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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 16 October 2021)

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

SkP info: VII, 37-8

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

37 — ESk Geisl 37VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 37’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 37-8.

Gǫfug réð Hǫrn ór hǫfði
hvítings um sǫk lítla
auðar aumum beiði
ungs manns skera tungu.
Þann sôm vér, es vôrum,
válaust numinn máli
hodda njót, þars heitir
Hlíð, fôm vikum síðan.

{Gǫfug Hǫrn hvítings} réð skera tungu ór hǫfði {aumum beiði auðar} um sǫk lítla ungs manns. Vér sôm {þann njót hodda}, válaust numinn máli, es vôrum fôm vikum síðan, þars heitir Hlíð.

{A noble Hǫrn <= Freyja> of the drinking horn} [WOMAN] decided to cut the tongue out of the head {of a poor seeker of riches} [MAN] for little fault of the young man. We [I] saw {that user of treasure} [MAN], without doubt deprived of speech, when we were [I was] a few weeks later at the place called Lia.

Mss: Flat(2rb), Bb(117vb); Kˣ(624r-v), 39(40vb), E(46r) (Hkr); Holm2(77v), 73aˣ(221r-v), Holm4(70vb), Tóm(164r), Bb(208vb), Flat(128va) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] réð: skar Bb(117vb), Holm2, lét Kˣ, 39, E, 73aˣ, Holm4, Tóm, Flat(128va), ‘lot’ Bb(208vb);    Hǫrn: heyrn Holm2;    hǫfði: so Bb(117vb), Kˣ, 39, E, Holm2, 73aˣ, Holm4, Tóm, Bb(208vb), Flat(128va), hofi Flat(2rb)    [2] hvítings: ‘hiorrungs’ Tóm;    um: fyr Tóm    [3] aumum: aumir Tóm;    beiði: beiða Tóm    [4] ungs manns skera: ungr maðr var sá Bb(117vb), Holm2, Tóm;    skera: ‘kera’ 39, skerða Tóm    [5] sôm: sá Kˣ, 39, E, sann Tóm    [7] hodda njót: hodda brjót Bb(117vb), 39, E, Holm2, 73aˣ, Holm4, hoddbrjót Kˣ, odda njót Tóm, hoddu brjóst Bb(208vb), hodda brjótr Flat(128va);    þars (‘þar er’): þar ór Bb(208vb)    [8] síðan: síðar Bb(117vb), Kˣ, 39, E, Holm2, 73aˣ, Holm4, Tóm, Bb(208vb), Flat(128va)

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 37: AI, 465-6, BI, 436, Skald I, 215, NN §939; Flat 1860-8, I, 4, II, 285-6, Cederschiöld 1873, 6, Chase 2005, 87, 150-1; Hkr, ÍF 28, 271-2 (Msona ch. 33); ÓH 1941, 648-9.

