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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn)

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

2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) (Harkv) - 23

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.

Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) — Þhorn HarkvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘ Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál)’ 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. 91. <> (accessed 5 December 2021)

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Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál), Flere af de herhenhørende vers tillægges i forskellige håndskrifter Tjodolf hvinverske. (AI, 24-9, BI, 22-5)

SkP info: I, 94

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Þhorn Harkv 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 1’ 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. 94.

Hlýði hringberendr,         meðan ek frá Haraldi segi
odda íþróttir         inum afarauðga.
Frá môlum mun ek segja,         þeim es ek mey heyrða
hvíta haddbjarta,         es við hrafn dœmði.

{Hringberendr} hlýði, meðan ek segi íþróttir odda frá Haraldi inum afarauðga. Ek mun segja frá môlum, þeim es ek heyrða hvíta, haddbjarta mey, es dœmði við hrafn.

Let {sword-bearers} [WARRIORS] listen, while I recount feats of weapon-points concerning Haraldr the exceedingly wealthy. I shall recount the words that I heard a white, bright-haired girl [utter] when she spoke with a raven.

Mss: 51ˣ(1v), FskBˣ(2r), 302ˣ(2v), FskAˣ(6), 52ˣ(3r), 301ˣ(3r) (Fsk)

Readings: [2] ek: om. FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ;    segi: segi ek FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ    [3] odda: oddi FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ;    íþróttir: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, íþróttar 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ    [4] afarauðga: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, hárfagra 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ    [8] dœmði: rœddi FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 1: AI, 24, BI, 22, Skald I, 14, NN §1815; Fsk 1902-3, 6, ÍF 29, 59-60 (ch. 2); Möbius 1860, 228, Jón Helgason 1946, 133-4, Jón Helgason 1968, 15.

Context: In Fsk, this stanza and the next five are offered in evidence of the remark that champions flocked to Haraldr hárfagri because of his munificence and the splendour of his court.

Notes: [1] hringberendr ‘sword-bearers [WARRIORS]’: Hringr refers to a ring on a sword-hilt, and hence by pars pro toto is used as sword-heiti, and this is assumed here (so Skj B, and see LP: 2. hringr, Tveiten 1966, 18, and Note to Þul Sverða 7/7III). If on the other hand hring- is literal, i.e. ‘ring’, the meaning is ‘nobles’ (see ÍF 29, 59 n.). — [3] íþróttir odda ‘feats of weapon-points’: This could be considered a battle-kenning, as by Meissner (Meissner 201), though there are no close parallels. — [4] afarauðga ‘exceedingly wealthy’: The use of this epithet is appropriate to the context of addressing courtiers, for whom a ruler’s wealth (and thus his munificence) is of the first importance. The variant hárfagra ‘Fair-hair’ does not supply the necessary (vocalic) alliteration. It may be influenced by the fact that it appears in early poetry (Þjóð Har 5/7 and Jór Send 2/4) and became the conventional nickname of Haraldr; see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. — [6] þeim es ek heyrða ... mey ‘that I heard a ... girl’: This is elliptical, lacking an inf. of a verb of saying. (a) In the translation given here, segja (frá) of l. 5 is assumed to be supplied again in the next line, hence ‘recount … [utter]’ (so Ulset 1975, 27). (b) Skj B interprets the construction as ‘the words that I heard from a girl’, to which Kock (NN §1815) objects on the ground that mey cannot mean ‘from a girl’. (c) Kock assumes a mixed construction, in which dœma môlum ‘speak (in) words’ is conflated with ek heyrða mey, es dœmði ‘I heard a girl who spoke’, equivalent to ek heyrða, at mær dœmði ‘I heard that a girl spoke’. Note that es ‘when’ in l. 8 may instead mean ‘who’, while Kershaw (1922, 83) interprets it as ‘as, when’.

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