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Þórarinn loftunga (Þloft)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Matthew Townend;

1. Hǫfuðlausn (Hfl) - 1

Few biographical facts are known about Þórarinn loftunga ‘Praise-tongue’ (Þloft). In introducing Þórarinn’s service to King Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great), Snorri Sturluson (ÍF 27, 307; cf. ÓH 1941, I, 473) records in general terms that he was an Icelander and a great poet (skáld mikit) who had spent a great deal of time with kings and other chieftains. Knýtl (ÍF 35, 124) gives a similar portrait, and adds that Þórarinn was gamall ‘old’ when he first came to Knútr. However, all of Þórarinn’s extant poetry derives from his service to Knútr and his son Sveinn, and these are the only monarchs for whom Þórarinn is recorded as a poet in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267). Þorm Lv 10/1-2 also refers to Knútr rewarding Þórarinn with gold over a long period (for the anecdote in which it is quoted see ÓHLeg 1982, 124-8; ÓH 1941, II, 799-804), and his pre-Knútr career must remain hypothetical. Parts of three poems are preserved: Hǫfuðlausn (Hfl) and Tøgdrápa (Tøgdr) for Knútr, and Glælognskviða (Glækv) for Sveinn, probably composed in this order, and between c. 1027 and 1034; for circumstances of composition and preservation see individual Introductions below. The evidence of the poems suggests that Þórarinn entered Knútr’s service in either England or Denmark, accompanied him on his journey to Norway in 1028, and after 1030 remained at Sveinn’s court in Norway at least until c. 1032. For previous discussions of Þórarinn’s career see LH I, 601-3, Malcolm (1993), and Townend (2005, 256-7).

Hǫfuðlausn — Þloft HflI

Matthew Townend 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Þórarinn loftunga, Hǫfuðlausn’ 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. 849.

stanzas:  1 

Skj: Þórarinn loftunga: 1. Hǫfuðlausn, o. 1026 (AI, 322, BI, 298); stanzas (if different): [v]

SkP info: I, 850

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Þloft Hfl 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórarinn loftunga, Hǫfuðlausn 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. 850.

Knútr verr grund sem gætir
Gríklands himinríki.

Knútr verr grund sem {gætir Gríklands} himinríki.

Knútr defends the land as {the guardian of Greece} [= God] [defends] the heavenly kingdom.

Mss: Holm2(56v), J2ˣ(206r), 321ˣ(211), Bæb(2va), 68(56v), Holm4(54va), 61(115va), 75c(38v), 325V(67va), 325VII(31r), 325XI 2 g(3rb), Flat(118va), Tóm(145v) (ÓH); Kˣ(427v) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] sem gætir: sætir Tóm    [2] Grík‑: Grikk‑ J2ˣ, Tóm, ‘[…]’ Kˣ;    ‑lands: ‑land 61;    himinríki: himnar 321ˣ, himinríkis 61, 75c, Tóm, himna ríki Flat

Editions: Skj: Þórarinn loftunga, 1. Hǫfuðlausn: AI, 322, BI, 298, Skald I, 151; ÓH 1941, I, 474 (ch. 166), Flat 1860-8, II, 306; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 397, ÍF 27, 307 (ÓHHkr ch. 172).

Context: The stanza follows the ‘head-ransom’ narrative summarised in the Introduction above.

Notes: [All]: These lines, which are said in ÓH-Hkr to be the stef ‘refrain’ for Þórarinn’s poem, bear an obvious resemblance to the refrains of other poems for Knútr. Sigvatr Þórðarson views Knútr as being und himnum ‘under the heavens’ (Sigv Knútdr 3/1, 7/1), while the refrain of Þórarinn’s own Tøgdr (1/1), though incomplete, has the similar und sólar ‘under the sun’s …’. But by far the closest resemblance is to the stef of Hallvarðr Háreksblesi’s Knútdr (Hallv Knútdr 8/8III): Knútr verr jǫrð sem ítran | alls dróttinn sal fjalla ‘Knútr defends the earth as the lord of all [defends] the splendid hall of the mountains [HEAVEN]’. Since the likely date for this poem is c. 1029, it appears to be Hallvarðr who is the borrower here. As Frank (1994b, 116-17) notes, these four refrains depict Knútr ‘in cosmic high relief’, and in their association of God and king they may show influence from Anglo-Saxon royal ideology (see also Fidjestøl 1993b, 106, 118-19). — [1] grund ‘the land’: The word may refer to the earth generally, but more probably to Knútr’s realm in particular; Þórarinn in Glækv 9/4 uses the term to refer to Norway, as posthumously controlled by the saintly Óláfr Haraldsson. — [2] Gríklands ‘of Greece’: Probably referring to Byzantium. On the terms Gríkland, lit. ‘Greek-land’, and Gríkir ‘Greeks’ in skaldic verse see Jesch (2001a, 100). For the few early God-kennings involving a geographical determinant, see Meissner 378; Arn Hardr 17/3II vǫrðr Girkja ok Garða ‘guardian of the Greeks and of Garðar’ is the closest parallel. Ms. 61 offers the alternative reading that ‘the guardian of the heavenly kingdom [defends] Greece’. — [2] himinríki ‘the heavenly kingdom’: In skaldic poetry prior to the C12th, the term is only found in the works of Þórarinn, here and in Glækv 3/4 and 4/4; see further Note to Glækv 3/4.

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