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, 35-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

35 — ESk Geisl 35VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 35’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 35-6.

Menn hafa sagt, at svanni
sunnr, Skônungum kunnir,
oss, um Óláfs messu
almilds baka vildi.
Enn þás brúðr at brauði
brennheitu tók leita,
þá varð grjón at grônu
grjóti danskrar snótar.

 

Men, known to the Skônungar, have told us that a woman in the south wanted to bake on all-generous Óláfr’s feast day. Yet, when the woman went to seek the burning-hot bread, then the dough of the Danish woman had become a grey stone.

notes: Sts 35-6 narrate the miracle of a woman (from Trøndelag according to ÓHLeg 1982, 214-15), forced by her master, an evil Danish count, to bake bread on S. Óláfr’s feast day. (Punishment for working on a saint’s feast day is a common hagiographical motif.) She prayed to S. Óláfr for vengeance, and the loaves were turned to stone in the oven, while the count was blinded. This narrative, which comes from the legendary tradition, follows the Gutthormr miracle in a number of sources (e.g. ÓHLeg 1982, 214; Passio Olaui in Metcalfe 1881, 78-9; HómNo, 115; Hkr, ÍF 28, 137-8; ÓH 1941, 636-7), both accounting for relics that were to be seen in Trondheim cathedral, the silver cross and three rocks kept at Óláfr’s shrine until the Reformation. Many Icel. churches also displayed stones as a reminder of the story: ‘Óláfssteinar’ were kept in the churchyard at Þingvellir as late as 1873 (DI I, 1264-5; see further Chase 2005, 39 and nn. 110 and 111). The miracle of the loaves is also said to account for the fact that the feast of S. Óláfr was observed throughout Denmark (cf. st. 36).

texts: Flat 32

editions: Skj Einarr Skúlason: 6. Geisli 35 (AI, 465; BI, 435-6); Skald I, 215; Flat 1860-8, I, 4, Cederschiöld 1873, 5-6, Chase 2005, 85, 150.

sources

GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 2rb, 3 - 2rb, 3  image  image  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 117vb, 11 - 117vb, 14  image  image  
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