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, 45-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

47 — ESk Geisl 47VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 47’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 45-6.

Gyrðisk hála herðum
heldr síðarla á kveldi
glaumkennandi gunnar
glaðr véttrima* naðri.
Drengr réð dýrr á vangi
— dagr rofnaðisk — sofna
ítrs landreka undir
ógnfimr berum himni.

{Glaðr glaumkennandi gunnar} gyrðisk {hála herðum naðri véttrima*} heldr síðarla á kveldi. Dýrr ógnfimr drengr {ítrs landreka} réð sofna á vangi undir berum himni; dagr rofnaðisk.

{The happy noise-tester of battle} [WARRIOR] girded himself {with the well-hardened snake of sword-rings} [SWORD] rather late in the evening. The valuable, battle-deft soldier {of the splendid land-ruler} [= Byzantine emperor] decided to sleep in a field in the open air [lit. under the bare sky]; the day was waning.

Mss: Flat(2rb), Bb(118ra)

Readings: [1] Gyrðisk: so Bb, Gerðisk Flat    [2] síðarla (‘sidallá’): ‘naliga’ Bb;    á: at Bb    [3] ‑kennandi: vekjandr Bb;    gunnar: ‘grimo’ Bb    [4] véttrima*: ‘vetþryma’ Flat, vettrimar Bb    [5] réð: nam Bb    [8] ógn‑: so Bb, orm‑ Flat

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 47: AI, 467, BI, 438-9, Skald I, 216; Flat 1860-8, I, 5, Cederschiöld 1873, 7, Chase 2005, 97, 155.

Notes: [All]: Sts 47-50 conclude the narrative of Óláfr’s sword, Hneitir. A soldier in the army of the Greeks (44/7, 8) had the sword under his head one night, as he slept in the open air. When he woke, he found that the sword had moved and was lying on the ground some distance from him (st. 48). This miraculous happening took place on three successive nights (st. 49) and came to the attention of the Byzantine emperor, who bought it from the soldier and had it mounted over the altar of a church (st. 50). — [4] naðri véttrima* ‘snake of sword-rings’: The meaning of véttrim is obscure, but it is usually understood to refer to a metal ring either between the sword guard and the sword handle or between the pommel and the sword handle; see LP: véttrim; LT, 290. For possible etymologies see Sijmons and Gering 1903-31, III.2, 210. Naðr véttrima is clearly a kenning for ‘sword’, and Einarr’s choice of naðr ‘snake’ as the base-word may evoke the image of the sword creeping away from the man like a serpent. The emendation adopted here requires véttrima to be gen. pl., while Bb’s reading, adopted by both Skj and Skald, makes it sg. — [7] landreka ‘[of the] land-ruler’: According to Snorri Sturluson (Hkr, ÍF 28, 370), this man was the Byzantine emperor Kirjalax, who was identified by Metcalfe (1881, 76 n. 6) as Alexios I Komnenos, who reigned 1081-1118. More recently, however, Benedikz (1978, 122) has proposed an identity with Alexios’s son John II Komnenos. — [8] ógnfimr ‘battle-deft’: The reading of Bb. Flat’s ormfimr can only make sense in context if orm- ‘snake-’ is construed as meaning ‘sword’, in connection with sword-kennings with ormr as the base-word. See Chase 2005, 155 n.

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