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, 40

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

40 — ESk Geisl 40VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 40’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 40.

Veitk, at Vinðr fyr skauti
(verðr bragr af því) skerði
gjalfrs Niðbranda grundar
(greiddr) sárliga meiddu,
ok endr frá trú týndir
tírar sterks ór kverkum
auðskýfanda óðar
ôr grimmliga skôru.

Veitk, at Vinðr meiddu {skerði {Niðbranda}} sárliga fyr skauti {grundar gjalfrs}; bragr verðr greiddr af því; ok týndir endr frá trú skôru grimmliga {ôr óðar} ór kverkum {auðskýfanda}, tírar sterks.

I know that the Wends mutilated {the diminisher {of Nið <river>-flames}} [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] painfully by the edge {of the land of ocean-din} [SEA]; poetry is made from that; and [men] lost long ago from the faith cut horribly {the oar of poetry} [TONGUE] from the throat {of the distributor of riches} [GENEROUS MAN], strong in honour.

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

Readings: [2] af því skerði: en þeir skerðu Flat    [3] Niðbranda: ‘nidranda’ Flat    [4] greiddr: ‘greiddra’ Flat    [5] frá: fyr Flat;    týndir (‘tindir’): ‘tindri’ Flat

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 40: AI, 466, BI, 437, Skald I, 215, NN §1794; Flat 1860-8, I, 4, Cederschiöld 1873, 6, Chase 2005, 90, 151-2.

Notes: [All]: Chase 2005, 90 presents the following text, based on Flat:

Veitk, at Vinðr fyr skauti
verðr bragr (en þeir skerðu)
gjalfrs niðranda grundar
greiddr (sárliga) meiddu,

ok endr fyr trú týndir
tírar sterks ór kverkum
auðskýfanda óðar
r grimmliga skru.

Veitk, at Vinðr meiddu skauti grundar gjalfrs fyr niðranda, en þeir skerðu sárliga – bragr verðr greiddr; ok endr fyr trú týndir skru grimmliga óðar r ór kverkum tírar sterks auðskýfanda ‘I know that the Wends mutilated the twig of the land of noise [MOUTH > TONGUE] on the riverbank, and they cut [it] painfully. Poetry is made; and men lost from the faith long ago horribly cut the oar of poetry [TONGUE] from the throat of the most honourable distributor of riches [MAN]’. In this interpretation skauti (dat. sg.) (l.1) is understood as ‘twig’ (lit. ‘corner, flap, edge’ of something) and taken with grundar gjalfrs to produce a tongue-kenning, while Flat’s niðranda (l.3) is taken with fyr (l. 1) to produce the sense ‘on the riverbank’. Nið is here understood as referring to any body of water, and randi is taken as a poetic form of rǫnd ‘rim, edge’. Fyr niðranda means ‘beside the seacoast’ or ‘on the riverbank’, perhaps a pun on the name Niðaróss ‘estuary of the Nið’. — [All]: Sts 40-1 recount a miracle of S. Óláfr which is also told in the prose versions (see Chase 2005, 40-1 and n. 120). A group of Wends took a man named Halldórr and cut out his tongue. Halldórr then visited Óláfr’s shrine on his feast day and was cured. The account in AM 325 4° IV (Louis-Jensen 1970) says that this took place while Cardinal Nicholas Breakspear was in Norway, in the year before Geisl’s recital, and that this and the cure involving Kolbeinn (see sts 37-9) were witnessed by a monk named Hallr. Geisl is the only account of the miracle that specifies a location for the maiming (according to the interpretation below). — [All]: The text above is based mainly on Bb (as in Skj B and Skald) on the grounds that it produces better and less syntactically strained sense, especially in l. 1 (fyr skauti) and l. 4, where Flat’s text requires sárliga to be set off by two different sentence boundaries. — [2] skerði (dat. sg.) ‘the diminisher’: Skerðir ‘diminisher, destroyer’ is frequently a base-word of man-kennings that have ‘gold’ as the determinant, as here. Flat’s text requires skerðu ‘they cut’, 3rd pers. pl. pret. indic. of skerða ‘to cut a notch, diminish, harm’. — [3] Niðbranda ‘of Nið <river>-flames’: A kenning for gold, in which the name of the river Nið (Norw. Nidelven) that flows through Niðaróss, the older name for Trondheim, functions as a river-heiti, though one that may well also have had specific reference in this context, see LP: 2 Nið.

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