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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, ‘(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, 110

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

16 — Þhorn Harkv 16I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 16’ 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. 110.

‘Mjǫk eru reifðir         rógbirtingar,
þeir es í Haralds túni         húnum verpa.
* Féi eru þeir gœddir         ok fǫgrum mætum,
malmi húnlenzkum         ok mani austrœnu.

‘{Rógbirtingar} eru mjǫk reifðir, þeir es verpa húnum í túni Haralds. Þeir eru gœddir * féi ok fǫgrum mætum, húnlenzkum malmi ok austrœnu mani.

‘{Strife-displayers} [WARRIORS] are greatly enriched, those who cast dice at Haraldr’s court. They are endowed with valuables and handsome treasures, with Hunnish metal and an eastern bondwoman.

Mss: 51ˣ(2v), FskBˣ(3r), 302ˣ(4v), FskAˣ(8-9), 52ˣ(4r), 301ˣ(3v) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] reifðir: reyfðir 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, FskAˣ, 52ˣ    [5] * Féi: í fé 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, ‘IIfe’ or ‘Ufe’ FskAˣ, 301ˣ, ‘Ufe’ 52ˣ;    þeir gœddir: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, þess beðnir 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ    [6] mætum: so 301ˣ, ‘mæcom’ corrected from ‘mætom’ 51ˣ, 302ˣ, FskAˣ, ‘mæcom’ FskBˣ, 52ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 16: AI, 27, BI, 24, Skald I, 15; Fsk 1902-3, 9, ÍF 29, 62 (ch. 2); Möbius 1860, 230, Jón Helgason 1946, 137-8, Jón Helgason 1968, 19. 

Context: As for st. 15.

Notes: [All]: The raven replies. — [3-4]: A similar picture is part of the golden age of the gods portrayed in Vsp 8/1 (NK 2): teflðo í túni ‘they played board-games in the enclosure/meadow’. — [4] húnum ‘dice’: The word refers to gaming pieces, such as those in the game called tafl or hnefatafl or else (in later contexts) in chess: on these see Note to Rv Lv 1/1II. In the present context, the verb verpa ‘cast’ may more specifically suggest dice. Húnn seems to have the meaning ‘die, dice’ as the solution to one of Gestumblindi’s riddles in Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks (Gestumbl Heiðr 26VIII (Heiðr 73)). — [5] * féi ‘with valuables’: The dat. ending -i is required here by the metre, but the later monosyllabic form seems to have replaced it in transmission, with a prep. added to compensate. In the FskA transcripts this prep. appears as a heavy mark that may be ‘II’ or ‘U’, perhaps a corruption of Ii (= Í). — [6] mætum ‘treasures’: (a) This, the reading of 301ˣ (and 51ˣ, 302ˣ, FskAˣ, though altered there to ‘mæcom’) fits the context better and is supported by Árni Magnússon’s transcript in 761aˣ. (b) Möbius (1860), Fsk 1902-3 and Skj B read mækum ‘swords’, in agreement with most of the transcripts of Fsk. Skald prints mækjum, the more correct form (Jón Helgason 1968, 19). — [7] húnlenzkum malmi ‘with Hunnish metal’: This is the only skaldic instance of the adj. (LP: húnlenzkr). It may refer to the area of modern Hungary, but eddic references to the Húnar or Húnaland relate to the people and land of Attila the Hun (d. 454), legendary enemy of the Burgundian Nibelung dynasty. For discussion of the possible identification of Húnaland with Saxland, see Beck (1994c). Malmr ‘metal’ could refer to precious metal or weaponry (see LP: malmr). — [8] austrœnu ‘eastern’: Perhaps here from the Baltic or Slavonic territories (ONP: austrœnn I. 3) or from eastern Scandinavia.

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