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Einarr skálaglamm Helgason (Eskál)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Edith Marold;

2. Vellekla (Vell) - 37

Little is certain about the life of Einarr skálaglamm ‘Tinkle-scales’ Helgason (Eskál), except that he came from a noble family from western Iceland. They were descendants of Bjǫrn austrœni ‘the Easterner’, i.e. ‘the Norwegian’, son of Ketill flatnefr ‘Flat-nose’. According to Ldn (ÍF 1, 123), Einarr’s mother was Niðbjǫrg, daughter of an Irish king. Einarr’s brother Ósvífr was the father of Guðrún Ósvífsdóttir, the heroine of Laxdœla saga. A few anecdotes link Einarr to Egill Skallagrímsson. Egils saga (Eg, ÍF 2, 268-73) tells of Einarr visiting Egill and the two talking at length about poetry. The meeting led to a long friendship, which is reflected in similarities between the two skalds’ poetry (de Vries 1964-7, I, 176). A valuable shield given to Egill by Einarr inspired Egill to compose a Skjaldardrápa or shield poem honouring the gift, of which only the first stanza has survived (Egill SkjalddrV).

Einarr must have lived c. 940-c. 990. He presumably spent much of his life at the court of Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in Norway, for whom he composed Vellekla (Eskál Vell) and another poem, Hákonardrápa (Eskál Hákdr). Two stanzas (Eskál HardrIII) that possibly stem from one or more Haraldsdrápur in honour of Haraldr blátǫnn ‘Blue-tooth’ Gormsson indicate that he might have spent time at the Danish court, perhaps as a companion of Hákon jarl. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266, 280) mentions Einarr only as one of Hákon jarl’s skalds. Besides these poems, three lausavísur are preserved in Jvs, Fsk, Flat and Eg. The first two are part of a typical skald anecdote about court poetry and its reward, and are preserved in versions that differ sufficiently for them to be printed in both SkP I (Eskál Lv 1a and Lv 2a) and SkP V (Eskál Lv 1bV (Eg 124) and Lv 2bV (Eg 125)). The third (Eskál Lv 3) concerns the death of Þorleifr skúma Þorkelsson (Þskúm), an Icelandic retainer of Hákon jarl, at the battle of Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen, c. 985).

According to Jvs (1969, 178-9), Einarr’s nickname skálaglamm ‘Tinkle-scales’ refers to a pair of precious and magically resounding scales (OIcel. skálar/skálir) with which Hákon jarl rewarded him for Vell (see Introduction to Eskál Lv 1-3). This explanation (apparently accepted in Finnur Jónsson 1907, 284) may, however, be a later etymological invention, and skálaglamm could instead derive from OIcel. skáli ‘hall, free-standing house’ either as part of a sky-, breast- or shield-kenning (Lie 1975, 643), or more likely as a ‘loud sound (glamm) in the hall’, in reference to his art of recitation. Jvs (1969, 178) also tells that Einarr earlier had the nickname Skjaldmeyjar-Einarr ‘Einarr of the shield-maiden’. Skjaldmeyjar are armed women who took part in battles (cf. Akv 16), but nothing is known about how Einarr got this nickname. According to Ldn and Jvs, Einarr drowned in Breiðafjörður on a voyage home (Ldn, ÍF 1, 123; Jvs 1969, 205); they add a legend according to which his scales (Jvs), or his shield and his coat (Ldn), wash ashore, inspiring the names of the islands Skáleyjar, Skjaldey and Feldarhólmr.

Vellekla (‘Lack of Gold’) — Eskál VellI

Edith Marold with the assistance of Vivian Busch, Jana Krüger, Ann-Dörte Kyas and Katharina Seidel, translated from German by John Foulks 2012, ‘ Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 280. <> (accessed 23 May 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 

Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm: 3. Vellekla, o. 986 (AI, 122-31, BI, 117-24); stanzas (if different): 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

SkP info: I, 293

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Eskál Vell 9I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 9’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 293.

Berk fyr hefnð, þás Hrafna
(hljóm*) lof (togins skjóma
þann) nam vǫrðr at vinna
(vann) síns fǫður hranna.

Berk lof fyr hefnð, þás {vǫrðr {Hrafna hranna}} nam at vinna fǫður síns; vann {þann hljóm* togins skjóma}.

I bear praise for the revenge that {the guardian {of the Hrafnar <horses> of the waves}} [SHIPS > SEAFARER] took for his father; [he] made {the din of the drawn sword} [BATTLE].

