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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;

3. Lausavísa (Lv) - 1

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.

Lausavísa — Þhorn LvI

Margaret Clunies Ross 2012, ‘ Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Lausavísa’ 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. 117. <> (accessed 2 December 2021)


Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi: 3. Lausavísa (AI, 29, BI, 26); stanzas (if different): [v]

SkP info: I, 117

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Þhorn Lv 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2012, ‘Þorbjǫrn hornklofi, Lausavísa 1’ 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. 117.

Hildr of réð, þvís heldu
rngráts fyr mér *látri
(því emk lystr at lasta)
lestundir† (fǫr þessa).
Ok †liðbjúgrar leigrar
lét æva miksævar†;
eigi mun * við ekkju
austmanna fǫr sannask.

{Hildr {Hǫrngráts}} of réð, þvíslestundirheldu *látri fyr mér; því emk lystr at lasta þessa fǫr. Ok †liðbjúgrar leigrar† lét mik ævasævar†; fǫr austmanna við ekkju mun eigi * sannask.

{The Hildr <valkyrie> {of Hǫrn’s <= Freyja’s> weeping}} [GOLD > WOMAN] arranged it in such a way that … withheld a bed from me; for that reason I am keen to criticize this journey. And … never made me …; the journey of the Easterners to the widow will not come to pass.

Mss: Hb(102r) (Hb); 67aˣ(3r) (l. 1), 67bˣ(4) (l. 1) (Skáld)

Readings: [1] þvís heldu (‘þvi er helldv’): ‘þvi […]lldv’ Hb, því er heldu 67aˣ, 67bˣ, HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ    [2] rngráts: ‘ho[…]’ Hb, ‘horn […]’ HbFms n. p., Horngráts HbSnE, HbFJ;    fyr mér *látri: fyr mér hlátri Hb, HbSnE, HbFJ, ‘finn hl[…]t[…]’ HbFms n. p.    [3] lystr at lasta: ‘lystr at la[…]’ Hb, lystr at lasta HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ    [4] lestundir†: ‘[…]d[…]’ Hb, ‘lest[…]d’ HbFms n. p., lestundir HbSnE, HbFJ    [5] leigrar†: ‘[…]’ Hb, leigrar HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ    [6] lét æva mik sævar†: ‘let […]’ Hb, lét æva mik sævar HbFms n. p., HbSnE, HbFJ    [7] eigi mun * við ekkju: ‘[…]’ Hb, ‘ermuness vid ekkju’ HbFms n. p., eigi mun oss við ekkju HbSnE, eigi mun enn við ekkju HbFJ    [8] austmanna fǫr sannask: ‘[…]a for s[…]na[…]’ Hb, ‘aust […] f[…]anar’ HbFms n. p., austmanna fǫr sannask HbSnE, HbFJ

Editions: Skj: Þórbjǫrn hornklofi, 3. Lausavísa: AI, 29, BI, 26, Skald I, 16, NN §§1025, 2210C, 2985F; Hb 1892-6, 447, Fms 3, n. p., Fms 3, 68 (Skáld); SnE 1848-87, III, 412.

Context: For the full context, see Introduction to Auðunn Lv 2. Þorbjǫrn and two other poets, Auðunn illskælda and Ǫlvir hnúfa, have been tricked out of a night’s sexual enjoyment with a handsome widow, and have been forced to spend the night outdoors in a yard surrounded by a paling fence, whose gate has been locked. Each man composes a stanza about his plight.

Notes: [All]: As with the other two stanzas on fol. 102r of Hb, it is very difficult to read much of the text today, although the first helmingr is better preserved than the second. It is clear from their transcriptions that the C19th eds could read somewhat more of the text, and hence their readings are cited above, but some readings were even then very tentative. Fms 3 only gives the first line. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) did not attempt a close translation but offered the following paraphrase: Kvinden opfordrede til denne færd – derfor vil jeg dadle hende … ‘The woman invited [me] to this journey – therefore I shall blame her …’. — [1, 2] Hildr Hǫrngráts ‘the Hildr <valkyrie> of Hǫrn’s <= Freyja’s> weeping [GOLD > WOMAN]’: The name Hildr, forming the base-word of a woman-kenning, is certain in Hb, and the unnormalised ‘horn gratz’ is agreed on by two of the three witnesses, although only the first two letters of this proposed cpd are now legible in Hb. (a) If the cpd forms a gold-kenning, the uninflected proper name Hǫrn, rather than gen. sg. Hǫrnar, is unusual but not unparalleled (cf. HSt Rst 8/3 Þundregns ‘rain of Þundr <= Óðinn> [BATTLE]’), and this reading has been adopted by Skald (cf. NN §1025) and followed here. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) keeps Hǫrn gráts as two words, but does not indicate how he construes them. (b) Another possible sense, reading horngráts ‘of the horn-weeping’, might be ‘drink’; cf. TorfE Lv 1/6 of kerstraumi ‘over the cup-stream’. Whichever sense is chosen, the cpd forms part of a woman-kenning. In (a) the reference is to the tears of gold Freyja is supposed to have wept as she searched the world for her husband Óðr (cf. SnE 2005, 29), in (b) to a woman’s conventional role as the pourer of ale or wine at feasts. — [2] *látri ‘a bed’: The word látr usually refers to the bed, lair or litter of an animal, but perhaps is used here ironically of the rough treatment Þorbjǫrn is complaining of. The ms. form is hlátri (dat. sg. of hlátr ‘laughter’), but Skj B, Skald and this edn emend to avoid double alliteration in an even line. — [4] †lestundir† ‘…’: The meaning of this cpd is uncertain, LP: lestundir declaring it incomprehensible. The second element is possibly stundir ‘times, hours’. Guðmundur Finnbogason (1928, 225) suggested the first element might have been ‘deception, harm, poison’, but this destroys the skothending between les- : þes-. Kock (Skald and NN §1025) emended to lestandar, which he suggested is the inflected pl. of the pres. part. of the verb lesta ‘to injure, damage’ in the sense ‘injurers, damagers’. — [5-6]: One can only guess at the meaning of these lines. Various emendations have been proposed to make them comprehensible. Sævar ‘of the sea’ (l. 7) has been emended to form an inf. verb, dependent on lét ‘made, caused’. SnE 1848-87, III proposes sævaz ‘to be killed, expire’, while Kock (Skald) has svæfa ‘to lull, calm’. Kock also emended liðbjúgrar leigrar to liðbjúgrar leygi, with the adj. liðbjúgr ‘limb-lithe’ used substantivally of the woman, and leygr ‘fire, flame’, giving the sense in ll. 5-6 ‘and I could never calm the fire [of desire] of the lithe-limbed woman’. — [7]: This line is hypermetrical if the enn ‘still, yet’ of HbFJ (Hb 1892-6) is included. — [8] fǫr austmanna ‘the journey of the Easterners’: The term austmaðr usually refers to a Norwegian in Icelandic and Orcadian texts (cf. Þfagr Sveinn 8/2II and Note), and is so understood in Þhorn Harkv 9/3 in this volume, where the term occurs in a kenning for Haraldr hárfagri, allvaldr austmanna ‘sovereign of the Norwegians’. Here, however, Þorbjǫrn may be referring to himself and his two companions as Easterners, suggesting their regional affiliation, possibly in contrast to the people of Nordmøre, where the encounter with the widow takes place.

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