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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, 60

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

65 — ESk Geisl 65VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 65’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 60.

Heims hykk hingat kvômu
hǫfuðsmenn í stað þenna
— snarr tyggi bergr seggjum
sólar — erkistóli.
Hérs af himna gervis
heilagr viðr — sem biðjum,
yfirskjǫldungr, bjarg, aldar,
oss — píningar krossi.

Hykk hǫfuðsmenn heims kvômu erkistóli hingat í stað þenna; {snarr tyggi sólar} bergr seggjum. Hérs heilagr viðr af krossi píningar {gervis himna}; {yfirskjǫldungr aldar}, bjarg oss, sem biðjum.

I know that the rulers of the world brought an archbishopric here to this place; {the quick prince of the sun} [= God (= Christ)] saves men. Here there is holy wood from the Cross of torture {of the maker of the heavens} [= God (= Christ)]; {supreme king of men} [= God], protect us as we pray.

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

Readings: [2] hǫfuðsmenn: so Bb, hǫfuð manns Flat    [3] snarr: snart Bb    [4] erkistóli: so Bb, ‘erchistolar’ corrected from ‘erchisolar’ Flat    [7] bjarg: so Bb, bjarg þú Flat

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 65: AI, 471, BI, 443-4, Skald I, 218; Flat 1860-8, I, 7, Cederschiöld 1873, 9, Chase 2005, 115, 164-5.

Notes: [1-4]: A reference to the establishment of the archdiocese of Trondheim in 1152, the visit of Cardinal Nicholas Breakspear to Norway, and his consecration of Jón Birgisson (who was in Einarr’s audience) as its first archbishop. — [5] gervis himna ‘of the maker of the heavens’: A kenning for Christ, the creative word through whom God made the universe (Heb. I.1-2). The image of Christ as creator occurs frequently in hymns; Einarr would have known, e.g., Conditor alme siderum (AH 51, 46; Ordo Nidr., 131, 133, 135, 137-41, 144-5, 149-50); Regni cælestis conditor (AH 51, 3); Christe, cælorum conditor (AH 51, 41). Cf. also Mark Frag 1III. — [6, 8] heilagr viðr af krossi píningar ‘holy wood from the Cross of torture’: King Sigurðr Jórsalafari (‘Jerusalem-traveller’) brought the relic of Christ’s Cross to Trondheim after receiving it as a gift from Baldwin I of Jerusalem during a trip to Palestine in 1110 (Ágr, 50-1; Storm 1888, 66; Hkr, III, 250). — [7] yfirskjǫldungr aldar ‘supreme king of men [= God]’: The God-kenning reflects the kenning for the hierarchy in the first helmingr: the pope may be the head-man of the world, but God is ‘over-king of mankind’, the supreme ruler of everything. Cf. hæstr skjǫldungr ‘highest prince’, st. 6/7 and ins hæsta hilmis ‘of the highest king’, st. 67/7.

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