Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Markús Skeggjason (Mark)

12th century; volume 2; ed. Jayne Carroll;

Eiríksdrápa (Eirdr) - 32

Skj info: Markús Skeggjason, Isl. lovsigemand og skjald, d. 1107. (AI, 444-53, BI, 414-21).

Skj poems:
1. Eiríksdrápa
2. Knútsdrápa(?)
3. Kristsdrápa(?)
4. Lausavísur

Markús Skeggjason (Mark) was the son of Skeggi Bjarnason and possibly a brother of the poet Þórarinn Skeggjason (ÞSkegg). He was lawspeaker in Iceland from 1084 until his death on 15 October 1107. In Íslendingabók (Íslb, ÍF 1, 22) he is named as an important informant for Ari Þorgilsson about the lives of the earlier lawspeakers in Iceland. He had gained this information from his brother, father and grandfather. Markús appears to have had close ties to the Church: during his time as lawspeaker, and with his guidance, Gizurr Ísleifsson, bishop of Skálholt (1081-1118), established the Icel. tithe laws (ÍF 1, 22). Markús was among the most respected poets in the canon of the C13th and he is cited often in SnE and TGT (see below).

In Skáldatal, Markús is associated with S. Knútr Sveinsson of Denmark (d. 1086), Eiríkr inn góði ‘the Good’ Sveinsson of Denmark (d. 1103), and Ingi Steinkelsson of Sweden (d. 1110) (SnE 1848-87, III, 252, 258, 260, 267, 271, 283, see also 348-53). An extended hrynhent poem about Eiríkr (Mark Eirdr), composed after his death in 1103, and one helmingr about ‘Sveinn’s brother’, probably S. Knútr (Mark KnútdrIII), survive, alongside one helmingr and a couplet from a possible drápa about Christ (Mark KristdrIII) and two lvv. (Mark Lv 1-2III). Aside from Eirdr, all of Markús’s extant poetry is transmitted in SnE or TGT, and it has been edited in SkP III.

Eiríksdrápa (‘Drápa about Eiríkr’) — Mark EirdrII

Jayne Carroll 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Markús Skeggjason, Eiríksdrápa’ 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. 432-60.

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Skj: Markús Skeggjason: 1. Eiríksdrápa, o. 1104 (AI, 444-52, BI, 414-20); stanzas (if different): 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

in texts: Knýtl, LaufE, Skm, SnE

SkP info: II, 432-60

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


All thirty-two hrynhent sts attributed to Markús Skeggjason are considered to belong to EiríksdrápaDrápa about Eiríkr’ (Mark Eirdr), a praise poem about King Eiríkr Sveinsson of Denmark composed after his death in 1103 and possibly delivered in the presence of his brother and successor, Nikulás (see dedication in st. 1; for Eiríkr, see ‘Royal Biographies’ in Introduction to this vol.). The deaths of Eiríkr and Markús place the poem’s composition in 1103-7.

It has been suggested that Eirdr was composed around the time of Archbishop Ǫzurr’s consecration in Lund in 1105 of Jón Ǫgmundarson, first bishop of Hólar (d. 1121), and that Jón brought the poem with him to Lund in written form (Olsen 1921, 166; see also Bjarni Guðnason in ÍF 35, cxxxvii and Jesch 2003, 273). This hypothesis may be supported by the commemoration of Eiríkr’s role in founding the seat of the Scandinavian archbishopric at Lund, with Ǫzurr as its archbishop (st. 25), together with Markús’s well-established links with the Icel. Church (see Biography above, and Gísli Sigurðsson 2004, 69-70). Furthermore, Saxo clearly knew the poem, and it was one of the sources for his description of Eiríkr’s reign in Gesta danorum (see Bjarni Guðnason in ÍF 35, cxxxvii and n. 7; Bjarni Guðnason 1976). On the other hand, a date of composition predating Jón’s consecration in 1105 is somewhat difficult to reconcile with the time when the news of Eiríkr’s death reached Denmark (in 1104 according to Knýtl, ÍF 35, 240; in 1105 according to Saxo, 2005, II, 12, 8, 1, pp. 82-3; see also Storm 1888, 19, 59, 111, 319).

The poem is noteworthy not only for its value as a historical source (it provides the sole independent evidence of several events in Eiríkr’s life (Christiansen 1980, I, 261-2; see further Notes to individual sts)), but also for its dual focus on the traditional—in skaldic terms—attributes of the Dan. king, as well as on new, Christian aspects of kingship on a European model (Paasche 1914, 54; Fidjestøl, 1982, 245; Jesch 2003; Clunies Ross 2005, 129-30).

Eighteen full- and ten half-sts (sts 3-30) are preserved in Knýtl’s account of Eiríkr’s reign (chs 70-81), which draws heavily on the information provided by the skaldic sts. The order of sts 3-30 (as given in Knýtl) is unproblematic and has been preserved in the present edn. The title of the poem is given with the first st. quoted in Knýtl, ch. 70 (Svá segir Markús Skeggjason í Eiríksdrápu ‘So says Markús Skeggjason in Eiríksdrápa’), and the saga-author introduces all the subsequent sts with the poet’s name, usually in the form, Svá segir Markús ‘So says Markús’. Stanzas 1-2 and 31-2 are preserved in SnE (Skm), where they are attributed to Markús. Stanza 1 is clearly the poet’s traditional opening bid for a hearing, and st. 2 is very similar (Fidjestøl 1982, 153 suggests that it may be the poem’s refrain). Stanza 32, which is given as st. 3 in Skj, appears to draw the poem to a close (Fidjestøl 1982, 153). The placing of st. 31 is problematic, because neither the context (SnE (Skm)) nor the content (generalised praise of Eiríkr) of the couplet suggest its original position. The major previous eds of the poem (Skj; Skald; Finnur Jónsson 1929, 55-9) place the couplet between our sts 4 and 5; CPB I, 235-9 places it last.

Ms. R is the main ms. for the sts preserved in SnE (sts 1-2, 31-2). In addition, some or all of those sts are transmitted in the following mss of SnE: , W, U, A, B, C. Because B is damaged and difficult to read, 744ˣ, an early C18th copy made of B when it was more legible, has also been used selectively. The text of the Knýtl sts (sts 3-30) is based on the edn of Jón Ólafsson 1741 (JÓ). In addition, the sts are preserved in the following mss of Knýtl: 873ˣ, 20b I and 1005ˣ.

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