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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Einarr Skúlason (ESk)

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

VII. Geisli (Geisl) - 71

Skj info: Einarr Skúlason, Islandsk skjald, 12. årh. (AI, 455-85, BI, 423-57).

Skj poems:
1. Sigurðardrápa
2. Haraldsdrápa I
3. Haraldsdrápa II
4. Haraldssonakvæði(?)
5. Sigurðardrápa
6. Geisli
7. Runhenda
8. Eysteinsdrápa
9. Ingadrápa
10. Elfarvísur
11. Lausavísur
11. Lausavísur
11. Øxarflokkr(?)
12. Ubestemmelige vers, tilhørende forskellige fyrstedigte eller lausavísur

We know very little about the life of Einarr Skúlason (ESk). He is called prestr ‘priest’ and is mentioned in a catalogue (c. 1220) of priests of noble birth who were alive in western Iceland in 1143 (Stu 1878, II, 502). It is likely that he came from Borg, belonged to the Mýrar family and was a direct descendant of Þorsteinn Egilsson and a brother of Snorri Sturluson’s maternal grandfather (LH 1894-1901, II, 62-3; ÍF 3, 51 n. 3). He was probably born c. 1090. In 1153, he recited the poem Geisli ‘Light-beam’ (ESk GeislVII) in Kristkirken in Trondheim. He was marshal (stallari) at King Eysteinn Magnússon’s court, and he composed poetry in praise of the Norw. kings Sigurðr jórsalafari ‘Jerusalem-farer’ and Eysteinn Magnússon, Haraldr gilli(-kristr) ‘Servant (of Christ)’, Magnús inn blindi ‘the Blind’ Sigurðarson, Haraldr gilli’s sons, Ingi, Sigurðr munnr ‘Mouth’, and Eysteinn, and about the Norw. chieftain Grégóríus Dagsson (see SnE 1848-87, III, 254-5, 263-4, 269, 276-7, 286). According to Skáldatal, he also honoured the Norw. magnate Eindriði ungi ‘the Young’ Jónsson as well as Sørkvir Kolsson and Jón jarl Sørkvisson of Sweden and King Sveinn Eiríksson of Denmark (SnE 1848-87, III, 252, 258, 260, 268-9, 272, 283, 286). About the latter he recited a poem for which he received no reward (see ESk Lv 3; ÍF 35, 275). The extant portion of his poetic oeuvre consists of the following poems (excluding lvv.): Sigurðardrápa I (Sigdr I, five extant sts about Sigurðr jórsalafari); Haraldsdrápa I (Hardr I, two extant sts about Haraldr gilli); Haraldsdrápa II (Hardr II, five extant sts about Haraldr gilli); Haraldssonakvæði (Harsonkv, two extant sts about the sons of Haraldr gilli); Sigurðardrápa II (Sigdr II, one extant st. about Sigurðr munnr Haraldsson); Runhenda (Run, ten extant sts about Eysteinn Haraldsson); Eysteinsdrápa (Eystdr, two extant sts about Eysteinn Haraldsson); Ingadrápa (Ingdr, four extant sts about Ingi Haraldsson); Elfarvísur (Elfv, two extant sts about Grégóríus Dagsson); Geisli (GeislVII, seventy-one sts about S. Óláfr); Øxarflokkr (ØxflIII, ten extant sts about the gift of an axe).

It must be emphasised that, although the poetry included in the royal panegyrics below clearly belongs to poems of that genre, with two exceptions (Hardr II and Elfv), all the names of the poems are modern constructs (notably by Jón Sigurðsson and Finnur Jónsson). That also holds true for the assignment of sts to the individual poems. In some cases, sts were assigned to a particular poem for metrical reasons (so Run), in other cases because of the content or the named recipients of the praise. For the sake of convenience, the names of the poems and the sts assigned to them as found in Skj have been retained in the present edn. In addition to the royal encomia, a number of fragments and lvv. attributed to Einarr are preserved in SnE, TGT and LaufE (see ESk Frag 1-18III; ESk Lv 7-15III). These have been edited separately in SkP III. Six lvv. are transmitted in the kings’ sagas and edited below.