Context: This st. is quoted in Hkr, Msona, ch. 33 (mss 39, E, and ) and in ÓH (Flat, Bb, Holm2, Holm4, 73aˣ, Tóm). It is introduced by the following prose passage (as normalized in Hkr, ÍF 28, 271-2): Kolbeinn hét maðr, ungr ok fátœkr, en Þóra, móðir Sigurðar konungs Jórsalafara, lét skera tungu ór hǫfði honum, ok var til þess eigi meiri sǫk en sá inn ungi maðr, Kolbeinn, hafði etit stykki hálft af diski konungsmóður ok sagði, at steikari hafði gefit honum, en hann þorði eigi við at ganga fyrir henni. Síðan fór sá maðr mállauss langa hríð. Þess getr Einarr Skúlason í Óláfsdrápu ‘There was a man named Kolbeinn, young and poor, and Þóra, the mother of King Sigurðr the Jerusalem-traveller (sic), had his tongue cut out, and there was no more reason for this than that the young man, Kolbeinn, had eaten half a morsel from the plate of the king’s mother, and said that the cook (who was afraid to confess this to her) had given it to him. After that the man went around unable to speak for a long time. Einarr Skúlason reports this in Óláfsdrápa.’ Following the st., the sagas continue: Hann sótti síðan til Þrándheims ok til Niðaróss ok vakði at Kristskirkju. En um óttusǫng Óláfsvǫkudag inn síðara þá sofnaði hann ok þóttisk sjá Óláf konung inn helga koma til sín ok taka hendi sinni í stúfinn tungunnar ok heimta. En hann vaknaði heill ok þakkaði várum dróttni feginsamliga ok inum helga Óláfi konungi, er hann hafði heilsu ok miskunn af þegit, hafði farit þannug mállauss ok sótti hans heilagt skrín, en þaðan fór hann heill ok skorinorðr ‘He later went to Trondheim and Niðaróss and kept a watch at Kristkirken. And about the time of matins on the eve of the second feast of S. Óláfr he fell asleep and thought he saw the holy King Óláfr come to him and take with his hand the stump of his tongue and pull on it. And he awoke healed and joyfully thanked our Lord and the holy King Óláfr, from whom he had obtained health and mercy. He had come to that place without speech and sought out his holy shrine, and he went home well and articulate’.

Notes: [All]: This st. is also in AM 61 fol, but is illegible. — [All]: Sts 37-9 recount a miracle of a servant whose tongue had been cut out for a minor offence on the order of the mother of King Sigurðr munnr, Þóra Gutthormsdóttir. The man, named Kolbeinn, made a pilgrimage to S. Óláfr’s shrine, where he fell asleep. Óláfr appeared to him then and pulled the stump of his tongue. The pain awakened him and he found himself cured. This must have been a rather risky narrative for Einarr to tell in the presence of Sigurðr and with the king’s own mother labelled a wrongdoer. It is perhaps for this reason that Geisl adds the corroborative, supposedly eyewitness detail of ll. 5-8. — [1-4]: Cf. the verbal parallels in the early prose versions: þoꝛa gothoꝛms. dottir modir sigvrdar k(onungs) let [s]cera tungo oꝛ hofði maɴi er kolbeiɴ het of eigi meiri sakar en hann hafdi tekit af krasadiski heɴar ‘Þóra Gutthormsdaughter, the mother of King Sigurðr, had the tongue cut out of the head of a man named Kolbeinn for no more reason than that he had taken from her plate of dainties’ (Louis-Jensen 1970, 36); Þora het kona, Guðþorms dotter, moðer Sigurðar, er skera let tungu or hofði manne, þæim er Kolbæinn het, firir æingi mæiri soc, en hann hafðe tækit af krasadisci hænnar nokcot ‘Þóra was the name of a woman, the daughter of Gutthormr, the mother of Sigurðr, who had the tongue cut out of the head of the man named Kolbeinn, for no more reason, than that he had taken something from her plate of dainties’ (ÓHLeg 1982, 228). — [1] Hǫrn: Hǫrn is an alternative name for the goddess Freyja, here used as the base-word of a woman-kenning; the basic sense of hvítingr is ‘white one’ and can be applied to a range of light-coloured or shining referents, including drinking horns. — [3] aumum beiði auðar ‘poor seeker of riches’: Just as Einarr often compares Óláfr the miracle dispenser to a chieftain generous with his gold, he likens the beneficiary of the miracle to a ‘poor seeker of riches’. — [7] njót hodda ‘user of treasure’: This kenning echoes aumum beiði auðar ‘poor seeker of riches’ in l. 2. — [8] Hlíð ‘Lia’: Hlíð (lit. ‘Mountainside’) was a popular farm name in medieval Norway (Rygh 1897-1936 lists over sixty examples). Storm 1900, 698 n. 1 identifies this Hlíð as the modern Lien (current Lia), a farmstead in Bratsberg county, Strinda, Sørtrøndelag.

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