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Runic Dictionary

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Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson (Arn)

11th century; volume 2; ed. Diana Whaley;

III. 1. Fragments (Frag) - 8

Arnórr jarlaskáld ‘Jarls’-poet’ came from Hítarnes in western Iceland, the son of the prosperous farmer and poet Þórðr Kolbeinsson (ÞKolbI, born 974) and Oddný eykyndill ‘Island-candle’ Þorkelsdóttir, who was the subject of the long-running personal and poetic rivalry between Þórðr and Bjǫrn Hítdœlakappi (BjhítV) which is commemorated in Bjarnar saga Hítdœlakappa. According to that saga chronology, Arnórr would have been born c. 1011/12, and he features as a boy in ch. 23 of the saga, and in ch. 60 of Grettis saga. He went abroad, probably in his early twenties, for he is named in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267) among the skalds of King Knútr inn ríki (Cnut the Great) (d. 1035). From the evidence of the memorial poems Rǫgnvaldsdrápa (Arn Rǫgndr), especially st. 2, and Þorfinnsdrápa (Arn Þorfdr), especially sts 3, 4 (cf. Lv 1), he spent several years in the Orkney Islands as poet and intimate of the jarls Rǫgnvaldr (d. c. 1045) and Þorfinnr (d. c. 1065). It is to this that his nickname refers. Arnórr was in Norway during the brief joint rule of Magnús Óláfsson and Haraldr Sigurðarson (c. 1045-6), and his performance of Hrynhenda (Arn Hryn) for Magnús and Blágagladrápa ‘The drápa of Dark Geese (= Ravens (?))’ for Haraldr is the subject of a spirited anecdote (Mork 1928-32, 116-18, Flat 1860-8, III, 321-3, Fms 6, 195-8; referred to below as ‘the Mork anecdote’). The later part of Arnórr’s career is obscure, but there is a second, memorial poem for Magnús, Magnússdrápa (Arn Magndr), and his composition of a Haraldsdrápa (Arn Hardr) in memory of Haraldr (d. 1066) suggests continuing links of some kind with Norway, though he also composed about Icelanders: a fragmentarily preserved poem for Hermundr Illugason (d. c. 1055; Arn HermIII) and a poem for Gellir Þorkelsson (d. 1073) of which Arn Frag 1III might be a remnant. For further outlines of Arnórr’s life and works, see Hollander 1945, 177-83; Turville-Petre 1968, 5-10, 1976, 93-4; Whaley 1998, 41-7.

The majority of Arnórr’s surviving oeuvre takes the form of memorial encomia (erfidrápur) for rulers of Norway or Orkney in the dróttkvætt metre: ten ll. only of Rǫgndr and longer fragments of Magnússdrápa (Magndr), Þorfdr and Hardr. His greatest contribution to the development of skaldic poetry, however, is his authorship of the first known encomium in the hrynhent metre: the Hrynhenda which, since it apostrophises Magnús góði, must predate the memorial Magndr. Arn Frag 1III is in the same metre but probably unconnected (see above). It is possible that Arn Frag 4III is in praise of Knútr inn ríki and the non-royal dedicatees of Herm and Frag 1 have been mentioned above. Arnórr also appears in one recension of Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 262) as a poet of Óláfr kyrri ‘the Quiet’ Haraldsson (d. 1093), and the pres. tense praise of Arn Frag 3III could have been addressed to him, or alternatively to Haraldr in Blágagladrápa. Only one st., Arn Lv 1, seems clearly to be a lv.; it was spoken during a civil conflict in the Orkneys. Herm and the eight other Fragments are printed in SkP III since they are preserved in SnE and LaufE and cannot be certainly assigned to any of the poems in the present volume.

The principal eds consulted in the course of editing Arnórr’s poetry for SkP are listed for each st., and are of two main types: eds of the skaldic corpus (Finnur Jónsson’s in Skj AI, 332-54, BI, 305-27, BI, and E. A. Kock’s in Skald I, 155-65, supported by numerous NN) and eds of the various prose works in which the poetry is preserved. Extracts are also included in anthologies, articles and other works including (with ten or more sts): Munch and Unger 1847, 119-20; CPB II, 184-98; Wisén 1886-9, I, 44-6, 141-2, 199-200 (Hryn only); Kock and Meissner 1931, I, 48-53; Hollander 1945,177-88 (annotated translations only, mainly Hryn); and (with five sts): Turville-Petre 1976, 93-7. Other works containing comment on the poetry are cited as appropriate in the Notes.

