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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 22 September 2021)

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

SkP info: VII, 17

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

12 — ESk Geisl 12VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 12’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 17.

Sigvatr, frák, at segði
sóknbráðs konungs dáðir;
spurt hefr ǫld, at orti
Óttarr um gram dróttar.
Þeir hafa þengils Mœra
— þvís sýst — frama lýstan,
(helgum lýtk) es hétu
hǫfuðskǫld (fira jǫfri).

Frák, at Sigvatr segði dáðir sóknbráðs konungs; ǫld hefr spurt, at Óttarr orti um gram dróttar. Þeir, es hétu hǫfuðskǫld, hafa lýstan frama {þengils Mœra}; þvís sýst; lýtk {helgum jǫfri fira}.

I heard that Sigvatr told the deeds of the battle-quick king; men have learnt that Óttarr composed [poetry] about the king of the court. They who were called the chief skalds have proclaimed the courage {of the lord of the Mœrir} [= Óláfr]; that has been done; I do homage {to the holy king of men} [= Óláfr].

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

Readings: [2] sóknbráðs: so Bb, sóknbráðr Flat;    konungs: jǫfurs Bb    [4] um: of Bb    [5] þengils: so Bb, þengil Flat

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 12: AI, 461, BI, 430, Skald I, 212; Flat 1860-8, I, 2, Cederschiöld 1873, 2, Chase 2005, 62, 135.

Notes: [1] Sigvatr: Sigvatr (or Sighvatr) Þórðarson was one of Óláfr Haraldsson’s favourite and most prolific court poets, composing sts about Óláfr’s battles and journeys, acting as his ambassador on several occasions, and composing an erfidrápa ‘memorial lay’ in honour of the king. He was born c. 1000 in the west of Iceland, the son of a poet, Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld, and the maternal uncle of another, Óttarr svarti (see Note to l. 4 below). Sigvatr also composed poetry for several other Scandinavian rulers. He died c. 1043 (see further Poole 1993a). Sigvatr’s poetry is edited in Volume I of this edn. — [2] sóknbráðs (m. gen. sg.) ‘battle-quick’: The reading of Bb; if Flat’s sóknbráðr were adopted, the only possible referents for it would be Sigvatr and Óttarr. ‘Vehement in battle’ is an unlikely epithet for a skald, and it would be a breach of protocol for the only epithet in the helmingr to refer to a poet rather than to the king. — [4] Óttarr: Óttarr svarti ‘the black’ was the son of Sigvatr Þórðarson’s sister, and was another of S. Óláfr’s favourite poets. He is cited as a skaldic authority in FGT (c. 1150) and is also quoted frequently by Snorri Sturluson in Skm. See further Guðrún Nordal 2001, 28; Poole 1993b. Óttarr’s poetry is also edited in Volume I. — [5-8]: Hétu must be understood in its passive sense ‘were called’, and jǫfurr fira ‘king of men’ as an epithet for Óláfr parallel with gram dróttar ‘the king of the court’ (l. 4). For other readings see Finnur Jónsson in Skj B, Kock in Skald, where, following a suggestion of Konráð Gíslason, fira (l. 8) is emended to firar, giving þeir es firar hétu hǫfuðskǫld ‘they whom men called chief poets’.

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