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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 1 July 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, 54-5

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

58 — ESk Geisl 58VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 58’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 54-5.

Angrfyldrar varð aldar
(illr gerisk hugr af villu)
mildings þjónn fyr manna
(margfaldr) ǫfund kaldri.
Lygi hefr bragna brugðit
(brýtr stundum frið) nýtra
(hermðar kraptr) til heiptar
hjaldrstríð skapi blíðu.


{The servant {of the king of sinful humankind}} [= God > PRIEST = Ríkarðr] was up against the cold hatred of men; the many-sided mind becomes evil from delusion. Battle-hard lying has turned the happy mind of able men to hatred; the power of anger sometimes breaks the peace.

notes: Sts 58-61, like sts 37-9, mention a miracle of S. Óláfr that must have been a little delicate for Einarr to treat, as it again involved the mother of King Sigurðr munnr, Þóra Gutthormsdóttir, and her brothers Einarr and Andréas. It concerned an English priest named Ríkarðr who, Einarr and Andreas believed, was having an affair with Þóra. In order to punish him for this supposed insult to the family honour, they persuaded him to undertake a short journey and, on the way, they, with a servant, attacked him with an axe, breaking a leg, knocking out his eyes from their sockets, and cutting out his tongue. He did not die, but took refuge with a peasant household where he prayed to S. Óláfr. The saint appeared to him in a dream and cured his injuries. This narrative is found in all prose versions of the legend of S. Óláfr (Chase 2005, 43 and n. 132). The rather oblique and general statements of st. 58 are presumably Einarr Skúlason’s way of deflecting absolute blame for the attack on a priest from Sigurðr’s mother’s brothers onto generalised rumour-mongering, while at the same time implying the priest Ríkarðr’s innocence. — [5-8]: There are at least three ways of reading this helmingr. The one adopted here depends on reading Flat’s adj. hjaldrstríð ‘battle-hard’ (l. 8, f. nom. sg.) as agreeing with lygi ‘lying’ (l. 5). Both Skj B and Skald prefer Bb’s slightly emended reading hjaldrstríðr (m. nom. sg.) agreeing with kraptr hermðar ‘the power of anger’ (l. 7). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) construes lygi hefr brugðit blíðu skapi nýtra bragna til heiptar; hjaldrstríðr kraptr hermðar brýtr stundum frið ‘lying has transformed the happy mind of able men to indignation; the battle-strong power of anger sometimes breaks the peace’. Kock (Skald and NN §948) prefers lygi hefr brugðit blíðu skapi bragnastundum brýtr hjaldrstríðr kraptr hermðar frið nýtra til heipta ‘lying has transformed the happy mind of men – sometimes the battle-strong power of anger forces the peace of good [men] to feuds’.

texts: Flat 55

editions: Skj Einarr Skúlason: 6. Geisli 58 (AI, 470; BI, 441-2); Skald I, 217, NN §§948, 2271; Flat 1860-8, I, 6, Cederschiöld 1873, 8-9, Chase 2005, 108, 160.


GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 2rb, 49 - 2rb, 49  image  image  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 118rb, 13 - 118rb, 16  image  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated