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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 27 November 2021)

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

SkP info: VII, 55-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

59 — ESk Geisl 59VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 59’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 55-6.

Lustu sundr á sandi
seggs marglitendr eggja
(hǫrð grœr fjón af fyrða)
fót (aldrtrega rótum);
ok prest, þeirs lǫg lestu
líknar krǫfð, ór hǫfði
— hætt mál vas þat — heila
himintungl firar stungu.

{Marglitendr eggja} lustu sundr seggs fót á sandi; hǫrð fjón grœr af rótum aldrtrega fyrða; ok firar, þeirs lestu lǫg, líknar krǫfð, stungu {himintungl heila} ór hǫfði prest; þat vas hætt mál.

{Frequent-stainers of blades} [WARRIORS = Einarr and Andréas] broke the man’s leg on the beach; hard hatred grows from the roots of the lifelong sorrows of men; and men, those who broke the law, from which mercy was demanded, struck {the heavenly bodies of the brain} [EYES] from the head of the priest; that was a dangerous undertaking.

Mss: Flat(2rb), Bb(118rb); W(169) (SnE, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] sundr: so Bb, í sundr Flat;    á: so Bb, í Flat    [2] seggs: ‘se⸜g⸝x’ corrected from ‘sex’ in a different hand Flat, sex Bb;    marglitendr: so Bb, marglituðr Flat;    eggja: eggi Bb    [3] grœr (‘grerr’): so Bb, greri Flat;    af: so Bb, með Flat    [5] prest: fyrst W;    lǫg: so Bb, W, lim Flat;    lestu: so Bb, W, leystu Flat    [6] líknar: so Bb, ‘feyfdar’ Flat, leygðar W;    krǫfð: krǫf W    [8] firar: þegar W

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 59: AI, 470, BI, 442, Skald I, 217-18, NN §949; Flat 1860-8, I, 6, Cederschiöld 1873, 9, Chase 2005, 109, 160-1; SnE 1924, 112.

Context: In addition to st. 59’s presence in Flat and Bb, ll. 5-8 are quoted in the W text of SnE (1924, 112) in a section listing heiti and kennings for the eyes.

Notes: [1] lustu sundr á sandi ‘broke ... on the beach’: Bb’s readings must be preferred here, both for metrical reasons, and for sense (á sandi). — [3-4]: Bb’s reading of l. 3 is again followed, although Flat’s greri ‘grew’ would also be possible. Kock’s understanding of the intercalary (Skald and NN §949) is followed here, rather than Skj B’s hǫrð fjón aldrtrega fyrða grœr af rótum ‘mændenes hårde dødelige had havde rodfæstet sig’ (‘mankind’s hard deadly hatred had taken root’). — [5] prest (gen. sg.) ‘of the priest’: An occasionally-occurring alternative gen. form of prestr, which probably arose because of the difficulty of pronouncing the final consonant cluster in prests (see ANG §358.2, Anm. 3). Skj B and Skald emend to prests, but this is unnecessary.

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