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Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn)

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

2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) (Harkv) - 23

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 24 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23 

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, 109

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

15 — Þhorn Harkv 15I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 15’ 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. 109.

‘Hversu es fégjafall,         þeim es fold verja,
ítr* ógnflýtir         við íþróttarmenn sína?’

‘Hversu es fégjafall, þeim es verja fold, {ítr* ógnflýtir} við íþróttarmenn sína?’

‘How generous is [he] to those who guard [his] land, {the excellent war-hastener} [WARRIOR] to his men of skills?’

Mss: 51ˣ(2v), FskBˣ(3r), 302ˣ(4v), FskAˣ(8), 52ˣ(4r), 301ˣ(3v) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] es (‘er’): so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, er hann 51ˣ, 302ˣ, er þat FskBˣ;    ‑gjafall: ‑gjafa 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, ‑gjafal FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ    [2] es (‘er’): sem FskAˣ, 52ˣ    [3] ítr*: ítra all;    ‑flýtir: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, ‑flýtr 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 15: AI, 27, BI, 24, Skald I, 15, FF §56; Fsk 1902-3, 9, ÍF 29, 61-2 (ch. 2); Möbius 1860, 230, Jón Helgason 1946, 137, Jón Helgason 1968, 19.

Context: In Fsk, this and the following five stanzas are offered in support of the observation that Haraldr was a generous king.

Notes: [All]: The valkyrie begins a new series of questions to the raven. Finnur Jónsson’s suggestion (LH I, 429 n. 1) that here the raven becomes the questioner and the valkyrie the respondent seems unlikely, given the address to the raven in st. 20/2, and the fact that it is the raven who has followed Haraldr since birth (see st. 4/5-8) and thus can provide information about his court. — [3] ítr* ‘excellent’: (a) Ms. ítra is here emended to ítr so that it may qualify ógnflýtir ‘war-hastener [WARRIOR]’, as suggested by Jón Helgason (1946, 137). (b) The syntax is decidedly strained when ms. ítra is construed as m. acc. pl. with íþróttarmenn ‘men of skills’ (l. 4; so Skj B) or as f. acc. sg. with fold ‘land’ (l. 2), especially in view of the simple syntax that characterises the rest of the stanzas. (c) Kock (FF §56) proposes analysing ítra as a substantival m. gen. pl. dependent on ógnflýtir ‘war-hastener’, together giving the sense ‘warrior of warriors’, i.e. best of warriors. Alternatively, Jón Helgason (1946, 137) mentions the possibility of interpreting ógnflýtir ítra as ‘causer of terror to chieftains’, ascribing to ógn- its fundamental sense ‘terror’ rather than the transferred sense ‘war’ that it usually has in verse. Yet these proposals face the difficulty that ítr is nowhere else used as a substantive, and both produce more than usually elliptical sense. — [4] íþróttarmenn ‘men of skills’: Lit. ‘men of skill, accomplishment’. On metrical grounds, Sueti (1884, 27) and Wisén (1886-9) emend to inndrótt ‘retinue’.

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