6 [1-4] (SnE)  image  image  image  
DG 11 (U) 32v, 5 - 32v, 7 [1-4] (SnE)  image  
AM 748 I b 4° (A) 10v, 35 - 11r, 1 [1-4] (SnE)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 748 II 4° (C) 5r, 11 - 5r, 12 [1-4] (SnE)  image  image  
AM 743 4°x (743x) 92r, 13 - 92r, 16 [1-4] (LaufE)  image  image  
GKS 2368 4°x (2368x) 121, 19 - 121, 20 [1-4] (LaufE)  image  
AM 761 a 4°x (761ax) 20v, 12 - 20v, 19  image  
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