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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA)

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

4. Sexstefja (Sex) - 32

Skj info: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, Islandsk skjald, d. 1066. (AI, 361-83, BI, 332-53).

Skj poems:
1. Magnúsflokkr
2. Runhent digt om Harald hårdråde
3. Sexstefja
4. Lausavísur

Þjóðólfr Arnórsson (ÞjóðA) is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 254, 262) among the poets of Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson and Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-rule’ Sigurðarson, and virtually all his extant poetry seems to have been composed in honour of them, or in association with them; hence it dates from the period 1035-1066. The text of Skáldatal in AM 761 a 4°ˣ (SnE 1848-87, III, 259) also credits Þjóðólfr with poetry for Haraldr Þorkelsson, son of Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’ and one of the Dan. magnates present in Norway during the reign of Sveinn Álfífuson (1030-35). No identifiable fragments of this remain, but if true the tradition would suggest that Þjóðólfr was born not much later than 1010. Hemings þáttr Áslákssonar (Hem) has him die at the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, and there is no record of him after that date, though Lv 11 has the air of being composed after the battle. Þjóðólfr was, according to Skáldatal and Fsk (ÍF 29, 245), the brother of another skald, Bǫlverkr Arnórsson (Bǫlv), and according to Sneglu-Halla þáttr (Snegl) in Flat (1860-8, III, 415), was from an undistinguished family in Svarfaðardalur, northern Iceland. The same þáttr (p. 421) names his father not as Arnórr but as Þorljótr, in the context of a scurrilous anecdote told against Þjóðólfr by Sneglu-Halli (SnH), who also taunts him with having composed the otherwise unknown Sorptrogsvísur ‘Dustbin Vísur’. The þáttr nevertheless describes him as accomplished (menntr vel) and courteous (kurteis maðr), highly favoured by King Haraldr and chief of his poets (haufutskꜳlld sitt, p. 415). Þjóðólfr’s poetry, rich in allusion and imagery, has continued to be widely admired, and it gains colour and vigour from the fact that he participated in many of the campaigns he depicts. It undoubtedly also reflects the fact that he was one of an exceptional circle of poets patronised by Haraldr (see Turville-Petre 1968), and much of his poetry shares topics and imagery with that of his contemporary Arnórr jarlaskáld (Arn), though there is no account of the dealings between these two. Þjóðólfr figures in several anecdotes centring on poetic composition: see Contexts to Lv 2-6, though we have no way of knowing whether he was so touchy about his reputation as the Context to Lv 4, and Snegl, would suggest; he also features as a go-between figure in Brands þáttr ǫrva, which cites no poetry. For brief biographies of Þjóðólfr see, e.g. SnE 1848-87, III, 578-9; LH 1894-1901, I, 627-32; Hollander 1945, 189-96.

In addition to the works edited here as Þjóðólfr’s, there have been further attributions to him. Þfagr Sveinn 7 is attributed to Þjóðólfr in Mork (1928-32, 165-6) and Flat (1860-8, III, 341), but to Þorleikr fagri in other sources; ÞKolb Eirdr 17I is attributed to Þjóðólfr in the U ms. alone, and Þfisk Lv 3 is attributed to him in F. Further, Flat, by citing Okík Magn 1 after ÞjóðA Magnfl 18 without announcing a change of skald implicitly assigns the latter to Þjóðólfr. We might perhaps also imagine Þjóðólfr having a hand in Anon (HSig) 2, the st. collaboratively composed by Haraldr’s men. A further set of six sts presented are anonymous in the medieval sources but are presented in this edn as Halli XI Fl (for reasons explained in Halli Biography below). These are printed among Þjóðólfr’s works in CPB II, 210-11 and listed under his name in SnE 1848-87, III, 583-4; Poole also finds ‘the ascription to Þjóðólfr Arnórsson … tempting, on stylistic grounds’ (1991, 75).

