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, 52-3

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

56 — ESk Geisl 56VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 56’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 52-3.

Ruddu gumnar gladdir
— gǫfugr þengill barg drengjum —
vagna borg, þars vargar
vápnsundrat hræ fundu.
Nennir ǫll at inna
øngr brimloga sløngvir
dǫglings verk, þess’s dýrkar,
dáðsnjalls, alla.

Gladdir gumnar ruddu borg vagna, þars vargar fundu vápnsundrat hræ; gǫfugr þengill barg drengjum. {Øngr sløngvir {brimloga}} nennir at inna ǫll verk dáðsnjalls dǫglings, þess’s dýrkar alla

The happy warriors cleared the fortress of wagons, where wolves found the weapon-torn carrion; the noble king saved men. {No slinger {of sea-fire}} [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] is minded to tell all the deeds of the quick-acting ruler, the one who glorifies the whole

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

Readings: [1] Ruddu: Eyddu Bb    [2] gǫfugr: ‘gavfur gr’ Bb    [4] ‑sundrat: sundruð Bb    [5] ǫll: so Bb, ǫld Flat    [6] øngr (‘eingr’): so Bb, ungr Flat;    sløngvir: slungins Flat, ‘slaungir’ Bb    [7] þess’s: so Bb, ‘þau er’ Flat;    dýrkar: so Bb, dýrka Flat

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 56: AI, 469, BI, 441, Skald I, 217; Flat 1860-8, I, 6, Cederschiöld 1873, 8, Chase 2005, 106, 160.

Notes: [1-4]: Flat is followed here, though Bb, which is followed by Skj B and Skald, also makes good sense. Differences are that Bb reads eyddu ‘they emptied, laid waste, destroyed’ in l. 1 and has pl. vápnsundruð hræ ‘the weapon-torn corpses’ in l. 4. — [3] borg vagna ‘the fortress of wagons’: Both Snorri (Hkr, ÍF 28, 371) and John Kinnamos (in Brand 1976, 16) describe the Petchenegs’ tactic of drawing their wagons into a fortified circle. — [5-8]: Both ms. versions of this helmingr pose problems and both may be corrupt. Here Bb has been followed (so also Skj B and Skald), and Flat’s version is discussed below. Bb’s version requires one emendation (sløngvir, l. 6; Skj A reads ‘slaungvir’, but no ‘v’ is visible in the ms.) and the sense required for dýrkar (l. 7) is somewhat unusual (Skj B som forherliger hele verden ‘who glorifies the whole world’). The problems produced by Flat’s version are as follows: — [5] inna ‘tell, relate’: A verb used frequently in religious poetry. However, the syntax of its usage in Flat, ungr nennir at inna ǫld verk ‘a young [man] is minded to tell men the works’, requires inna to be used with the dat, which is unprecedented. — [6] ungr ‘young’: The adj. in Flat must be understood as a noun, possibly referring to the skald, though, if so, the reference to youth is merely conventional, since Einarr was hardly young at the time he recited Geisl. — [7, 8, 6] verk dáðsnjalls dǫglings slungins brimloga ‘the works of the quick-acting ruler of scattered sea-fire’: There are two reasons to be suspicious of this kenning; the first is that dǫglingr is never used as the base-word of a kenning for a secular ruler, only for God or Christ, and this is borne out by one other example in st. 5/7, and the second is that dǫglingr is not the right sort of base-word in a kenning for a generous ruler, which should belong to a category such as ‘distributor’, ‘spender’, ‘waster’ or similar.

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