Fragments — Arn FragIII

Diana Whaley 2017, ‘ Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Fragments’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 3. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=1105> (accessed 26 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld: 7. Vers af ubestemmelige digte, samt én lausavísa (AI, 353-4, BI, 326-7); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

SkP info: III, 7

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Arn Frag 5III

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2017, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Fragments 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 7.

Sæll es Sýrhallar
†seiða beinreiðar†.

… Sýrhallar es sæll … †beinreiðar seiða†.

… of Sýr’s <= Freyja’s> hall is fortunate …

Mss: 742ˣ(3ra), 1496ˣ(36r) (LaufE)

Editions: Jón Helgason 1966a, 177-8; Whaley 1998, 36-7.

Context: The couplet is cited to illustrate a heiti for Freyja, here Sýr, within a listing of heiti and kennings for goddesses.

Notes: [All]: (a) In the absence of further context, the interpretation of this couplet is highly uncertain, and even the Prose order and partial Translation above are tentative, since if the couplet is syntactically incomplete it is unclear where the missing words would belong. Some of the words in the lines chime with traditional attributes of Freyja: reiðar (gen. sg. of reið f. ‘chariot’, l. 2) could refer to her chariot drawn by two cats, and hallar (gen. sg. of hǫll f. ‘hall’, l. 1) to her fine hall Sessrúmnir (SnE 1998, I, 30; SnE 2005, 25) or Fólkvangr (Grí 14/1). However, seiða in l. 2 could be gen. pl. of seiðr ‘(magic) spell’ or of seiðr ‘saithe (pollack or coalfish)’, while bein (l. 2) could be the noun ‘bone’ or a form of the adj. beinn ‘straight, direct’. (b) Jón Helgason (1966a, 177-8) proposed the following solution, which assumes that the couplet is syntactically complete. Sýr-hǫll, it is argued, must mean ‘hall of Freyja’, and the hall-name Fólkvangr could mean ‘battle-plain’, and hence, by ofljóst, yield a shield-kenning on the pattern ‘land of battle’ (Meissner 169); the ‘coalfish’ (seiðr) of the shield is then a sword (cf. Meissner 154), and its wielder (reiðir, incorporating a slight emendation from ms. reiðar) is a warrior; bein- could qualify this, with the sense ‘straight, directly’. Hence, literally, ‘Fortunate is the straight-wielder of the fish of Freyja’s hall [= Fólkvangr (fólkvangr ‘shield’) > SWORDS > WARRIOR]’, i.e. ‘the warrior is fortunate’. This interpretation would assume that Arnórr here adopts a style uncharacteristic of him, since he does not elsewhere use ofljóst or anti-naturalistic images such as kennings depicting swords as fish. — [All]: The fragment is among additions to LaufE found in ms. 742x (first half of C17th). The additions are of uncertain origin but are believed to have been introduced by the writer of 742x, Björn Jónsson of Skarðsá, rather than originating in a further, now lost version of Magnús Ólafsson’s LaufE (Jón Helgason 1966a, 175; LaufE 1979, 106-7, 176). The fragment is included here among the oeuvre of Arnórr, following the ms. attributions, but there are reasons to doubt its authenticity. The couplet is not among the core material common to most mss of LaufE, and even within the shared material much is of unknown origin and of doubtful attribution. Mss 742x and the C18th 1496x, moreover, may not have independent value but may have obtained their common supplementary fragments from closely related exemplars (Jón Helgason 1966a, 175). Further, the Haðarlag metre, with its five-syllable line, is not otherwise used by Arnórr, and the couplet would also be stylistically anomalous if interpreted according to (b) above. — [1] sæll es ‘fortunate is’: Jón Helgason (1966a, 178) notes a skaldic parallel (Refr Frag 5/1) and a runic one (Run N 171VI). — [1] Sýrhallar ‘of Sýr’s <= Freyja’s> hall’: If translated the name Sýr would mean ‘sow’. Snorri explains in Gylf (SnE 2005, 29) that Freyja adopted many different names when she travelled among strange peoples in search of her husband Óðr.

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