Preserved mainly in the kings’ sagas, above all in Hkr, Þjóðólfr’s oeuvre presents exceptional problems of reconstruction, which are discussed at some length in the Introductions to the individual poems or sets of sts. The chief problem is that Þjóðólfr certainly composed a major dróttkvætt poem for each of his patrons Magnús (Magnússflokkr, Magnfl) and Haraldr (Sexstefja, Sex), but that in each case there is also a set of sts that may or may not belong in the main encomium. The decision has been taken here to print them separately: fourteen sts depicting the aftermaths of Magnús’s major battles at Århus (Áróss) and Helgenæs (Helganes) are presented as ‘Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi’ (Magn), and seven describing the launch of Haraldr’s great levied fleet from Nidelven (the river Nið) as ‘Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr’ (Har). As a reference aid, the arrangement of Þjóðólfr’s oeuvre in SkP and Skj is shown here.

Magnússflokkr (ÞjóðA Magnfl)
SkP Skj
15Náði jarl at eyða 19
16Rǫnn lézt, ræsir Þrœnda,20
17Hizig laut, es heitir 21
18Flýði jarl af auðu, 22
19Háðisk heilli góðu25
Stanzas about Magnús Óláfsson in Danaveldi (ÞjóðA Magn)
1Hrauð leifs mǫgr áðan Magnfl 15
2Misst hafa Sveins at sýnu, Magnfl 16
3Gær sák grjóti stóru Lv 1
4Spurði einu orði Magnfl 17
5Saurstokkinn bar svíra Magnfl 18
6Hrindr af hrókalandi Lv 2
7Menn eigu þess minnask, Lv 3
8Skjǫld bark heim frá hjaldri Magnfl 23
9Bauð leifs sonr áðan Magnfl 24
10Nú taka Norðmenn knýja,Lv 4
11Brum jǫrn at œrnuLv 5
12Svíðr of seggja búðirLv 6
13Fjǫrð lét fylkir verðaLv 7
14Ek hef ekki at drekkaLv 8
Runhent poem about Haraldr (ÞjóðA Run)
Sexstefja (ÞjóðA Sex)
6Þjóð veit, at hefr háðar7
7Stólþengils lét stinga6
8Ok hertoga hneykir25
9Reist eikikjǫlr austan8
10Vatn lézt, vísi, slitna,9
11Gegn skyli herr, sem hugnar10
12Frn hefr sveit við Sveini11
13Lét vingjafa veitir12
14Fast bað fylking hrausta13
15Alm dró upplenzkr hilmir14
16Flest vas hirð, sús hraustum15
17Sogns kvðu gram gegnan16
18Sveinn át sigr at launa17
19Nús of verk, þaus vísi,18
20Létu lystir sleitu19
21Tók Holmbúa hneykir20
22Gagn brann greypra þegna; 21
23Fœrði fylkir Hǫrða,22
24Áræðis naut eyðir23
25Refsir reyndan ofsa24
26Mǫrk lét veitt fyr verka26
27Ǫrð sær Yrsu burðar27
28Lét hræteina hveiti32
29Blóðorra lætr barri30a
30Geirs oddum lætr greddir30b
31Gera vas gisting byrjuð29
32Hár skyli hirðar stjóri35
Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr (ÞjóðA Har)
1Skeið sák framm at flœði, Lv 18
2Slyngr laugardag lǫngu Lv 19
3Rétt kann rœði slíta Lv 20
4Sorgar veit, áðr slíti Lv 21
5Eigu skjól und skógi Lv 22
6Hléseyjar lemr hvan Lv 23
7Haraldr þeysti nú hraustla Lv 24
Fragments (ÞjóðA Frag )
1 Nús valmeiðum víðisLv 9
2Jarl/Ǫrr lætr, odda skúrar Sex 28
3Ganga él of Yngva Sex 31
4Snart við sæþráð kyrtat Sex 33
5Útan bindr við enda Sex 34
Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur (ÞjóðA Lv)
1Leiða langar dauða Lv 10
2Sumar annat skal sunnar Lv 11
3[Logit hefr Baldr at Baldri]
brynþings fetilstingar
Lv 12
4Mildingr rauð í móðu Lv 13
5Varp ór þrætu þorpi Lv 14
6Sigurðr eggjaði sleggju Lv 15
7Haddan skall, en Halli Lv 16
8Út stendr undan báti Lv 17
9Ǫld es, sús jarli skyldi Lv 25
10Skalka frá, þótt fylkir Lv 26
11Ǫld hefr afráð goldit Lv 27

Reconstructions of the Þjóðólfr corpus are offered by Finnur Jónsson in SnE 1848-87, III, 579-90, which is the basis (almost unchanged) for Skj (AI, 361-83, BI, 332-53), and the Skj ordering is retained in Skald (I, 168-77); other major contributions are by Guðbrandur Vigfússon in CPB (II, 198-212) and by Fidjestøl (1982, 133-43, 172).

