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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, 99

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Þhorn Harkv 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 6’ 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. 99.

‘Úti vill jól drekka,         ef skal einn ráða,
fylkir inn framlyndi,         ok Freys leik heyja.
Ungr leiddisk eldvelli         ok inni at sitja,
varma dyngju         eða vǫttu dúns fulla.

‘Inn framlyndi fylkir vill drekka jól úti, ef einn skal ráða, ok heyja {leik Freys}. Ungr leiddisk eldvelli ok at sitja inni, varma dyngju eða vǫttu fulla dúns.

The courageous leader wants to toast the Yuletide out at sea, if he alone has his way, and practise {the sport of Freyr <god>} [BATTLE]. [When] young he grew tired of cooking by the fire and sitting indoors, of a warm women’s chamber and of mittens filled with down.

Mss: (60r-v), F(10va), J1ˣ(33v), J2ˣ(34r-v) (Hkr); 51ˣ(2r), FskBˣ(2v-3r), 302ˣ(3r-4v), FskAˣ(8), 52ˣ(3v), 301ˣ(3v) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] drekka: dreka J1ˣ    [4] heyja: heygja J1ˣ, heyja corrected from hefja 51ˣ, 302ˣ, hefja FskBˣ, FskAˣ    [5] leiddisk: ‘læiddz’ J1ˣ;    ‑velli: vísi F, ‑pelli FskBˣ    [6] ok: eða J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    at: om. J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ    [8] fulla: ‘fula’ FskBˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 6: AI, 25, BI, 22-3, Skald I, 14; Hkr 1777-1826, I, 92, VI, 16, Hkr 1868, 60, Hkr 1893-1901, I, 120, IV, 32, ÍF 26, 112, Hkr 1991, I, 68 (HHárf ch. 15/16), F 1871, 47; Fsk 1902-3, 8-9, ÍF 29, 61 (ch. 2); Möbius 1860, 228-9, Jón Helgason 1946, 136-7, Jón Helgason 1968, 16-17.

Context: In Fsk, as for st. 1. In Hkr, the stanza is offered in support of an account of how Haraldr over the course of a winter regained control of Vingulmǫrk (in Viken) and harried in Ranríki (Bohuslän).

Notes: [4] leik Freys ‘the sport of Freyr <god> [BATTLE]’: Snorri apparently understood the kenning to mean ‘battle’, given that he cites the stanza in evidence of Haraldr’s war-making over the winter. Since Freyr is not generally known as a god of war but rather of fertility, it has been suggested (by Ólafur Briem: see ÍF 26, 112) that this may instead refer to some fertility rite associated with Yule. Yet leikr is not otherwise known to have the meaning ‘sacrifice, offering’ that its cognate OE lāc may have. Toasts were, however, drunk to Óðinn, Njǫrðr and Freyr at Yule, as observed in Hkr (ÍF 26, 168). Hkr 1991 suggests as an alternative that ‘Freyr’s sport’ is love, but this would seem to contradict the point of the stanza, which is that Haraldr has never cared for ease and pleasure. — [5] ungr ‘[when] young’: Sueti (1884, 26) would delete ungr on metrical grounds; cf. Sievers (1879, 296). — [5] eldvelli ‘cooking by the fire’: The translation (so ÍF 26; Hkr 1991) is a conjecture, as velli (presumably n. acc. sg.) is otherwise unattested (cf. vella f. ‘boiling heat’), and the resulting cpd is unusual. It is not clear whether the word refers to cooking food or warming oneself by the fire. Jón Helgason (1946, 136) suggests that the word could refer to a vessel for boiling meat, so that the passage would mean that Haraldr spurned the comfort of cooked food (cf. HHund II 7-9).

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