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.

notes
my abbr.

Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) — Þhorn HarkvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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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, 105

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

10 — Þhorn Harkv 10I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 10’ 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. 105.

‘Leiddisk þá fyr Lúfu         landi at halda
hilmi inum halsdigra;         holm lét sér at skjaldi.
Slógusk und sessþiljur,         es sárir vôru;
létu upp stjǫlu stúpa;         stungu í kjǫl hǫfðum.

‘Inum halsdigra hilmi leiddisk þá at halda landi fyr Lúfu; lét holm at skjaldi sér. Slógusk und sessþiljur, es vôru sárir; létu stjǫlu stúpa upp; stungu hǫfðum í kjǫl.

‘The fat-necked prince [Kjǫtvi] grew tired then of holding the land against Lúfa (‘Shaggy-locks’) [Haraldr]; he let an islet be a shield to himself. They threw themselves under the bench-planks, those who were wounded; they let their rumps stick up; they plunged their heads into the bilge.

Mss: (62v), F(10vb), J1ˣ(35r), J2ˣ(35v-36r) (Hkr); 51ˣ(4v), FskBˣ(5v), 302ˣ(7v-8r), FskAˣ(16-17), 52ˣ(7r), 301ˣ(5v-6r) (Fsk); Flat(76vb) (Flat)

Readings: [2] landi: landi at landi 301ˣ    [4] lét: létu Flat;    at: om. 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ;    skjaldi: skildi 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, Flat    [5] und sess‑: sess um Flat    [7] stjǫlu: stælu J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    stúpa: stúfa J1ˣ, J2ˣ, standa Flat

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 10: AI, 26, BI, 23, Skald I, 15, NN §3277; Hkr 1777-1826, I, 95-6, VI, 17-18, Hkr 1868, 62, Hkr 1893-1901, I, 124, IV, 35-6, ÍF 26, 117, Hkr 1991, I, 72 (HHárf ch. 18/19), F 1871, 48; Fsk 1902-3, 17 (ch. 2), ÍF 29, 86 (ch. 3); Fms 10, 191, Fms 12, 226, Flat 1860-8, I, 574 (HarHárf); Möbius 1860, 229, Jón Helgason 1946, 144, Jón Helgason 1968, 18.

Context: As for st. 7. The Hkr prose preceding sts 7-11 portrays the flight of Haraldr’s enemies at the close of the battle of Hafrsfjǫrðr: Þá flýði Kjǫtvi konungr ok í hólma nǫkkurn, þar er vígi var mikit ‘Then Kjǫtvi went away and onto a certain islet, where there was a large stronghold’.

Notes: [1] leiddisk þá fyr Lúfu ‘grew tired then ... against Lúfa (“Shaggy-locks”) [Haraldr]’: A stanza with this same first line (Þjóð Har 4) is attributed to Þjóðólfr ór Hvini in Flat (Flat 1860-8, I, 574). Sueti (1884, 17) argues that it is this similarity that led to the attribution of sts 7-11 to Þjóðólfr in Fsk and Flat. On the nickname Lúfa ‘Shaggy-locks’, which here functions like a pers. n., see biography of Haraldr in ‘Ruler biographies’, in Introduction to this volume. — [4] lét holm at skjaldi sér ‘he let an islet be a shield to himself’: This could mean that Kjǫtvi fled onto an islet (so Munch and Unger 1847, 137; Nygaard 1875, 317; Uppström 1919, 41; Larsen 1943-6, II, 315) or that he fled behind one (so Herbert 1804, 36; Lindquist 1929, 5; Hollander 1964a, 75). Snorri’s interpretation is the former (see Context above), but it seems questionable, since seeking a place to fight out the contest on land would not make Kjǫtvi appear cowardly, though that seems to be the intent of the line. Indeed, Du Méril (1839, 159 n. 2) remarks in a related context that combats waged on an island were bloodier, since flight was easier at sea. In Flat, however, before Þjóð Har 4, it is said that Kjǫtvi got away onto an islet, so that he could not be captured (Flat 1860-8, I, 574). As for skjaldi (dat. sg.) ‘shield’, this is apparently an old analogical variant for the usual skildi (as in Flat and the Fsk mss; see Finnur Jónsson 1901, 56 and 1912, 42). The form is also found on the Rök stone (Run Ög136VI), from the first half of the C9th. — [6] es ‘who’: The word is interpreted by most as a rel. pron. ‘who’, though Kock (NN §3277) would assume temporal force, ‘when’.

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