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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;

7. Lausavísur (Lv) - 11

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.


Lausavísur — ÞjóðA LvII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur’ 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. 163-76.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11 

Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson: 4. Lausavísur (AI, 377-83, BI, 347-53); stanzas (if different): 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

SkP info: II, 169-71

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — ÞjóðA Lv 5II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Lausavísur 5’ 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. 169-71.

Varp ór þrætu þorpi
Þórr smiðbelgja stórra
hvapteldingum hǫldnum
hafra kjǫts at jǫtni.
Hljóðgreipum tók húða
hrøkkviskafls af afli
glaðr við galdra smiðju
Geirrøðr síu þeiri.

{Þórr stórra smiðbelgja} varp {hvapteldingum} ór {þorpi þrætu} at {hǫldnum jǫtni kjǫts hafra}. {Glaðr Geirrøðr hrøkkviskafls húða} tók {hljóðgreipum} við {þeiri síu {smiðju galdra}} af afli.

{The Þórr <god> of huge forge-bellows} [SMITH] flung {jaw-lightnings} [INSULTS] from {his quarrel hamlet} [MOUTH] at {the proud giant of goats’ flesh} [TANNER]. {The cheerful Geirrøðr <giant> of the curving scraper of hides} [TANNER] took in {with his sound-grabbers} [EARS] {that molten substance {of the smithy of spells}} [MOUTH > INSULTS], powerfully.

Mss: Mork(15v) (Mork); H(65r), Hr(47va) (H-Hr); Flat(207ra) (Flat); 593b(29v)

Readings: [1] þrætu: om. H    [2] ‑belgja stórra: ‑belgjum stórum Hr    [3] hvapt‑: hvatt Mork, H, Hr, ‘huafft’ Flat, hross 593b;    ‑eldingum: ‘elldligum’ Hr;    hǫldnum: ‘holdvm’ 593b    [5] Hljóðgreipum: ‘hliodsgnipvm’ 593b;    tók: greip Hr;    húða: húðar Flat, 593b    [6] hrøkkvi‑: ‘hrauki’ Flat;    ‑skafls: ‘skalfs’ H, ‘kafls’ Flat;    af: so Flat, ór Mork, H, Hr, at 593b    [7] við: í Hr;    smiðju: smíði 593b    [8] síu: so H, Hr, 593b, ‘siǫ’ Mork, sinn Flat;    þeiri: ‘þ[...]e’ H, ‘þeirre’ or ‘þeirra’ 593b

Editions: Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, 4. Lausavísur 14: AI, 380, BI, 350, Skald I, 176, NN §1140; ÍF 9, 267-8 (Snegl ch. 3), Mork 1928-32, 235, Andersson and Gade 2000, 244, 478 (MH); Fms 6, 361-2 (HSig ch. 101), Fms 12, 160; Flat 1860-8, III, 417 (MH).

Context: In a ch. about King Haraldr’s dealings with Sneglu-Halli (SnH) and other skalds, the story relates how Þjóðólfr, walking along the street with the king, overhears a row between a tanner (or cobbler, sútari in Flat) and a blacksmith. Þjóðólfr is at first affronted by the king’s demand that he compose about this, but when the king adds that to make the task more challenging he should present the antagonists as the giant Geirrøðr and the god Þórr, he recites this st.; the king is duly impressed by it and immediately commissions Lv 6. (The two sts are in reverse order in Flat and 593b.)

Notes: [All]: If the st. was truly extemporized, its royal patron was right to be impressed. The complex and innovative imagery creates parallels and oppositions between the quarrelling tanner and smith, while casting them as the antagonists in the mythical story of the god Þórr’s encounter with the giant Geirrøðr. The smith figures, appropriately, as Þórr, who in the Geirrøðr story lacks his famous hammer but has a pair of iron gloves. The story is told, cryptically, in Eilífr Goðrúnarson’s Þórsdrápa (Eil ÞdrIII), which is preserved, with prose paraphrase, in SnE (1998, I, 24-30). At its centre, Geirrøðr (supposedly in sport) throws a lump of molten iron at Þórr, who throws it back at, and through, the giant, and this is transformed into a metaphor for speech in Þjóðólfr’s skit. There is a good deal of vocabulary in common between Þjóðólfr’s Lv 5-6 and Þdr, e.g. tangar ‘tongs’ (Þdr 16/6III, with slight emendation, and Lv 6/8), afli ‘strength/forge’ (Þdr 16/7III and Lv 5/6), síu ‘molten substance’ (Þdr 18/4III and Lv 6/8) and greip ‘grabber’ (Þdr 17/8III and Lv 5/5); Greip is also the name of one of Geirrøðr’s daughters. — [3] hvapt- ‘jaw-’: This is based on the Flat spelling ‘huaftt’, and with eldingum ‘lightnings’ it forms a witty kenning for speech, or specifically insults, and this is the solution preferred in most edns (Skj B with slight emendation to gen. sg. hvápts). The majority reading hvatt ‘keen(ly), swift(ly)’, and 593b’s hross ‘horse, mare’ do not fit the context. — [3] hǫldnum ‘proud’: (a) The adjectival p. p. could be m. dat. sg. qualifying jǫtni ‘giant’, as assumed here and, e.g., in Skj B and Andersson and Gade 2000, 244. (b) Alternatively, it could be m. dat. pl. qualifying hvapteldingum ‘jaw-lightnings’. In this case it could have a literal sense, ‘held’, alluding to the myth in which Þórr grabs the lumps of molten metal that the giant flings at him (see Note to [All] above) or else a figurative sense ‘(insults to be) stored up’ (LP: halda B. 5) or ‘controlled, over which he had power’ (Turville-Petre 1976, 101, citing Kock and Meissner 1931, II, 64). ÍF 9 construes hǫldnum thus but does not translate it. — [6] hrøkkviskafls ‘of the curving scraper’: Another time-honoured editorial solution. Skafl m. normally means ‘(snow-)drift’ or ‘high wave or sea’, yet the symmetry of the st. seems to demand a term which will combine with húða ‘of skins’ to produce some attribute of the tanner which will be determinant to a kenning for ‘tanner’ with the giant-name Geirrøðr as base-word, and the translation ‘scraper’, highlighting a major aspect of the tanner’s craft, seems justified on the basis of skafa f. ‘scraper’ and the verb skafa ‘scrape’ as well as skaf(-dreki) ‘scraping dragon’ in Lv 6/3. — [6] af afli ‘powerfully’: Afl n. ‘strength’ and afl m. ‘forge’ are both possible here, and doubtless a pun is intended, but the primary reading may be Flat’s af afli (cf. at afli in 593b) as assumed here, since it is not clear how ór afli ‘from the forge’ in Mork, H and Hr would fit. This reading is adopted ÍF 9, though without being translated. Finnur Jónsson, acknowledging Björn Magnússon Ólsen, adopted it in the additions and corrections (Tillæg og rettelser) to Skj BI (683), taking ór afli galdra smiðju together, hence presumably ‘out of the forge of the smithy of spells’; this Kock describes as nonsense (huller-om-buller-fantasi, NN §1140).

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