The principal eds consulted in the course of re-editing Þjóðólfr’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, 361-83; BI, 332-53 and Ernst Albin Kock’s in Skald I, 168-77, 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): CPB II, 198-212; Kock and Meissner 1931, I, 57-60; Hollander 1945,190-6 (annotated translations only), Poole 1991, 59-63; and (with seven sts) Turville-Petre 1976, 97-102. Such works as these, together with others containing comment on the poetry, are cited as appropriate in the Notes.


Sexstefja — ÞjóðA SexII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Sexstefja’ 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. 108-47.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32 

Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson: 3. Sexstefja, o. 1065 (AI, 369-77, BI, 339-46); stanzas (if different): 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 28 | 29 | 30/1-4 | 30/5-8 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35

SkP info: II, 131-3

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

18 — ÞjóðA Sex 18II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Sexstefja 18’ 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. 131-3.

Sveinn át sigr at launa
sex þeim, es hvǫt vexa,
innan eina gunni,
ǫrleiks, Dana jǫrlum.
Varð, sás vildit forða,
vígbjartr, snǫru hjarta,
í fylkingu fenginn
Fiðr Árnasonr miðri.

Sveinn át at launa þeim sex jǫrlum Dana sigr innan eina gunni, es hvǫt ǫrleiks vexa. Fiðr Árnasonr, sás vildit forða snǫru hjarta, varð vígbjartr fenginn í miðri fylkingu.

Sveinn does not have to reward those six jarls of the Danes for victory in one battle, in whom the incitement of munificence does not swell. Finnr Árnason, who did not want to save his valiant heart, was, battle-bright, captured in the midst of the troop.

Mss: (562r), 39(27rb), F(49ra), E(21v), J2ˣ(284r) (Hkr); FskBˣ(76r), 51ˣ(68r), FskAˣ(280-281), 302ˣ(103v) (Fsk); Mork(13r) (Mork); H(56v), Hr(41va) (H-Hr); Flat(200va) (Flat)

Readings: [1] át: átt 39, F, J2ˣ, H, á E, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, Hr, Flat, ‘a at’ 51ˣ, 302ˣ    [2] hvǫt: styr F, Flat;    vexa (‘vęxa’): vaxa FskBˣ    [3] innan: ‘her mann’ FskAˣ;    eina: einna E    [4] ǫrleiks: ‘aurrecks’ or ‘aurreiks’ Flat    [5] Varð: ferð Hr;    vildit: vildi Hr;    forða: forðask H, Hr    [6] víg‑: folk‑ Hr;    snǫru: so 39, F, E, J2ˣ, 51ˣ, FskAˣ, 302ˣ, Mork, H, Hr, Flat, ‘snóru’ or ‘sno᷎ru’ Kˣ, snara FskBˣ    [7] fenginn: fanginn 39, H, Hr, Flat    [8] Fiðr: ‘finnr’ 39, FskBˣ, Flat

Editions: Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, 3. Sexstefja 17: AI, 373, BI, 343, Skald I, 173, NN §§806, 861; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 165, IV, 230-1, ÍF 28, 151-2, Hkr 1991, 658 (HSig ch. 63), F 1871, 230, E 1916, 76; Fsk 1902-3, 271-2 (ch. 47), ÍF 29, 268-9 (ch. 57); Mork 1928-32, 213, Andersson and Gade 2000, 231, 478 (MH); Flat 1860-8, III, 364 (MH); Fms 6, 320 (HSig ch. 78), Fms 12, 157.

