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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, 100

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — Þhorn Harkv 7I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 7’ 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. 100.

‘Heyrðir þú, í Hafrsfirði         hvé hizug barðisk
konungr inn kynstóri         við Kjǫtva inn auðlagða?
Knerrir kvômu austan         kapps of lystir
með gínǫndum hǫfðum         ok grǫfnum tinglum.

‘Heyrðir þú, hvé inn kynstóri konungr barðisk við Kjǫtva inn auðlagða hizug í Hafrsfirði? Knerrir kvômu austan, of lystir kapps, með gínǫndum hǫfðum ok grǫfnum tinglum.

‘Have you heard how the high-born king fought with Kjǫtvi inn auðlagði (‘the Wealthy’) there in Hafrsfjorden? Ships came from the east, eager for battle, with gaping figure-heads and graven prow-boards.

Mss: (62r), F(10vb), J1ˣ(34v-35r), J2ˣ(35v) (Hkr); 51ˣ(4r-v), FskBˣ(5r-v), 302ˣ(7v), FskAˣ(7), 52ˣ(6v-7r), 301ˣ(5v) (Fsk); Flat(76vb) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Heyrðir þú: Heyrðu 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, Heyrði Flat    [2] hizug: hiz 301ˣ, hraustliga Flat    [3] inn: om. 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, ‘en’ 52ˣ;    kynstóri: kostsami J1ˣ, J2ˣ, kynstórr 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ    [4] Kjǫtva inn: ‘Kiotvan’ 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, FskAˣ, 52ˣ, Kjǫtvann 301ˣ;    auðlagða: augða F, ‘æðlagða’ corrected from ‘æglagða’ J1ˣ    [6] kapps: ‘haps’ J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    lystir: fylldi J1ˣ, fylldir J2ˣ    [7] gínǫndum: ‘ginenðum’ J1ˣ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 7: AI, 25, BI, 23, Skald I, 14; Hkr 1777-1826, I, 95, VI, 17, Hkr 1868, 62, Hkr 1893-1901, I, 124, IV, 34, ÍF 26, 115-16, Hkr 1991, I, 71 (HHárf ch. 18/19), F 1871, 48; Fsk 1902-3, 16 (ch. 2), ÍF 29, 67 (ch. 3); Fms 10, 190, Fms 12, 225, Flat 1860-8, I, 574 (HarHárf); Möbius 1860, 229, Jón Helgason 1946, 142-3, Jón Helgason 1968, 17.

Context: Stanzas 7-11 are cited to describe the battle of Hafrsfjǫrðr (Hafrsfjorden), the climax of Haraldr’s quest to impose control and taxation on the whole of Norway. The enemy fleet is under two kings, Kjǫtvi and Haklangr (and others are named in Hkr and Flat). The stanzas follow the description of the preparations for the battle in Fsk and Flat, and of its outcome in Hkr.

Notes: [All]: For the battle of Hafrsfjǫrðr, see also Þjóð Har 4, and possibly Þhorn Gldr 3-5. In addition to the account in Hkr, which derives chiefly from the present poem, there is one in Egils saga (ÍF 2 , 22-7). See also ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume, and Note to l. 4 below. — [All]: Stanzas 7-11 are attributed to Þjóðólfr ór Hvini in Fsk and Flat but to Þorbjǫrn hornklofi in Hkr.  — [1] heyrðir þú ‘have you heard?’: (a) The person addressed is presumed to be the valkyrie, and the direct address here supports the assumption that this and the next four stanzas are indeed part of this poem. The utterance could alternatively be a statement rather than a question (so, e.g., Sueti 1884, 33). In both Hkr and Fsk these five stanzas concerning the battle follow not long after other stanzas from the poem, with some intervening material. (b) It is easier to treat the Flat and Fsk readings as corruptions of the Hkr reading than to treat either as original: Flat has Heyrði ‘(One) heard’ (so Fsk 1902-3 and Skj B) and Fsk has Heyrðu ‘They (impersonal) have heard’, or possibly ‘Listen’ (so Kershaw 1922, 90; Lindquist 1929, 4). — [1] Hafrsfirði ‘Hafrsfjorden’: A few kilometres to the west of Stavanger, this is the site of Haraldr’s great battle; see Notes to [All] and l. 4. — [4] Kjǫtva ‘Kjǫtvi’: Probably a nickname meaning ‘Fleshy’. According to Hkr, he was king of Agðir (Agder); in Vatnsdœla saga (ÍF 8, 23-4) he is called Ásbjǫrn kjǫtvi, though nowhere else. According to Snorri (ÍF 26, 114), Haraldr faced a formidable confederation of kings of the south-west, from Hordaland, Rogaland, Agder and Telemark. However, Harkv names only Kjǫtvi and his son Þórir haklangr (st. 9/8, also RvHbreið Hl 60/6III), and von See (1961b, 105-111), relying in part on the earlier arguments of Schreiner (1933 and 1936), argues that Haraldr faced only these two, and that he was already king not of Vestfold but of Rogaland and Hordaland. — [5] knerrir ‘ships’: The word has often been thought chiefly to denote merchants’ ships, but there is ample evidence that ships of this type were used in battle: see Falk (1912, 107-10), Kuhn (1951), and Jesch (2001a, 128-32). — [5] austan ‘from the east’: I.e. to the north and west, up the coast from the direction of Lindesnes, an important landmark in Vest-Agder. — [7] gínǫndum hǫfðum ‘gaping figure-heads’: Prow-ornaments in the shape of dragon- or other animal-heads; see Jesch (2001a, 145-6). — [8] tinglum ‘prow-boards’: These are carved boards, or possibly engraved sheets of metal, forming part of the prow: see Eggert Ó. Brím (1895, 20-3); Shetelig and Falk (1937, 358); Jesch (2001a, 148-9).

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