This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas

login: password: stay logged in: help

Einarr Skúlason (ESk)

12th century; volume 2; ed. Kari Ellen Gade;

VII. Geisli (Geisl) - 71

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 28 June 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   56   57   58   59   60   61   62   63   64   65   66   67   68   69   70   71 

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

SkP info: VII, 42-3

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

43 — ESk Geisl 43VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 43’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 42-3.

Hneitir, frák, at héti,
hjaldrs at vápna galdri,
Óláfs hjǫrr, þess’s orra
ilbleikum gaf steikar.
Þeim klauf þengill Rauma
þunnvaxin ský gunnar
— rekin bitu stôl — á Stikla-
stǫðum valbastar rǫðli.

Frák, at hjǫrr Óláfs, þess’s gaf steikar {ilbleikum orra hjaldrs} at {galdri vápna}, héti Hneitir. {Þeim rǫðli valbastar} klauf {þengill Rauma} {þunnvaxin ský gunnar} á Stiklastǫðum; rekin stôl bitu.

I heard that the sword of Óláfr, who gave meat {to the pale-footed blackcock of battle} [RAVEN] at {the chant of weapons} [BATTLE], was called Hneitir. {With that sun of the sword-hilt} [SWORD] {the king of the Raumar} [= Óláfr] clove {the thin-grown clouds of battle} [SHIELDS] at Stiklestad; inlaid steel weapons bit.

Mss: Flat(2rb), Bb(117vb-118ra)

Readings: [2] at: af Bb    [3] Óláfs: ǫðlings Bb    [4] steikar: so Bb, ‘stikar’ Flat    [6] ‑vaxin: vaxins Bb    [7] Stikla‑: ‘stika’ Flat, ‘stiklar’ Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 43: AI, 467, BI, 437-8, Skald I, 216, NN §§941, 942; Flat 1860-8, I, 5, Cederschiöld 1873, 6-7, Chase 2005, 93, 153-4.

Notes: [All]: Sts 43-50 are occupied with the story of the fate of King Óláfr’s sword Hneitir ‘cutter’. According to Óláfs þáttr Geirstaðaálfs (Flat 1860-8, II, 6-9; Fms 4, 37-8), this sword had belonged to Óláfr Geirstaðaálfr. When he died, it was buried with him, but he later appeared in a dream to Hrani Hróason and instructed him to break into the burial mound, take the sword, and give it to Ásta, then in labour with the birth of her son, S. Óláfr, who received it from his mother at the age of eight. Some versions of Óláfs saga report that after killing a huge boar with the sword, Óláfr changed its name from Bæsingr ‘son of an exiled mother’ to Hneitir ‘cutter’, þvíat honum þótti þat hneita önnur sverð fur hvassleika sakir ‘because it seemed to him to outdo other swords where sharpness is concerned’ (Fms 4, 57-8). The story of what happened to Hneitir after S. Óláfr’s death is the longest miracle account in Geisl and is not found in any of the prose legends. Einarr may well have known of it from oral tradition (see Chase 2005, 41-2 and nn. 121-6) and Snorri Sturluson evidently knew it from Einarr’s drápa, which he mentions specifically in Hkr (ÍF 28, 369-71). Hneitir is there said to have been picked up after the battle at Stiklestad by a Swedish soldier and to have passed down in his family until it came into the possession of a member of the Varangian guard in Byzantium. The sword was bought by the Byzantine emperor after it appeared to have miraculous powers and was hung over the altar of a church the Varangians had dedicated to S. Óláfr. — [6] þunnvaxin (n. acc. pl.) ‘thin-grown’: This adj. presumably implies that the shields became thinner as they were hacked by swords. — [8] rǫðli valbastar ‘with the sun of the sword-hilt [SWORD]’: Valbǫst f. is the name of a decorative metal plate on the handle of a sword (cf. LT, 275); cf. Egill Lv 42/8V eld valbasta ‘fire of sword-hilts [SWORD]’. Schrodt 1975 argues that valbǫst is a sword-heiti meaning ‘corpse-striker’.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated