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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 5 December 2021)

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, 116

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

23 — Þhorn Harkv 23I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 23’ 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. 116.

‘At hundi elskar Andaðr         ok heimsku drýgir
eyrnalausum         ok jǫfur hlœgir.
Hinir eru ok aðrir,         es of eld skulu
        brennanda spôn bera;
logǫndum húfum         hafa sér und linda drepit
        hældræpir halir.’

‘Andaðr elskar at eyrnalausum hundi ok drýgir heimsku ok hlœgir jǫfur. Hinir eru ok aðrir, es skulu bera brennanda spôn of eld; hældræpir halir hafa drepit logǫndum húfum und linda sér.’

‘Andaðr fondles an earless dog, and he plays the fool and makes the king laugh. There are also others whose practice is to pass a burning wood-chip across a fire; those men who deserve kicking have tucked blazing caps under their belts.’

Mss: 51ˣ(3r-v), FskBˣ(4r), 302ˣ(5v-6r), FskAˣ(11-12), 52ˣ(5r), 301ˣ(4r-v) (Fsk)

Readings: [8] logǫndum: ‘loghandum’ 301ˣ    [9] sér: so FskBˣ, FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, þeir with sér in margin 51ˣ, 302ˣ    [10] ‑dræpir: ‘‑dræipir’ 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 23: AI, 28-9, BI, 25, Skald I, 16, NN §§1506, 2410; Fsk 1902-3, 12, ÍF 29, 64 (ch. 2); Möbius 1860, 231, Jón Helgason 1946, 141, Jón Helgason 1968, 21.

Context: As for st. 22.

Notes: [All]: The raven replies. — [1] elskar at ‘fondles’: The suggestion of Kershaw (1922, 87, supported by Sigfús Blöndal 1927-8, 60 n. 1 and Jón Helgason 1946, 141). Skj B suggests viser omhu for ‘is solicitous about’. Jugglers with performing dogs are mentioned in Sverris saga (ÍF 30, 130-2), where are cited Máni Lv 2-3II, two contemptuous lausavísur about such performers. — [2] drýgir heimsku ‘he plays the fool’: Lit. ‘practises folly’.  — [5-10]: Here the metre changes from málaháttr to ljóðaháttr. — [7] spôn ‘wood-chip’: The exact nature of the entertainment is disputed. Kock (NN §1506) sees here an allusion to antics of the sort that he himself apparently had seen fire-eaters engage in: they would pass wood-shavings through (of) flames without setting them on fire (and see following Note). Accordingly, he rejects the collocation brennanda spôn ‘burning wood-shaving’ of Skj B (and here) and instead construes brennanda with eld ‘fire’. But the resulting syntax is uncharacteristic of the poem (Jón Helgason 1946, 141). Sigfús Blöndal (1927-8) would emend to brennandi spǫnn ‘burning pails’, in reference to bowls of scalding hot wine carried round the fire or (less convincingly in the Viking Age) to liquor flambé . — [8] logǫndum húfum ‘blazing caps’: As with the wood-chip in l. 7 (see Note), there have been several attempts to imagine the nature of the entertainment, often involving emendation of the text. Larsen (1943-6, II, 248) understands the performers to be placing blazing caps on their bare stomachs. CPB I, 258 would read logǫndum lúfum ‘flaming shock-locks’. Olsen (1915) suggests logǫndum stúfum ‘burning stumps’ (in reference to phallic exhibitionism, the ‘burning’ being metaphorical); and Holtsmark (1950, 247) recommends the same emendation, arguing that the ‘stumps’ are blazing torches that the entertainers wield ‘under the belt’ in a phallic dance. Sigfús Blöndal (1927-8) proposes lafandum húfum ‘dangling caps’, in reference to fools’ caps with very long peaks or tassels. Lindquist (1929, 8-9) emends to lotrǫndum, which he takes to mean ‘dangling’. Kock (NN §2410) argues that WGmc *log- ‘dangle’ was borrowed and misconstrued. — [10] hældræpir ‘who deserve kicking’: Lit. ‘heel-strikable, worthy to be struck with the heel’. Sigfús Blöndal (1927-8) suggests a pun on the alternate meaning ‘reaching to the heels’ in conjunction with his proposal that the caps have comically long peaks or tassels. Flo (1902, 69) takes the word to mean ‘one who hops or dances on his heels’ and similarly Kershaw (1922, 87) translates ‘skipping’. ÍF 29, 64 adopts the reading heldræpir ‘who may be dispatched to death/the realm of the dead’ in the FskA transcripts and interprets it to mean réttdræpir, i.e. ‘who may be killed without legal offence’ (similarly Magerøy 1963, 86). This analysis was first proposed by Benedikt Gröndal, as reported by Sueti (1884, 32-3).

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