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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Arn Þorfdr 22II

Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Þorfinnsdrápa 22’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 255-6.

Arnórr jarlaskáld ÞórðarsonÞorfinnsdrápa

text and translation

Gramr myndi sá gǫmlu
gunnbráðr und sik láði
— hann fekk miklu minna
mannspjall — koma ǫllu,
ef ílendra Endils
ættstafr hafa knætti
(vélti herr of Hjalta)
hjalm-Þrótta lið (dróttin*).

Sá gunnbráðr gramr myndi koma ǫllu gǫmlu láði und sik—hann fekk miklu minna mannspjall—, ef {ættstafr Endils} knætti hafa lið {ílendra hjalm-Þrótta}; herr vélti of {dróttin* Hjalta}.
‘That battle-hasty ruler would have brought all of the ancient land under his sway—he had much the less loss of men—if he, the kin-stave of Endill <sea-king> [RULER], could have had the support of the land-restored helmet-Þróttar <= Óðinn’s> [WARRIORS]; the troop betrayed the Shetlanders’ lord [= Rǫgnvaldr].

notes and context

The st. appears shortly after st. 21. Rǫgnvaldr’s ships are attacked and cleared by Kálfr Árnason and his men. Seeing that, the Norwegians sent by King Magnús to support Rǫgnvaldr flee, leaving very few craft with the jarl. This was the turning point in the battle.

The st. contains three expressions for a ruler: gramr ‘ruler’ (l. 1), ættstafr Endils ‘kin-stave of Endill <sea-king>’ (ll. 5, 6) and dróttin Hjalta ‘Shetlanders’ lord’ (ll. 7, 8): They must all refer to the same man, and this must be Rǫgnvaldr Brúsason, unless the traditions about the battle of Rauðabjǫrg in Orkn ch. 26 are completely awry. According to the saga, Rǫgnvaldr almost prevails, but is eventually defeated because of the defection of his allies and, far from tightening his hold over Orcadian territory, is obliged to take refuge in Norway. These points, apart from the flight to Norway, are all matched in the st. The necessary emendation of dróttins to dróttin was proposed by Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1909a, 297-8).



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Arnórr Þórðarson jarlaskáld, 5. Þórfinnsdrápa 22: AI, 348, BI, 321, Skald I, 162, NN §3226; Flat 1860-8, II, 415, Orkn 1913-16, 72, ÍF 34, 69-70 (ch. 26); Whaley 1998, 306-8.


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