Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson (Eyv)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Russell Poole;

2. Háleygjatal (Hál) - 16

Skj info: Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir, Norsk skjald, 10. årh. (d. omkr. 990). (AI, 64-74, BI, 57-65).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonarmál
2. Háleygjatal
3. Lausavísur

Eyvindr (Eyv, c. 915-990) has been called the last important Norwegian skald (Genzmer 1920, 159; also Boyer 1990a, 201). He is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 256, 261, 265-6) among the poets of Hákon góði ‘the Good’ Haraldsson and Hákon jarl Sigurðarson. His maternal grandmother was a daughter of Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’, and he seems to have been close to Haraldr’s son Hákon góði from early on, serving at his court as one of a group of brilliant skalds. After Hákon’s death he resided at the court of Haraldr gráfeldr ‘Grey-cloak’, but relations with Haraldr seem to have soured quickly, as evidenced by his lausavísur. Eyvindr spent the last part of his life with the powerful Hákon jarl Sigurðarson of Hlaðir (Lade), whose family had supported Hákon góði against the sons of Eiríkr blóðøx ‘Blood-axe’. According to Hkr (ÍF 26, 221), in addition to Háleygjatal (Hál), Hákonarmál (Hák) and the lausavísur, Eyvindr composed a poem Íslendingadrápa, but this has not come down to us. The epithet skáldaspillir is usually interpreted to mean ‘Plagiarist’, literally ‘Destroyer (or Despoiler?) of Poets’ in reference to his habit of drawing inspiration from and alluding to earlier compositions, specifically Ynglingatal (Þjóð Yt) for Hál and Eiríksmál (Anon Eirm), along with several eddic poems, for Hák (see Introductions to Hál and Hák). The alternative interpretation ‘Poem-reciter’ proposed by Wadstein (1895a, 88) is unconvincing; see further Olsen (1962a, 28), and Beck (1994a). For further biographical information, see LH I, 447-9, Holm-Olsen (1953) and Marold (1993a).

Háleygjatal (‘Enumeration of the Háleygir (people of Hálogaland)’) — Eyv HálI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Háleygjatal’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Brepols, Turnhout, p. 195.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13 

for reference only:  1x   3x   11x 

Skj: Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir: 2. Háleygjatal, c. 985 (AI, 68-71, BI, 60-2); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3-4 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13-14 | 14 | 15 | 16

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Gramm, HGráf, HHárf, Hkr, LaufE, ÓT, ÓTC, Skm, SnE, TGT, Yng

SkP info: I, 195

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Háleygjatal ‘Enumeration of the Háleygir (people of Hálogaland)’ (Eyv Hál) praises Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (c. 970-c. 995) and enumerates his ancestors back to Óðinn. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 265), it described the death and burial place of each. From the early heartland in Hálogaland (Hålogaland) implied by the Háleygir of the title (Olsen 1942a), the jarls exerted overlordship or virtual kingship over the coastal areas in the north of Norway and extended their sphere of influence further south, adopting Hlaðir (Lade, Nord-Trøndelag) as their base and becoming known to history as the Hlaðajarlar or Hlaðajarlaætt ‘(kindred of the) jarls of Hlaðir’. During Eyvindr’s lifetime they energetically opposed the Christianization of Norway. The poem also covers Hákon’s triumph at Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen) in sts 11-12. The date of the sea-battle is uncertain, but if the credible and widely-accepted date of c. 985 is correct, the poem may date from that year or soon after.