Mss: (113r), 39(3vb), F(19vb), J1ˣ(67v), J2ˣ(65r) (Hkr); 61(7rb), 325IX 1 a(3ra), Bb(9va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] fyr: frá 61, 325IX 1 a, Bb;    þás (‘þa er’): enn F    [2] hljóm*: hljóms all;    lof: ‘lop’ 39, F, Bb;    togins: so 325IX 1 a, Bb, togin Kˣ, 39, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61    [3] þann: þat Kˣ, 39, F, J1ˣ, 61, 325IX 1 a, Bb, þar J2ˣ;    nam: varð 325IX 1 a, Bb    [4] síns: sinn 39, F, Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 10: AI, 124, BI, 118, Skald I, 66, NN §§303B, 397, 1884B; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 237, IV, 68, ÍF 26, 210, Hkr 1991, I, 139 (HGráf ch. 6), F 1871, 90; Fms 1, 56, Fms 12, 32, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 56 (ch. 35).

Context: Stanzas 9 and 10 are cited in uninterrupted sequence, and are introduced as Einarr’s account of how Hákon jarl avenged his father.

Notes: [All]: Vell 1865, 18 presents this helmingr together with st. 8 as one stanza, but this seems unconvincing because in Hkr and ÓT they are separated by a prose sentence (see Context). Some eds link st. 9 with 10/1-4, and that is compatible with the layout in the mss, but see Note to st. 10 [All]. — [All]: This helmingr has been the subject of many interpretations, none of which is fully convincing. Almost all interpreters agree on the following part of the stanza: fyr hefnð, þás vǫrðr hrafna hranna vann fǫður síns ‘for the revenge that the guardian of the Hrafnar <horses> of the waves [SHIPS > SEAFARER] took for his father’. Fms 12 and Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 108-9) construe fǫður síns with hefnð; but since this produces a tripartite division of l. 4, it is better to leave it in the subordinate clause. For the rest of the helmingr, several emendations have been proposed and suggestions made as to how to achieve the most satisfactory sentence structure. — [1, 3, 4] vǫrðr Hrafna hranna ‘the guardian of the Hrafnar <horses> of the waves [SHIPS > SEAFARER]’: Hrafn (‘Raven’) is the name of the horse of Áli, the adversary of the Swedish king Aðils (see LP: 2. Hrafn), hence it stands for ‘horse’ in ship-kennings of the type ‘horse of the sea’. — [2] lof ‘praise’: Most interpreters view lof as the obvious object of berk ‘I bear’ (l. 1), even though it does not occur until l. 2. The exception is Kock (NN §397), who, striving for the simplest syntax, conjoins berk directly to fyrir hefnd ‘I recite the revenge’, i.e. ‘I speak of the revenge’. There is, however, no known instance of a collocation bera fyrir (with fyrir as an adv.) with this meaning. — [2, 3] þann hljóm* togins skjóma ‘the din of the drawn sword [BATTLE]’: All mss have hljóms. (a) To avoid an emendation, a few eds (Fms 12; Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 108-9; Hkr 1991) conjoin hljóms and lof to mean ‘praise of the sound’ (a praise-poem?). However, no parallel expression is known (Finnur Jónsson 1891a, 161; Finnur Jónsson 1924a, 322), and moreover this creates a difficulty with the remainder of the line, toginn/togins skjóma ‘the drawn sword’. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (Fms 12), Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 109) and Hkr 1991 read toginn (as in mss , 39, F, J1ˣ, 61), taking toginn skjóma as the object of vinna ‘do’, and retain ms. þat, to produce an intercalary Þat nam at vinna toginn skjóma ‘That affair caused the sword to be drawn’, i.e. ‘That affair could not be brought about without battle’ (LP (1860): toginn; cf. LP: 2. vinna 7). (b) Although an intercalary clause as such is possible, the expression lof hljóms is so unusual that numerous eds including this one have chosen to emend hljóms to hljóm. This joins with togins (as in mss Bb, 325IX 1 a) skjóma to form a battle-kenning corresponding to the common pattern ‘noise of the sword’ (Meissner 186-8), and the kenning serves as the object of nam vinna ‘made’ (lit. ‘began to do’) (Finnur Jónsson 1891a, 161; ÓT 1892, 369; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B). (c) Reichardt (1928, 90) suggests a third solution in which he connects the battle-kenning to lof ‘praise’ in order to retain the gen. hljóms: berk lof togins skjóma hljóms fyr hefnd ‘I bear praise for the sound of the drawn sword [BATTLE] for revenge’. This is possible, but as Finnur Jónsson (1934a, 19-20) notes, ‘I praise revenge’ is a more natural expression than ‘I praise the fight for revenge’, especially since the prep. fyr is unusual here. — [3] þann ‘the’: The deictic pron. þat in the mss has nothing to refer to, and is therefore emended here to þann. An alternative emendation would be to hann ‘he’ (so Eggert Ó. Brím, ÓT 1892, 369). This would provide an explicit subject for vann ‘made’ but would entail assuming an awkward tripartite division in l. 3, as well as (unavoidably) in l. 2.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated