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, 14-15

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — ESk Geisl 9VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 9’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 14-15.

Yfirmanni býðk — unnin
upps mærð borin — lærðra
— Jóan kǫllum svá — allrar
alþýðu brag hlýða.
Hefjum hendr, en leyfa
hyggk vin rǫðuls tyggja
— stóls vex hæð, þars hvílir
heilagr konungr — fagran.

Býðk {yfirmanni {allrar alþýðu lærðra}} — svá kǫllum Jóan — hlýða brag; unnin mærð [e]s borin upp. Hefjum hendr, en hyggk leyfa {fagran vin {tyggja rǫðuls}}; hæð stóls vex, þars heilagr konungr hvílir.

I ask {the superior {of the whole multitude of learned men}} [CLERICS > BISHOP] — thus we [I] call Jón — to listen to the poetry; the finished poem is offered up. We lift up our hands, and I intend to praise {the beautiful friend {of the king of the sun}} [= God > = Óláfr]; the eminence of the [bishop’s] seat increases, where the holy king rests.

Mss: Flat(2ra), Bb(117ra)

Readings: [2] borin: kominn Bb;    lærðra: lærðrar Bb    [3] kǫllum: kalla Bb;    svá: ek Bb    [5] Hefjum: hófum Bb;    hendr: hróðr Bb    [7] vex: vegs Bb    [8] heilagr: corrected from ‘heilag’ Flat

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 9: AI, 460, BI, 429, Skald I, 212; Flat 1860-8, I, 2, Cederschiöld 1873, 2, Chase 2005, 59, 133.

Notes: [3] svá kǫllum Jóan ‘thus we [I] call Jón’: The svá refers back to the elaborate kenning for bishop in ll. 1, 2, 3, 4, a compliment to the listening and recently consecrated first archbishop of Trondheim, Jón Birgisson. — [5] hefjum hendr ‘we lift up hands’: The gesture was associated with prayer and would have been familiar from Scripture (Ps. XXVII.2, LXII.5, CXXXIII.3; Lam. III.41; 1 Tim. II.8). The psalmist’s formula appears in a l. from the widely-used matins hymn Rerum creator optime (AH 51, 28; Ordo Nidr., 185, 195, 198): Mentes manusque tollimus ‘We lift up our minds and our hands’. Liturgical books commonly use the rubric manus elevans. The Bb reading hróðr is adopted in Skj B and Skald, hence hefjum hróðr ... fagran ‘I begin my fine poem’ (ll. 5, 8) — [6] vin tyggja rǫðuls ‘friend of the king of the sun [= God > = Óláfr]’: The kenning for Óláfr has associations with both the skaldic and Lat. traditions. The Scriptural amicus Dei ‘friend of God’ (Judith VIII.22; Wisd. VII.27; Jas. II.23), translated as guðs vinr ‘God’s friend’ in ON, became a commonplace in hagiography. In skaldic poetry it was customary to praise a jarl or lesser chieftain by calling him the close friend or confidant of a more powerful man (see Meissner, 362); here Einarr emphasises Óláfr’s closeness to God. Cf. spjalli lausnara ‘confidant of the Saviour’ (30/2) and vinr lausnara ‘friend of the Saviour’ (62/5, 7). The God-kenning tyggi rǫðuls ‘king of the sun’ echoes the sun-imagery of the preceding sts.

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