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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;

5. Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr (Har) - 7

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.


Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr — ÞjóðA HarII

Diana Whaley 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr’ 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. 147-58.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7 

SkP info: II, 152-4

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — ÞjóðA Har 3II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Þjóðólfr Arnórsson, Stanzas about Haraldr Sigurðarson’s leiðangr 3’ 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. 152-4.

Rétt kann rœði slíta
ræsis herr ór verri;
ekkja stendr ok undrask
ára burð sem furðu.
Ært mun, snót, áðr sortuð
sæfǫng í tvau ganga
(þǫll leggr við frið fullan)
ferkleyf (á þat leyfi).

Herr ræsis kann slíta rœði rétt ór verri; ekkja stendr ok undrask burð ára sem furðu. Ært mun, snót, áðr sortuð, ferkleyf sæfǫng ganga í tvau; þǫll leggr leyfi á þat við fullan frið.

The prince’s troop know how to whip the oars expertly up from the stroke; the woman stands and wonders at the handling of the oars, as a marvel. There’ll be rowing [enough], lady, before the tarred sea-gear [oars], splittable in four, break in two; the fir-tree <woman> gives her approval to this in complete peace.

Mss: (558r-v), F(48va), E(20v), J2ˣ(281r) (Hkr); 570a(24r) (); H(55r), Hr(40rb) (H-Hr); W(86) (FGT, ll. 1-2)

Readings: [2] ræsis: ‘ręðiz’ E, reiðis H, Hr;    herr: hver 570a    [4] furðu: furði 570a    [5] Ært: ‘ꜹrt’ Kˣ, J2ˣ, ert F, E, H, Hr, ‘ertt’ 570a;    áðr: ef E, 570a, H, at Hr;    sortuð: so 570a, svǫrtu Kˣ, J2ˣ, H, Hr, sortað F, sættut E    [6] fǫng (‘siáfang’): sjáfǫng F;    ganga: so F, E, 570a, H, Hr, gangi Kˣ, J2ˣ    [7] leggr: liggr E, H, Hr;    frið: þrif 570a    [8] fer‑: separate from the next word in all mss except E;    ‑kleyf á: ‘kleifa’ J2ˣ, klaufa H

Editions: Skj: Þjóðolfr Arnórsson, 4. Lausavísur 20: AI, 381, BI, 351, Skald I, 176, NN §§153, 1908, 2989C; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 156-7, IV, 225, ÍF 28, 142-3, Hkr 1991, 651 (HSig ch. 60), F 1871, 226, E 1916, 72; 1952, 25; Fms 6, 309 (HSig ch. 76), Fms 12, 154; FGT 1972a, 222-3, FGT 1972b, 18-19.

Context: In Hkr, the st. follows st. 2 with no link, while has a brief link and H-Hr a comment on rowing equivalent to that preceding st. 2 in Hkr. In FGT the author has just introduced goþrøþe and góþ rǿþe ‘good oars’ (the former being dat. sg. of the pers. n. Goðrøðr) as a minimal pair containing long and short vowels respectively. He then cites ll. 1-2 with: Þat erv goðar árar sem skalld qvað ‘that is good oars, as the skald said’ (FGT 1972a, 222).

