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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, 102

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Þhorn Harkv 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 8’ 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. 102.

‘Hlaðnir vôru þeir hǫlða         ok hvítra skjalda,
vigra vestrœnna         ok valskra sverða.
Grenjuðu berserkir;         guðr vas þeim á sinnum;
emjuðu ulfheðnar         ok ísǫrn dúðu.

‘Þeir vôru hlaðnir hǫlða ok hvítra skjalda, vestrœnna vigra ok valskra sverða. Berserkir grenjuðu; guðr vas þeim á sinnum; ulfheðnar emjuðu ok dúðu ísǫrn.

‘They [the ships] were loaded with men and white shields, western spears and Frankish swords. Berserks bellowed; battle was under way for them; wolf-skins [berserks] howled and brandished iron spears.

Mss: (62r-v), F(10vb), J1ˣ(35r), J2ˣ(35v) (Hkr); 51ˣ(4v), FskBˣ(5v), 302ˣ(7v), FskAˣ(16), 52ˣ(7r), 301ˣ(5v) (Fsk); Flat(76vb) (Flat)

Readings: [1] þeir: om. F    [2] ok: om. Flat;    hvítra skjalda: hvítum skjǫldum Flat    [3] vigra vestrœnna: vigr vestrœnni Flat    [4] valskra sverða: vǫlskum sverðum Flat    [5] Grenjuðu berserkir: ‘greinivðv berserkr’ J1ˣ    [6] guðr: grunr 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ;    vas (‘var’): varð F, er Flat;    þeim: om. F;    á sinnum: at sinni J1ˣ, J2ˣ, á sumum 52ˣ, hlífði Flat    [7] emjuðu: ‘ænn uðu’ 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, ymðu FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, ‘eníudu’ Flat;    ‑heðnar: ‑heiðnar J1ˣ, J2ˣ    [8] ok: om. Flat;    ísǫrn: ‘i sornn’ J1ˣ, í sár 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, í sár járn FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ;    dúðu: so J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 51ˣ, FskBˣ, 302ˣ, FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, glumðu Kˣ, gullu F, bitu Flat

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 2. Haraldskvæði (Hrafnsmál) 8: AI, 25-6, BI, 23, Skald I, 14; Hkr 1777-1826, I, 95, VI, 17, Hkr 1868, 62, Hkr 1893-1901, I, 124, IV, 34-5, ÍF 26, 116, Hkr 1991, I, 71-2 (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: As for st. 7.

Notes: [2] hvítra ‘white’: This could mean ‘unpainted’, perhaps contrasting with the fôðum rǫndum ‘painted shields’ of Haraldr’s men in st. 19/5: see Falk (1914b, 128), who also sees white shields as less attractive and less warrior-like, appropriate here for the enemy’s equipment. However, the spears and swords in this stanza seem to be of prestigious foreign manufacture, and cf. Akv 7/9 (NK 241), where sciold hvítastan ‘the whitest shield’ is among the items in a superlative armoury. — [3] vestrœnna ‘western’: Possibly from the British Isles. — [5, 7] berserkir; ulfheðnar ‘berserks; wolf-skins [berserks]’: Berserkir are normally characterized as warriors given to animal-like fighting frenzy (e.g. Blaney 1993, 37), and etymologised as ‘bear-tunics’ (AEW: berserkr), cf. ulfheðnar ‘wolf-skins’, in which heðinn is an animal fur or skin, or a hooded jacket or cloak made of skin. Von See (1961a) argues that berserkr was not a fixed term designating an actual C10th warrior type but a descriptive cpd that was misinterpreted and adopted by later skalds (including the one he believes added sts 12-23 to this poem). Moreover, the berserkir here are not, he says, Haraldr’s elite troop but his enemies. Liberman (2003) argues that ber- in the sense ‘bear’ occurs only as a borrowing from Ger. in berfjall ‘bear-skin’, and revives an earlier theory that in berserkir it is more likely to have meant, originally, ‘bare’ (adj. berr). — [6] guðr vas þeim á sinnum ‘battle was under way for them’: Guðr/gunnr is here taken as the common noun ‘battle’; so Hkr 1893-1901 and other eds. Alternatively, Guðr could be the valkyrie of that name who ‘was travelling with them’ (so ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991), but í sinni or í sinnum is the usual phrase for ‘accompanying’. Uppström (1919, 41) took á sinnum to mean ‘(warfare lay) in their hearts’, but sinni ‘mind’ is a post-Reformation borrowing from Ger. Lindquist (1929, 4) adopted the reading of the FskB transcripts, grunr ‘suspicion’, with the sense ‘foreboding’. — [8] dúðu ‘brandished’: This, 3rd pers. pl. pret. indic. of dýja, has strong ms. support and appears to be transitive, with the ulfheðnar ‘wolf-skins [berserks]’ as its subject and ísǫrn ‘iron spears’ as its object. The remaining readings, glumðu ‘rattled’, gullu ‘shrieked’, and bitu ‘bit’, are all intransitive verbs, which could suggest that ísǫrn was perceived as the subject, hence intransitive ‘iron spears shook’, but transitive usages are more usual in such contexts (LP: dýja), and the m. v. dýjask was available for intransitive use: cf. ESk Ingdr 3/3II dúðusk dǫrr ‘spears shook’. 

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