Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson (Eyv)

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

3. Lausavísur (Lv) - 14

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).

Lausavísur — Eyv LvI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Lausavísur’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 213.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14 

Skj: Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir: 3. Lausavísur (AI, 71-4, BI, 62-5)

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Gramm, HákGóð, HGráf, Hkr, LaufE, LaufE, Ldn, ÓT, Skm, SnE, TGT

SkP info: I, 213

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


These fourteen lausavísur (Eyv Lv) appear to be occasional compositions that belong in a context of factional politics in later tenth-century Norway. The death of Hákon góði ‘the Good’ (r. c. 934-c. 961), Eyvindr’s erstwhile patron, was followed by the assumption of power by his nephew Haraldr gráfeldr ‘Grey-cloak’, leader of the Eiríkssynir or Gunnhildarsynir, sons of Eiríkr blóðøx ‘Blood-axe’ and his consort Gunnhildr. These developments affected Eyvindr adversely, to judge from the stanzas, and his commentary on events contains strongly personal elements. The contextualisation of these stanzas in the kings’ sagas (Hkr, ÓT and Fsk) probably depends in part on separate oral traditions and in part on ex post facto inferences from the stanzas themselves (Bagge 2004, 197).

The stanzas can be divided into two main groups: Lv 1-5 describe the battle of Fitjar, and Lv 6-14 describe the aftermath of the battle, focusing on Eyvindr’s relationship to Haraldr gráfeldr and the alleged misrule and famine during the rule of the Eiríkssynir.

The battle commemorated in Lv 1-5 was fought c. 961 at Fitjar on the island of Storð in Hǫrðaland (Stord, Hordaland; see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume). Hákon is said (e.g. in Hkr, ÍF 26, 182-5) to have been attending a feast at Fitjar and there to have been intercepted by the Eiríkssynir, who had sailed up clandestinely from the south, led by Haraldr gráfeldr. To judge from Lv 1, Eiríkr’s surviving sons were seeking retribution for the deposition of their father from his kingship and his expulsion from Norway at the hands of Hákon, in alliance with the Norwegian nobility. The two sides engaged in battle and Hákon gained the victory, against superior numbers, but at the cost of his life. Eyvindr was evidently a witness and possibly a participant in the events described in these stanzas, which give an impression of spontaneity and informality; for the suggestion that they may originally have been composed as part of a flokkr or other loose-knit, semi-extemporaneous verse sequence, see Poole (1988). Eyvindr also recounted some of the action in a more retrospective style in his Hákonarmál (Eyv Hák). Prose descriptions of the battle are found in Hkr, ÓT and Fsk.

The second group of stanzas (Lv 6-14) appears to consist of political and satirical commentary composed by Eyvindr on a variety of occasions after the death of Hákon and the accession of Haraldr gráfeldr. The stanza order found in Hkr is followed here, on the grounds that this is the only redaction to preserve all the extant stanzas. Lv 6 appears to belong to a verse exchange between Eyvindr and Glúmr Geirason, one of Haraldr gráfeldr’s skalds, where in standard fashion each poet praises the prowess and success of his lord. Lv 7 and 10 express Eyvindr’s submission to Haraldr. Each appears to be a singleton stanza, as treated in Hkr, whereas in Fsk Lv 7 is immediately followed by Lv 10; it is possible that Fsk is correct here and that the narration in Hkr is secondary, perhaps influenced by the dialogue in Hallfreðar saga (ÍF 8, 152-9) between Hallfreðr and Óláfr Tryggvason concerning the poet’s conversion to Christianity. Lv 11, which represents the culmination of Eyvindr’s submission, might also belong in this sub-group. Lv 8 and 9 are grouped together in the sources as the poet’s complaint concerning the meanness of the Eiríkssynir, as contrasted with the munificence of Hákon. Lv 12-14 are grouped together in Hkr (Fsk has only Lv 12) as Eyvindr’s adverse commentary on the famine and hardship suffered by Norwegians, particularly in Hálogaland (Hålogaland), during the reign of the Eiríkssynir.

The ms. sources used in this edition are as follows. The Hkr mss , 39, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ have Lv 1, 2, 4-14 or subsets of these; Lv 6 appears twice in F, and its first line is repeated in , J1ˣ and J2ˣ. The ÓT mss 61, 53, 325IX 1 a, Bb, Flat have Lv 1, 2, 5-11 or subsets of these. The texts of Eyv Lv in 761bˣ are copied from 61 and possibly other extant mss of the kings’ sagas and are not noted in this edition. The Fsk mss FskBˣ, FskAˣ have Lv 1-12. Additionally, the SnE mss R, W, have Lv 7/1-4, 8/1-4, and 9; U has Lv 8/1-4, 9 (with ll. 1-4 repeated), A has Lv 7/1-4, B has Lv 9/5-8 and C has Lv 8/1-4. The TGT mss A, W, B have Lv 8/1-2. LaufE preserves Lv 9/5-8 but the text is not of independent value and is not used in this edition (see Faulkes, LaufE 1979, 173, 359). The Ldn mss Þb106ˣ, Þb112ˣ have Lv 2. The SnE tradition differs markedly from Hkr, ÓT and Fsk on some key readings; also apparently from a distinct tradition is Ldn. Eyvindr’s lausavísur are edited in the standard skaldic and kings’ saga editions, and in Krause (1990). Editions of select stanzas include Turville-Petre (1976, 42-5 for Lv 8, 12, 14), Frank (1978, 57-9, 115-7 for Lv 8, 14), Poole (1988, 12-15 for Lv 1-5) and Poole (1991, 12-16 for Lv 12-14); these are cited as appropriate in the Notes.

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