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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 29 November 2021)

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

SkP info: VII, 46-7

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

48 — ESk Geisl 48VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 48’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 46-7.

Missti maðr, es lýsti,
— morginn vas þá — borgar
styrks mundriða steindrar
styrsnjallr roðins galla.
Nýtr gat séð á sléttri
seimþiggjandi liggja
grundu gylðis kindar
gómsparra sér fjarri.

Styrsnjallr maðr missti {styrks, roðins galla {steindrar borgar mundriða}}, es lýsti; morginn vas þá. {Nýtr seimþiggjandi} gat séð {gómsparra gylðis kindar} liggja fjarri sér á sléttri grundu.

The battle-bold man missed {the strong, reddened destruction {of the stained stronghold of the sword-hilt}} [SHIELD > SWORD] when it grew light; it was morning then. {The useful gold-receiver} [MAN] was able to see {the gum-spar of the wolf’s offspring} [SWORD] lying far from him on the flat ground.

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

Readings: [3] steindrar: so Bb, steindra Flat    [4] styrsnjallr: so Bb, styrs bráðr Flat;    roðins: so Bb, regins Flat;    galla: so Bb, ‘vꜳda’ Flat    [5] Nýtr gat séð: Þátti sinn Bb    [6] ‑þiggjandi: ‑þiggjandr Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 48: AI, 468, BI, 439, Skald I, 216; Flat 1860-8, I, 5, Cederschiöld 1873, 7, Chase 2005, 98, 155-6.

Notes: [1-4]: There is a considerable disparity between Flat’s and Bb’s texts of the first helmingr, but Bb’s must be preferred as Flat’s ll. 3-4 are ungrammatical as they stand and the sword-kenning possible in these ll. is unsatisfactory. One would have to read styrks steindrar mundriða borgar Regins váða ‘(the man missed) the strong sword hilt of the fortress of Reginn’s peril [SWORD > SHIELD > SWORD]’, with Bb’s steindrar for Flat’s steindra (gen. pl.), understanding mundriði (lit. ‘that which causes the hand to move quickly’) as a metonym for a sword. Borgar Regins váða would provide both a sword- and a shield-kenning. According to the Vǫlsung legends, the dwarf Reginn made his foster son Sigurðr a powerful sword named Gramr, with which Sigurðr killed the dragon Fáfnir and later Reginn himself. ‘Reginn’s peril’ would thus be a kenning for sword; its fortress is the shield. The mundriði of the shield is in turn another sword-kenning. But this is not very plausible, and Bb’s reading of ll. 3-4 is better on several counts, even though galla (l. 4; nom. galli), which normally means ‘defect, fault’ has to be taken in the more abstract sense of ‘destruction’. — [4] styrsnjallr ‘battle-bold’: Bb’s reading styrsnjallr ‘battle-bold’ is preferred here to Flat’s styrs bráðr ‘battle-quick’ and is also adopted by Skj B and Skald. Both mss’ readings (-snjallr : gall- and bráðr : váð-) provide aðalhending. — [7-8] gómsparra gylðis kindar ‘the gum-spar of the wolf’s offspring [GOLD]’: An allusion to a story told in the Gylf section of SnE (1982, 29): the Æsir fended off the wolf Fenrir by wedging a sword between his gaping jaws. This is the only such sword-kenning in skaldic poetry.

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