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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, 88

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Þhorn Gldr 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Glymdrápa 8’ 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. 88.

Menfergir bar margar
margspakr — Niðar varga
lundr vann sókn á sandi —
sandmens í bý randir,
áðr fyr eljunfróðum
allr herr Skota þverri
lǫgðis seið af láði
lœbrautar varð flœja.

{Margspakr menfergir} bar margar randir í bý {sandmens}; {lundr {varga Niðar}} vann sókn á sandi, áðr allr herr varð flœja {seið lǫgðis} af {láði {lœbrautar}} fyr {eljunfróðum þverri Skota}.

{The very wise ring-destroyer} [GENEROUS MAN = Haraldr] bore many shields into the settlement by {the shore-ring} [SEA]; {the tree {of the wolves of Nidelven <river>}} [SHIPS > SEAFARER = Haraldr] made an attack upon the shore, before all the host had to flee {from the incantation of the sword} [BATTLE] out of {the land {of the pollack-path}} [SEA > ISLAND] before {the mettle-wise destroyer of Scots} [= Haraldr].

Mss: (64v), F(11rb), J1ˣ(36r-v), J2ˣ(37r) (Hkr); 61(22ra) (ll. 1-4), 54(18vb), Bb(29rb) (ÓT); 761aˣ(21r)

Readings: [2] ‑spakr: ‑spakar J1ˣ;    Niðar: viðar 54, Bb    [3] lundr: lund F, lunds J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, 54, 761aˣ;    sandi: landi 54, Bb    [4] sandmens: landmens J1ˣ, 54, Bb, land mengs J2ˣ;    bý: gný 54, Bb    [5] eljun‑: so F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 761aˣ, ‘ælian‑’ Kˣ, ‘eljum‑’ 54, Bb;    ‑fróðum: ‑prúðum J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 54, Bb, 761aˣ    [7] seið: eiðs J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 761aˣ, seiðs 54, seiði Bb    [8] lœ‑: lað‑ 54, Bb;    varð: var Bb;    flœja: ‘flegia’ J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 761aˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 1. Glymdrápa 8: AI, 23-4, BI, 21, Skald I, 13, NN §§234 Anm., 1021; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 129, IV, 37-8, ÍF 26, 121, Hkr 1991, I, 75 (HHárf ch. 22), F 1871, 50; Fms 1, 194, Fms 12, 46, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 212 (ch. 95).

Context: King Haraldr learns that vikings overwintering in the British Isles are harrying in his kingdom, and goes to the Orkneys, Shetland and Scotland to fight them there. When he arrives on Mǫn (the Isle of Man), he discovers that the population has fled with their possessions to Scotland, so he cannot seize any booty.

