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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 27 November 2021)

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

SkP info: VII, 20-1

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

16 — ESk Geisl 16VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 16’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 20-1.

Ok hagliga hugðisk
hrøkkviseiðs ins døkkva
lyngs í lopt upp ganga
látrs stríðandi síðan.
Lét, sás landfolks gætir,
líknframr himinríki
umgeypnandi opnask
alls heims fyr gram snjǫllum.

Ok {stríðandi {látrs {ins døkkva hrøkkviseiðs lyngs}}} hugðisk síðan ganga hagliga upp í lopt. {Líknframr umgeypnandi alls heims}, sás gætir landfolks, lét himinríki opnask fyr snjǫllum gram.

And {the enemy {of the lair {of the dark coiling fish of the heather}}} [SNAKE > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] thought then that he went easily up into the air. {The outstandingly merciful encompasser [lit. holder in hand] of the whole world} [= God], who watches over the people of the country, caused the kingdom of heaven to open before the clever king.

Mss: Flat(2ra), Bb(117rb); R(35v), Tˣ(37r), W(81), U(34v), A(12v) (SnE, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] hagliga: so Bb, hverlofaðr Flat    [2] ‑seiðs: baugs Bb    [4] látrs: látr Bb    [5] landfolks: so Bb, R, Tˣ, W, U, A, lands folk Flat    [6] líknframr: líknsamr Bb, A, líkbjartr R, Tˣ, W, líknbjartr U    [7] umgeypnandi: umgeypnanda Tˣ;    opnask: opna R, Tˣ, W, U, A

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 16: AI, 462, BI, 431, Skald I, 213; Flat 1860-8, I, 2, Cederschiöld 1873, 3, Chase 2005, 66, 137-8; SnE 1848-87, I, 450, SnE 1931, 159, SnE 1998, I, 78.

Context: Lines 5-8 occur in several mss of the Skm section of SnE among examples of kennings for Christ. Snorri comments: ‘Here kennings become ambiguous, and the person interpreting the poetry has to distinguish from the context which king is being referred to. For it is normal to call the emperor of Constantinople king of the Greeks, and similarly the king that rules Palestine, to call him king of Jerusalem ... And the kenning that was quoted above, calling Christ king of men, this kenning can be applied to any king.’ (Faulkes 1987, 127-8; cf. SnE 1998, I, 78). Snorri was aware of Einarr’s use of double entendre to associate Óláfr with Christ.

Notes: [2] hagliga ‘easily’: The Bb reading is necessary for the rhyme with hugðisk. — [6] líknframr ‘outstandingly merciful’: The reading of the SnE mss R, and W, líkbjartr ‘bright in body’ offers a viable alternative here, as does U’s líknbjartr ‘bright of (?shining in) mercy’. — [7, 8] umgeypnandi alls heims ‘encompasser [lit. holder in hand] of the whole world’: Ps. XCIV.4 (in manu eius fines terrae ‘in his hands are all the ends of the earth’) is probably the inspiration for this kenning, understood here to refer to God even though Snorri Sturluson (see Context) apparently understood it to refer to Christ. Cf. similar periphrases in Anon Mgr 2/5, Kálf Kátr 36/3, Gamlkan Has 29/7-8 and 64/6.

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