The poem is named Háleygjatal in Hkr, ÓTFsk, Ágr and SnE (with variant Háleygjadrápa in Flat), and consistently ascribed to Eyvindr, and this, along with an implied tenth-century date of composition, is universally accepted in the published scholarship. Only sts 4-5, 9-10 and 11 are cited explicitly from Hál, but the content and kviðuháttr metre of the remaining stanzas provide a firm basis for ascription to the poem. The extant Hál is incomplete, with only thirteen whole or partial stanzas (as reconstructed here), but its original scope is indicated by a genealogy of the Hlaðajarl dynasty cited by Thormod Torfæus (1711, I, 146), apparently from a now lost ms. of c. 1300, which also, together with the ordering of stanzas in Hkr and Fsk, guides the ordering of the stanzas. Twenty-seven generations are enumerated, the same number as in Þjóðólfr ór Hvini’s Ynglingatal (Þjóð Yt), whose relation to Hál is discussed later in this Introduction. The members of the dynasty are named by Torfaeus in Latinised forms in the following order: 1. Sæmingus (?), 2. Godhialtus, 3. Sverdhialtus, 4. Hodbroddus, 5. Himinleigus, 6. Vedrhallus, 7. Havar Manufortis, 8. Godgestus, 9. Heimgestus Huldrefrater, 10. Gylaugus, 11. Gudlaugus, 12. Mundill Senex, 13. Herser, 14. Brandus Comes, 15. Brynjolfus, 16. Bardus, 17. Hergils, 18. Havar, 19. Haraldus Trygill, 20. Throndus, 21. Haraldus, 22. Herlaugus, 23. Herlaugus, 24. Griotgardus, 25. Hacon Hladajarl, 26. Sigurdus, 27. Hacon rikus. While the genealogy is probably not reliable in detail (cf. ÍF 26, 57-8 n. 6) it is possible to reach a rough correlation with the extant stanzas of Hál as follows: st. 2, Sæmingus (?); st. 3, unknown; sts 4-5, Gudlaugus; st. 6, unknown; sts 7-8, Hacon son of Griotgardus; sts 9-10, Sigurdus; sts 11-12, Hacon rikus. The remaining two (sts 1 and 13) belong to the exordium and conclusion respectively. Additionally, the lost part of the poem devoted to Hersir (Herser) is paraphrased in the prose of Ágr (ÍF 29, 18), with a direct reference to Hál; the account of the death of Goðgestr (Godgestus) in Hkr (ÍF 26, 57) may represent a further paraphrase (Hermann Pálsson 1997, 31). (For a selective genealogy of the Hlaðajarlar, see Hkr 1991, III, 137.) The place of sts 3 and 6 in the sequence of the poem is uncertain, since they are preserved only in SnE in non-narrative contexts. A further problem of reconstruction concerns stanza length. On the available evidence, this varies between eight and twelve lines, similar to the stanzas of Þjóð Yt, and this variation has led to uncertainties as to stanza division (see Notes to sts 1 [All], 2 [All] and 11 [All]).

Eyvindr requests a hearing meðan hans ætt til goða teljum ‘while I reckon his [Hákon’s] lineage back to the gods’ (st. 1/5, 8). Stanza 2 identifies Óðinn and the goddess Skaði as progenitors, while individual jarls are described as the kinsmen of Freyr (st. 7/7) and Týr (st. 10/7); st. 3 makes enigmatic reference to the outlying land of Freyr (see st. 3/1 and Note). With its exceptional claims concerning the jarls’ divine ancestry (Marold 1992, 699) and its focus upon the circumstances in which they met their deaths, Hál strongly resembles Þjóð Yt, an enumeration of the Yngling kings who appear in st. 4 as the adversaries of the jarls. Assuming the conventional datings of the poems to be correct, Hál clearly emulates Yt. It is also imitative in its ‘catenulate’ or catalogue structure and in its kviðuháttr verse-form, including stanza length (as noted above). Notwithstanding the possibility that his nickname skáldaspillir means ‘plagiarist’ (see Biography), Eyvindr’s use of material from the presumptively earlier poem should be viewed not as plagiarism in a modern understanding but as a form of rivalry and appropriation serving the ideology of the jarls of Hlaðir (for discussion of skaldic rivalry, cf. von See 1977a). The emphasis upon divine descent may form another element in this programme of emulation between dynasties, serving to promote the Hlaðajarlar as the equals of the Ynglingar.

The mss used in this edition are as follows: the Hkr mss (main ms.), F for sts 2, 4, 5, 7-11, J2ˣ for sts 2, 4, 5, 7-10, J1ˣ for sts 7-11, 39 for sts 9-11; the ÓT mss Bb and Flat for sts 9, 10; the Fsk mss FskBˣ, FskAˣ for sts 7-10, 12, plus 51ˣ, 302ˣ, 301ˣ for st. 12, since it is preserved only in Fsk; the SnE mss R for sts 1 (ll. 5-8 repeated), 3, 6, 9 (ll. 5-8 repeated), 13, for sts 1, 3, 6, 9 (ll. 5-8 repeated), 13, W for sts 1, 3, 6, 9 (ll. 5-8 repeated), U for sts 1 (ll. 1-8 only, with ll. 5-8 repeated), 3, 6, 9 (ll. 5-8 repeated), 13, A for sts 6, 9/5, 13, B for sts 1 (ll. 5-8 repeated), 9, C for sts 6, 13; the TGT mss W, A for st. 9/5-8. Stanzas 6 and 9 are also preserved in LaufE (1979, 383, 330 respectively), but the text is copied from W and is therefore not used below.

Previous editions of these stanzas include Skj, Skald, editions of the relevant prose works, Davidson (1983) within an edition of poetry for Hákon jarl and Krause (1990) within a complete edition of the Eyvindr corpus.

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.