Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gísl Illugason (Gísl)

12th century; volume 2; ed. Kari Ellen Gade;

1. Erfikvæði about Magnús berfœttr (Magnkv) - 20

Skj info: Gísl Illugason, Islandsk skjald, 12. årh. (AI, 440-4, BI, 409-13).

Skj poems:
1. Erfikvæði um Magnús berfœtt
2. Lausavísa

Gísl belonged to the Icel. family of the Gilsbekkingar, who were said to be descendants of the C9th poet Bragi inn gamli ‘the Old’ Boddason (BragiIII). Gísl was the great-grandson of the skald Tindr Hallkelsson (TindrI), the uncle of poet Gunnlaugr ormstunga ‘Serpent-tongue’ Illugason (GunnlIV). See ÍF 3, 331, Genealogies II a-b in ÍF 3 and SnE 1848-97, III, 625-6. Details about Gísl’s life are given in Gísls þáttr Illugasonar (GíslIll) in H-Hr (Fms 7, 29-40; ÍF 3, 329-42) and in Jóns saga helga (JBp; JBp 2003, 10, 63-72). Gísl was born in 1079, and when he was six years old, his father was killed by a certain Gjafvaldr, a slaying Gísl later avenged. King Magnús berfœttr ‘Barelegs’ Óláfsson sentenced Gísl to death for the killing of Gjafvaldr, who was one of his retainers, but Gísl escaped execution (see Gísl Lv below). He then travelled with Magnús to Ireland in charge of hostages and became Magnús’s court poet (Skáldatal, SnE 1848-87, III, 254, 262, 276). He also seems to have participated in Magnús’s expedition to the west in 1098 and in his campaign in Sweden (c. 1100-2; see Magnkv 11 and 19). Gísl later lived in Iceland until old age and had one son, Einarr (JBp 2003, 72). In addition to the memorial poem below composed about Magnús berfœttr, Gísl is said to have composed another encomium to Magnús on the occasion described in the lv. below, but no sts from that poem survive (see SnE 1848-87, III, 626-7; ÍF 3, 340-1).

Erfikvæði about Magnús berfœttr — Gísl MagnkvII

Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Gísl Illugason, Erfikvæði about Magnús berfœttr’ 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. Brepols, Turnhout, pp. 416-30.

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Skj: Gísl Illugason: 1. Erfikvæði um Magnús berfœtt, o. 1104 (AI, 440-4, BI, 409-13)

in texts: H-Hr, Mork

SkP info: II, 416-30

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


This poem in fornyrðislag (Gísl Magnkv) commemorates the life of Magnús berfœttr Óláfsson, and it must have been composed shortly after his death in 1103. All sts are preserved in Mberf in Mork (Mork) and H-Hr (H, Hr). Ms. F, which is not a Hkr ms. here, contains sts 1-7 and 9-20. Mork has been chosen as the main ms. The order of sts is determined by the sequence of events they describe and poses no problems (see Fidjestøl 1982, 152, 173). Stanzas 1-8 recall the uprising against Magnús in 1094 (sts 1-6) and Magnús’s subsequent reconciliation with the people of Trøndelag (sts 7-8) (see also SteigÞ Kv, Bkrepp Magndr 2-3, Þham Magndr 1 and Lv 1 and Anon (Mberf) 2-3). Stanzas 9-16 describe Magnús’s first expedition to the west in 1098 (sts 9-13) and his return to Norway in 1099 (sts 14-16) (see also Mberf Lv 1, Kali Lv 1, Bkrepp Magndr 5-11 and Þham Magndr 2-3), while sts 17-20 document Magnús’s campaigns in Sweden (c. 1100-2) against King Ingi Steinkelsson (see also Mberf Lv 2, Eldj Lv 1-2, Þham Magndr 4 and Anon (Mberf) 4-5).

The poet is identified by name in all mss, but the title of the poem, Erfikvæði um Magnús berfœtt ‘Memorial Poem about Magnús berfœttr’, is a modern construct (see SnE 1848-87, III, 627-8). For a discussion of Gísl Magnkv, Ív Sig and eddic poetry, see Neckel 1908, 421-49.

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