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Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn)

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

1. Glymdrápa (Gldr) - 10

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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 23 January 2022)

stanzas:  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, 87

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — Þhorn Gldr 7I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Glymdrápa 7’ 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. 87.

Ríks þreifsk reiddra øxa
rymr — knôttu spjǫr glymja —
— svartskyggð bitu seggi
sverð — þjóðkonungs ferðar,
þás hugfyldra hǫlða
(hlaut andskoti Gauta)
hôr vas sǫngr of svírum
(sigr) flugbeiddra vigra.

Rymr reiddra øxa ferðar ríks þjóðkonungs þreifsk; svartskyggð sverð bitu seggi; spjǫr knôttu glymja, þás sǫngr flugbeiddra vigra vas hôr of svírum hugfyldra hǫlða; {andskoti Gauta} hlaut sigr.

The roar of the swung axes of the mighty king’s army swelled; black-polished swords bit men; spears resounded when the song of flight-driven spears was loud over the necks of courageous men; {the adversary of the Gautar} [= Haraldr] gained victory.

Mss: (61r), F(10va), J1ˣ(34r), J2ˣ(34v) (Hkr); 761aˣ(20r)

Readings: [4] ferðar: ferðir 761aˣ    [7] hôr: so F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 761aˣ, ár Kˣ;    sǫngr: sǫng J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 761aˣ    [8] flug‑: ‘flꜹg‑’ J2ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 1. Glymdrápa 7: AI, 23, BI, 21, Skald I, 13, NN §§234, 816 Anm. 2; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 121, IV, 33-4, ÍF 26, 113 (HHárf ch. 16), Hkr 1991, I, 70 (HHárf ch. 17).

Context: The Gautar resist Haraldr with a large force, but finally succumb to him.

Notes: [1-4]: The arrangement of the sentences in this helmingr is guided by Kuhn (1969b, 68), who points out that the verb in the main clause of a helmingr usually occupies the second position. — [1] ríks ‘mighty’: The adj. qualifies þjóðkonungs ‘mighty king’ in l. 4. This creates a tension that spans the entire helmingr and especially emphasizes the power of the king (cf. Engster 1983, 180; Kuhn 1983, 283). — [3, 4] svartskyggð sverð ‘black-polished swords’: As Holtsmark (1927, 42-3) assumes, svartskyggð may refer to the special technique of pattern welding, by which sword blades were forged out of two metals, one harder and one softer, which upon polishing yielded varied patterns and gave the sword additional strength and flexibility (see Ypey 1984; Pedersen 2004, 593). Such swords were extremely valuable and were sometimes acquired from abroad. — [5-8]: Kock proposes to simplify the syntax by conjoining hugfyldra hǫlða (l. 5) and sigr (l. 8), hence either an objective gen. ‘victory over the courageous men’ (so NN §234) or a gen. of the subject ‘victory of the courageous men’ (so NN §816 Anm. 2). Reichardt (1928, 105 n. 69) is correct to oppose either simplification for stylistic reasons. — [6] andskoti Gauta ‘the adversary of the Gautar [= Haraldr]’: As Modéer (1944a, 209) notes, this need not refer to the battle depicted here, and so does not constitute proof that Haraldr attacked Gautland; cf. Note to st. 6/2. — [7, 8] sǫngr flugbeiddra vigra ‘the song of flight-driven spears’: This could be regarded as a kenning, because it fits the pattern ‘song, noise of weapons’ (Meissner 186-9, 196-7). However, the predicative adj. hôr ‘loud’ here favours a literal understanding of the phrase. Flugbeiddr ‘flight-driven, shot’ is lit. ‘flight-demanded’.

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