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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, 111

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

17 — Þhorn Harkv 17I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 17’ 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. 111.

‘Þá eru þeir reifir,         es vitu rómu væni,
ǫrvir upp at hlaupa         ok árar at sveigja,
hǫmlur at brjóta         en hái at slíta;
ríkuliga hygg ek þá vǫrru þeysa         at vísa ráði.’

‘Þá eru þeir reifir, es vitu væni rómu, ǫrvir at hlaupa upp ok at sveigja árar, at brjóta hǫmlur en at slíta hái; ek hygg þá þeysa vǫrru ríkuliga at ráði vísa.’

‘Then they are glad, when they know [there is] prospect of battle, ready to leap up and to bend oars, to break thongs and to shatter oarports; I think they speed the oar-strokes powerfully at the bidding of the leader.’

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

Readings: [2] vitu: vita FskBˣ    [3] ǫrvir: ‘orpir’ FskBˣ    [4] sveigja: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, ‘svægia’ 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, ‘sveghia’ 301ˣ    [5] hǫmlur: ‘homlr’ FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ    [6] at: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, om. 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ    [7] ríku‑: so 52ˣ, 301ˣ, ‘ræiku‑’ 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 17: AI, 27, BI, 24, Skald I, 15, NN §3205; Fsk 1902-3, 10, ÍF 29, 62 (ch. 2); Möbius 1860, 230, Jón Helgason 1946, 138, Jón Helgason 1968, 19.

Context: As for st. 15.

Notes: [4] at sveigja árar ‘to bend oars’: The implication is that their rowing is so energetic that the oars bend with the force of it. — [5-6] at brjóta hǫmlur en at slíta hái ‘to break thongs and to shatter oarports’: A hamla is a leather thong, loop or strap, while a hár is an oarport, which is ‘[a hole] in the top strake or sometimes lower’ (see Jesch 2001a, 155-6). Some eds reverse the position of the two verbs to give brjóta hái ‘break oarports’ and slíta hǫmlur ‘snap, split, tear thongs’, comparing Am 37/5-6 hǫmlor slitnoðo, háir brotnoðo ‘thongs split, oarports broke’ (NK 252; so Wisén 1886-9; Fsk 1902-3; Skj B; Skald). The verbs do indeed seem better applied thus; yet Jón Helgason (1946, 138) notes that hamla has been retained in Norway, where it designates a wider variety of mechanisms for retaining oars than simply thongs, and thus emendation may not be advisable. — [7] ríkuliga ‘powerfully’: Fsk 1902-3, Skj B and Skald print ríkula, with the same meaning, presumably on grounds of metre. Further, Kock (NN §3205) would delete hygg ek þá ‘I think them’, making vǫrru þeysa ‘to make oar-strokes rush forth’ parallel to the preceding inf. constructions. This creates a parallel construction that is mirrored in the other stanzas, rather than beginning a new sentence in l. 7. This may be correct, but since the text is not obviously faulty, the present edn does not emend.

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