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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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

SkP info: VII, 22-3

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

19 — ESk Geisl 19VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 19’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 22-3.

Náðit bjartr, þás beiðir
baugskjalda lauk aldri
— sýndi salvǫrðr grundar
sín tôkn — rǫðull skína.
Fyrr vas hitt, at harra
hauðrtjalda brá dauða
happ- (nýtask mér) -mætu
(máltól) skini sólar.

Bjartr rǫðull náðit skína, þás {beiðir baugskjalda} lauk aldri; {{grundar sal}vǫrðr} sýndi sín tôkn. Hitt vas fyrr, at happmætu skini sólar brá dauða {harra {hauðrtjalda}}; {máltól} nýtask mér.

The bright sun was unable to shine when {the desirer of ring-shields} [WARRIOR] ended his life; {the guardian {of the hall of earth}} [(lit. ‘hall-guardian of earth’) SKY/HEAVEN > = God] showed his signs. It happened previously that the excellently fortunate shining of the sun ceased through the death {of the lord {of earth-tents}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)]; {speech-tools} [ORGANS OF SPEECH] are of use to me.

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

Readings: [1] Náðit: so Bb, ‘Nꜳdiz’ Flat    [2] baugskjalda: baugs skjaldar Bb    [5] at: er Bb    [6] brá: so Bb, bar Flat;    dauða: aldri Bb    [7] happ: hept Bb    [8] skini: so Bb, ‘skinu’ Flat

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 19: AI, 462, BI, 431-2, Skald I, 213, NN §933; Flat 1860-8, I, 3, Cederschiöld 1873, 3, Chase 2005, 69, 139-41.

Notes: [1-4]: The first helmingr is reminiscent of the Legendary Saga of St. Óláfr (ÓHLeg 1982, 196): Nu let Olafr konongr þar lif sitt. Þar varð sva mikil ogn, at solen fal gæisla sinn oc gerði myrct, – en aðr var fagrt veðr – æftir þui sem þa var, er sialfr skaparenn for af verolldenne. Syndi Guð þa mikla ogn ‘Now king Óláfr gave up his life there. There was such great terror there that the sun concealed its rays and it grew dark – but it had been fine weather before – just as it did when the Creator himself departed from the world. God showed great terror then.’ — [3] salvǫrðr grundar ‘hall-guardian of earth’: The image of God as guardian occurs frequently in OE poetry, and after Arnórr Þórðarson introduced it in Arn Magndr 10/6II and Arn Hardr 17/3II it became popular with Christian skalds (see Meissner, 376). — [5-8]: These ll. seem to be corrupt in both mss and there have been various suggested readings, all of which involve some emendation. The general sense of the passage is clear: it is a reference to the eclipse of the sun that is said to have occurred at Christ’s Crucifixion. In an aside the poet also mentions his ‘speech-tools’. In the cl. beginning at harra hauðrtjalda, the verb brá (3rd pers. sg. pret.) must be used impersonally, as skini ‘shining’ (taking Bb’s reading) is dat. But it is difficult then to understand the case of dauða (harra hauðrtjalda) unless it is dat. instr., viz. ‘through or by the death of the lord of earth-tents’. Thus the sense of this part of the helmingr must be ‘that the shining of the sun ceased through the death of the lord of earth-tents [SKY/HEAVEN > = Christ]’. This then leaves unexplained the first and last words of l. 7. Skj B construes these two elements as part of a cpd adj. happmætr ‘bringing good fortune’, qualifying skini, whose two elements are separated by tmesis, as does Chase 2005, 69 and 141. Kock (Skald and NN §933) adopts Bb’s reading hept and construes it with the intercalary hept máltól nýtask mér, translating tungans band jag nu kan lossa ‘I can now undo the tongue’s binding’, properly ‘fettered speech-tools are [now] of use to me’. — [8] máltól ‘speech-tools [ORGANS OF SPEECH]’: Kennings for the voice, tongue, and lips as the tools of the poet’s trade are common in skaldic poetry; cf. Meissner, 132-4. Cf. st. 50/4.

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