Notes: [All]: The st. praises both the construction of the warship and the expertise of its crew, and the ambiguity of some of the vocabulary (rétt in l. 1, verri in l. 2, and burð ára in l. 4) leaves it uncertain quite what the balance between the two is. — [1] rétt ‘expertly’: (a) This is taken here as an adv. ‘correctly, perfectly’ describing the men’s rowing; it could alternatively mean ‘directly’, specifically describing the oars being lifted out of the sea (so Hkr 1991). (b) Most eds read rétt as a n. acc. pl. adj. meaning ‘straight, even’ and qualifying rœði ‘oars’; this also is very possible, and the FGT context would favour it (Hreinn Benediktsson and Haugen both translate ‘straight oars’ in FGT 1972a, FGT 1972b). The emphasis on rowing in Hkr and H-Hr might on the other hand favour (a). — [2] ræsis ‘of the prince’: The variant reiðis ‘wielder’s’ (so H, Hr) would be a nomen agentis base-word in a kenning for ‘warrior’ or ‘ruler’, but there is no suitable determinant. — [2] verri ‘the stroke’: Vǫrr m. means both ‘pull of the oar, stroke’ and ‘sea’, but since ‘stroke’ seems more apt in the closely related st. 4/3, it is favoured here. — [4] burð ára ‘handling of the oars’: So Poole 1991, 60. The translation highlights the admiration of the crew’s skill; the slightly more neutral ‘motion’ is also possible. — [5-8]: There are numerous subtle difficulties and ambiguities in this helmingr, and although the solution adopted here seems the best to the present ed. it is by no means certain. — [5] ært mun ‘there’ll be rowing [enough]’: Or ‘there’ll be [hard] rowing’. The mss all have ‘ert’ or ‘ꜹrt’, which seems to point to the n. nom./acc. sg. of the adj. err or ǫrr ‘swift, active, generous’, but this would not fit the syntax (snót ‘woman’ being f.), whereas the p. p. of æra ‘to row’ seems eminently suitable in the context. Fms 12 translates ert mun snót as henni mun falla illa ‘she will be distressed’ and understands the rest of the helmingr as ‘if the oars split in two; the woman (þǫll) would permit the oars to break if there were peace in the land’. — [5] sortuð ‘tarred’: The reading svǫrtu ‘black’ in , H and Hr is also possible. — [7] þǫll ‘fir-tree <woman>’: (a) This is assumed here to be a heiti for woman, as it is in Þul Kvenna II, 2/3III (so also Fms 12), though strictly it should be termed a half-kenning, exceptional at this date, since tree-names such as þǫll are usually qualified by a determinant, e.g. ‘fir-tree of jewels [WOMAN]’. (b) Þǫll could alternatively be read as a term for ship, comparable with fura ‘fir-tree’ in ÞjóðA Lv 2/4, or perhaps as ‘oar’ (so ÍF 28 and Poole 1991). Hence it is the ship or oar that gives permission. Indeed, in Poole’s view (1991, 71) ‘Þjóðólfr speaks of the oar metaphorically as an authority figure, which grants leave for hard rowing with the assurance that the rower will not suffer any penalty’. The vocabulary of the st., he notes, is legal (slíta ‘break’, friðr ‘peace, safe conduct’, and leyfi ‘leave, permission’), relating specifically to laws on safe conduct and personal sanctuary. Such an extreme personification would be exceptional (as Kock, responding to a similar suggestion from Reichardt, points out, NN §1908), though there are less dramatic parallels. In st. 5, for instance, the ships ‘allow the headland to protect them’ (láta eið hlýja sér). (c) Finnur in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B emends fullan fer kleyfa to fyllar fúr, kleyf, in which kleyf ‘cleavable’ describes the oars (sæfǫng, l. 6) and the remainder forms a woman-kenning with þǫll ‘fir’ in l. 7: fyllar fúr-þǫll ‘fir of the fire of the sea [GOLD > WOMAN]’, but this involves quite radical emendation and the assumption of awkward tmesis. (d) The eds of Hkr 1991 read þöll leggr það leyfi ferkleyfa ‘the lady gives the blessing of the four-leaved clover’ in ll. 7-8, citing C15th evidence of an ancient belief in the four-leaved clover as a talisman of luck for travellers. — [7] við fullan frið ‘in complete peace’: (a) This is here taken to qualify the lady’s giving of permission, with equanimity, in ll. 7-8. (b) It is taken by many eds, however, with ært mun in l. 5, hence ‘there will be rowing in peace (before the oars split)’, suggesting a contrast with the greater strain on men and ships in battle. (c) Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901, IV tentatively raised the further possibility of reading við, fríð, with fríð ‘beautiful’ qualifying þǫll ‘fir’ or snót ‘woman’ (and við not explained). — [8] ferkleyf ‘splittable in four’: The reading is quite well established in the mss, with H’s fer klaufa as the only variation, though fer is separate in all mss, and a further complication is that the following ‑a is joined to kleyf in some mss but a separate prep. á in others. The hap. leg. ferkleyf should probably, as LP points out, mean ‘divided into four’, with kleyf- related to kljúfa ‘cleave, split’, but it is problematic in context and gives rise to a rich diversity of possibilities. Taking first the meaning of the word itself, further suggestions include ‘four-stranded’ (ferstrendur, ÍF 28, presumably thinking of lamination), ‘four-edged’ (Poole 1991, 60) or ‘rectangular’ (Jesch 2001a, 154). Emendation to fákleyf ‘rarely splitting’ is suggested by Kock (NN §153). There are also alternative construals: (a) The interpretation adopted here takes ferkleyf as n. nom. pl., qualifying sæfǫng ‘sea-gear [oars]’ in l. 6, hence the apt but odd áðr ferkleyf sæfǫng ganga í tvau ‘before the oars, splittable in four, break in two’. The oddity could be avoided by assuming one of the senses above, or adopting Kock’s emendation to fákleyf ‘rarely splitting’. (b) The adj. could instead be strong f. nom. sg. qualifying þǫll ‘fir, pine’ (l. 5), as assumed, e.g., by Poole 1991, 60 and Jesch 2001a, 154 (see (b) above). — [8] leyfi ‘approval’: ‘Permission’ is the most usual OIcel. sense of the word. Finnur Jónsson (in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B) and Kock (in NN §§1908, 2989) proposed ‘praise’, cf. lof ‘permission’ and ‘praise’. The Engl. translation here attempts to bridge these two senses.

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