Context: The Norwegians (Haraldr in person, Hkr and H-Hr) pursue the fugitives on the Dan. side, but Finnr Árnason, who has fought for Sveinn, refuses to flee and is captured. Except in Hkr, the st. is introduced with the comment that Sveinn had six jarls with him in the battle. Fsk, Mork and Flat follow it with a spirited dialogue in which a defiant Finnr greets offers of his life with bravado and obscenity, but is nevertheless granted it.

Notes: [2, 4] es hvǫt ǫrleiks vexa ‘in whom the incitement of munificence does not swell’: Hvǫt and ǫrleiks clearly go together. Hvǫt refers to ‘impulse, incitement’, and often in battle poetry to keenness or valour. Ǫrleiks (nom. sg. ǫrleikr), meanwhile, can mean generosity, as clearly in Þjóð Har 2/8I, or it can be a routine kenning, ‘arrow-sport [BATTLE]’. The reference here could therefore be ‘incitement of munificence’ (the impulse of the warrior to repay his patron’s generosity) or on the other hand ‘valour in battle’, or ‘incitement to battle’. Vexa is also capable of more than one interpretation. (a) The assumption tentatively made here is that vexa is vex-a ‘does not grow, swell’, i. e. 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of the strong verb vaxa, with negative suffix. A negative would follow naturally after the negated át ‘has not’, matching the first cl.’s assertion that Sveinn did not have to reward his men for victory (though it must be conceded that the mss do not show variation of -a and -at which would prove that the scribes understood vexa as a negative). Moreover, the strong, intransitive verb vaxa is much more common than vexa ‘increase’ which is required by interpretation (b), and the use of vaxa in contexts referring to prowess is attested in Eil Þdr 8/5, 6, 8III láta sér megin vaxa ‘let one’s strength increase’. Under this interpretation the point is that the Danes failed in valour, and let Sveinn down, because they were not possessed by hvǫt ǫrleiks, the encouragement of his generosity (which would chime meaningfully with launa ‘reward’), or by valour in battle. (b) Previous eds have assumed a weak, transitive verb vexa ‘grows’ here, referring to the Danes’ valour. This verb is at best rare in early sources, however, and is not included in Fritzner, though it is in ONP Ordliste, and see LP: vexa 2. Further, a statement about the bravery of the Dan. jarls sits rather uncomfortably with the statement that Sveinn does not have to reward them for victory, and editorial discomfort is registered by Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV, where his translation reads, Sven har (kan) ikke at lönne (takke) de seks danske jarler ‘Sveinn has not to (cannot) reward (thank) the six Danish jarls’. External evidence which helps to arbitrate between options (a) and (b) is sparse. The second helmingr of the Þjóðólfr st., with its emphasis on the heroic bravado of Finnr Árnason, might serve as a contrast: this Norwegian fights his utmost, unlike the six jarls of the Danes (some of whom may have been the Norw. defectors mentioned in st. 11), but on the other hand it could illustrate and elaborate on the first helmingr. The prose context to the st., both the immediate and wider one, does not really help to arbitrate between interpretations (a) and (b), but after initial references to the superior numbers of the Danes, and their confidence, they are mainly shown fleeing, which would support (a). — [3] innan eina gunni ‘in one battle’: (a) The adverbial is here construed with sigr ‘victory’ (l. 1), as also by Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901 and Skj B. (b) It is taken with vexa by Kock (NN §§806, 861, also ÍF 28, 29 and Hkr 1991), but this adds to the strangeness of vexa as interpreted by them: if the jarls on the Dan. side were brave in this one particular battle, why is vexa in the pres. tense? If there are cowardly survivors these must be different from the dead brave ones in st. 15. — [5, 6] forða snǫru hjarta ‘save his valiant heart’: The phrase is a variant of forða fjǫrvi ‘save one’s life’ in Arn Hryn 6/7 and widely in prose, rather as hverr fótr ‘every foot’ stands for the whole warrior in st. 15/8 of the present poem. — [8] Fiðr Árnasonr ‘Finnr Árnason’: The form Fiðr rather than Finnr is indicated by the aðalhending on miðri, and is found in several mss. Finnr Árnason, though of Norw. stock, is portrayed among the leaders of Sveinn’s forces in HSigHkr ch. 62, and see Context above.

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