Geisli (‘Light beam’) — ESk GeislVII

Martin Chase 2007, ‘ Einarr Skúlason, Geisli’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 5-65. <> (accessed 29 November 2021)

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Skj: Einarr Skúlason: 6. Geisli, 1153 (AI, 459-73, BI, 427-45)

SkP info: VII, 16-17

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — ESk Geisl 11VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 11’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 16-17.

Þreklynds skulu Þrœndir
þegns prýðibrag hlýða
Krists — lifir hann í hæstri
hǫll — ok Norðmenn allir.
Dýrð es ágæt orðin
eljunhress í þessu
— þjóð né þengill fœðisk
þvílíkr — konungs ríki.

Þrœndir ok allir Norðmenn skulu hlýða prýðibrag {þreklynds þegns Krists}; hann lifir í hæstri hǫll. Eljunhress dýrð es orðin ágæt í þessu konungs ríki; þjóð né þvílíkr þengill fœðisk.

The Þrœndir and all Norwegians should listen to the splendid poem {of the strong-minded thane of Christ} [= Óláfr]; he lives in the highest hall. Energetic fame has become renowned in this king’s realm; neither people nor such a prince will be born [again].

Mss: Flat(2ra), Bb(117rb)

Readings: [2] þegns prýðibrag: ‘þegn prydes brag’ Bb    [3] Krists: Krist Bb    [6] þessu: so Bb, þessum Flat    [8] þvílíkr: so Bb, þvílíkr í Flat;    konungs: konung Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 11: AI, 461, BI, 429-30, Skald I, 212, NN §931; Flat 1860-8, I, 2, Cederschiöld 1873, 2, Chase 2005, 61, 134.

Notes: [All]: Flat and Bb’s versions of st. 11 differ significantly, especially in ll. 2, 6 and 8. — [2] prýðibrag þegns ‘splendid poem of the thane’: Previous eds have based their texts on Bb’s þegnprýðis brag ‘poem of the thane-ornamenter [RULER = Óláfr]’. This interpretation assumes a hap. leg. prýðir cognate with prýða ‘to ornament’. The hap. leg. prýðibrag ‘splendid poem’ is a more likely cpd than þegnprýðir (there are a variety of compounds with prýði-). Þegn (l. 2) is then construed with Krists (l. 3) to give a kenning for Óláfr analogous to the miles Christi ‘soldier of Christ’ familiar from Scripture (2 Tim. II.3) and hagiography (cf. Guðs ríðari ‘God’s knight’ 18/6). — [3-4]: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Kock (Skald) assume an intercalary cl. hann lifir í hæstri hǫll Krists ‘he [Óláfr] lives in the highest hall of Christ’, understanding ‘the highest hall of Christ’ as a kenning for heaven. Here, however, the sup. adj. is redundant so the phrase í hæstri hǫll (cf. œztrar hallar 5/3, 4) offers a better reading. — [5-8]: Most eds (Skj B, Skald and NN §931, and Wisén 1886-9, I, 55) follow Bb’s þessu (l. 6) and omission of í (l. 8), which in Flat’s version is both hypermetrical and unmetrical. Flat’s version also requires a noun to be understood with þessum (l. 6). Eljunhress (adj.) ‘energetic’ may be either f. nom. sg. agreeing with dýrð or m. gen. sg., used substantivally, referring to Óláfr. Alternatively, it can qualify konungs, although this involves reading konungs and ríki in l. 8 separately rather than as comprising a single phrase. Skj B construes ll. 5-8 as: dýrð eljunhress þjóðkonungs es orðin ágæt; né fœðisk þvílíkr þengill í þessu ríki ‘the fame of the energetic people-king has become renowned; there will not be born [again] such a prince in this realm’. This has the advantage of avoiding the rather awkward treatment of þjóð (l. 7), necessitated by Kock’s solution below; instead þjóðkonungs is taken as a cpd with tmesis, as in a similar context in 14/3-4. Kock (NN §931) has dýrð eljunhress es orðin ágæt í þessu konungsríki; þjóð né þvílíkr ðengill fœðisk ‘the fame of the hero has become renowned in this kingdom; neither people nor such a prince will be born [elsewhere]’. Kock’s version, however, is the simplest, as far as word order is concerned, and metrically straightforward, and a variant of it is adopted here.

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