Notes: [All]: In discussions of the stanza, the primary question has been whether both helmingar refer to the same event or each refers to a separate one, as the prose of Hkr indicates. (a) Because áðr ‘before’ is best taken as a conj. rather than an adv. (see Note to l. 5), one could assume either separate events (Holtsmark 1927, 52) or a single incident of attack and flight (von See 1977b, 69-70; Hofmann 1978-9, 69-70). (b) Acceptance of Hkr’s representation leads early eds (Nj 1875-8, II, 384; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) to understand áðr as an adv. and to assume each helmingr refers to a different event. — [1-4]: This helmingr is given extra ornamentation through the use of dunhent in margar | margspakar : vargar and sandi | sandmens : randir (Fidjestøl 1982, 219; Naumann 1998, 239). — [4] í bý sandmens ‘into the settlement by the shore-ring [SEA]’: (a) Sandmen ‘shore-ring’ corresponds to the numerous sea-kennings based on the pattern ‘ring of the earth’ (Meissner 94-5); sandr is taken to mean sandy shore here (as it appears to in l. 3); see LP: sandr 3. The settlement is not identified in the stanza and its location remains uncertain. Several scholars accept the Hkr identification with the Isle of Man, while others write of a non-localisable settlement on the sea. (b) Finnur Jónsson (1884, 76-8) was at first doubtful about sandmens because sandr usually denotes the sandy sea-floor, so he considers preferring the reading landmens ‘of the land-ring’ (J1ˣ, 54, Bb); but see Nj 1875-8, II, 966. — [5] áðr ‘before’: Whereas earlier commentators (Nj 1875-8, II, 384; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) prefer a translation as adv. ‘earlier’ (see Note to [All] above), a consensus later develops that the word must be a conj. ‘before’ (LP: áðr; ÍF 26; NN §234 Anm.; von See 1977b, 68), particularly following Holtsmark’s study (1927, 51) of áðr-clauses. Moreover Hofmann (1978-9, 69) notes the importance of the position of the verb. When áðr appears as an adv., the verb follows it immediately, but as a conj. áðr calls for a verb-final construction. — [5] eljunfróðum ‘mettle-wise’: The adj. should be viewed as a copulative cpd, i.e. ‘mettlesome and wise’ rather than ‘wise in mettle’, as its semantic content results from the sum of its individual parts (Krahe and Meid 1969, 25). This is the reading of the main ms. , and it is supported by margspakr ‘very wise’ in l. 2 (ÓT 1892, 350). The mss also offer a variant eljunprúðum which might be secondary (cf. Note to st. 6/8). — [6] þverri Skota ‘the destroyer of Scots [= Haraldr]’: (a) Contrary to nearly all other eds, the present edn follows a suggestion of Hofmann (1978-9, 69-70) and assumes that the contiguous words Skota þverri form a kenning for Haraldr. This interpretation has the advantage of being compatible with herr varð flœja seið lǫgðis ‘the host had to flee from the incantation of the sword [BATTLE]’ in ms. Kˣ. (b) Other eds have chosen the reading eiðs ‘of the isthmus’ (761aˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ) instead of seið ‘incantation’ and combine it with lǫgðis ‘of the sword’ to form a shield-kenning ‘land of the sword’, which they further combine with þverri ‘destroyer’ to form a warrior-kenning (Nj 1875-8, II, 386, 388; ÓT 1892, 350; ÍF 26; von See 1977b, 68). However, a majority of mss have a form of seið (seið, seiðs, seiði), and it would be more likely for an original s- to be dropped here, where two s’s are in contact, than for one to have been inserted (Holtsmark 1927, 9). — [8] lœbrautar ‘of the pollack-path [SEA]’: The first element of the cpd has been subject to various interpretations: (a) - as from lœr, lýr ‘pollack’; lœbraut ‘pollack-path’ is then a sea-kenning which combines with láð ‘land’ to form an island-kenning (Nj 1875-8, II, 386-7; ÓT 1892, 350; ÍF 26; von See 1977b, 68; Hofmann 1978-9, 70; Hkr 1991 and this edn). The word form - seems to be unique. Elsewhere the word appears as lýr, often as a determinant in sea-kennings, as in lýbraut ‘pollack-path’ in Þuríðr Lv 1/5V (Heið 4), an exact parallel to the present kenning; see also LP: lýr. The form lœ- cannot be explained easily. It could be regarded as poetic licence and an attempt to adapt the word to the inf. flœja ‘flee’. Alternatively, lýbraut and flýja might originally have formed the aðalhending, then, since both flýja and flœja existed as derivatives of Gmc fliuhan (ANG §§98.2, 230.2, 488 Anm. 2, 513 Anm. 3) flœja could have replaced flýja, which in turn would have caused the change from - to - in order to preserve the aðalhending. (b) ‘harm, deceit, woe’. As læbraut ‘path of harm’, this cpd has been arranged into various kennings with lǫgðis (s)eiðs (see Meissner 74; Holtsmark 1927, 9-11; Fidjestøl 1982, 79-80). The complexity of these kennings makes each of them doubtful, however, and more importantly - could not form an exact aðalhending with flœja in the C10th.

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