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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 27 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, 298

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

12 — Eskál Vell 12I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 12’ 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. 298.

Hvarfat aptr, áðr erfðan,
óðstafr, fǫður hafði,
(herforðuðr réð Hǫrða)
hjǫrveðrs (konungs fjǫrvi).
Varðat Freyr, sás fœri,
folkskíðs, né mun síðan,
— því bregðr ǫld við aðra —
jarls ríki framm slíku.

ðstafr {hjǫrveðrs}} hvarfat aptr, áðr hafði erfðan fǫður; {herforðuðr} réð fjǫrvi {konungs Hǫrða}. Varðat {Freyr {folkskíðs}}, né mun síðan, sás fœri framm slíku ríki jarls; því bregðr ǫld við aðra.

{The furious stave {of the sword-storm}} [BATTLE > WARRIOR] did not return before he had done honour to his father’s memory; {the army-protector} [RULER] had power over the life {of the king of the Hǫrðar} [NORWEGIAN KING = Haraldr gráfeldr]. There has not been {a Freyr <god> {of the battle-ski}} [SWORD > WARRIOR], nor will there be afterwards, who proceeded with such power of a jarl; so say the people to one another.

Mss: FskBˣ(19v), 51ˣ(17r), 302ˣ(27r), FskAˣ(78), 52ˣ(30r-v), 301ˣ(28r) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] Hvarfat: hvarf FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ    [2] óð‑: odda‑ FskBˣ, odd‑ corrected from odda‑ 51ˣ, 302ˣ, ‘o‑’ FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ;    ‑stafr: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, ‑starf FskBˣ, ‑staf corrected from ‑starf 51ˣ, 302ˣ    [3] ‑forðuðr: ‑vǫrðuðr FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 302ˣ, ‑forðaðr FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ;    Hǫrða: herða FskAˣ, 52ˣ    [4] konungs: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, konungr FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 302ˣ    [6] mun: mun corrected from ‘nam’ FskBˣ    [7] bregðr: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, bragðr FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 302ˣ

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 13: AI, 125, BI, 119, Skald I, 67, NN §§400, 1884B, 2240A; Fsk 1902-3, 68-9 (ch. 14), ÍF 29, 111 (ch. 16).

Context: Haraldr gráfeldr, who had Hákon’s father Sigurðr Grjótgarðsson killed, is lured into a trap in Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden) instigated by Hákon jarl with the complicity of the Danish king, Haraldr blátǫnn ‘Blue-tooth’. Haraldr gráfeldr dies in the battle. The Danish king installs Hákon as his jarl in Norway.

Notes: [1] áðr ‘before’: The mss have áðr enn ‘before’, where enn is the later form of an. The syllable produces a hypermetrical line, however, and is removed here, as in other eds of this poem, as part of the normalisation process (see ‘Normalisation on metrical grounds’ in General Introduction). — [1, 2] hafði erfðan fǫður ‘he had done honour to his father’s memory’: Erfa means ‘to honour a deceased relative and take one’s leave of him’ (Fritzner: erfa), often through a memorial feast, but here the reference is clearly to Hákon honouring his father by avenging him; cf. the praise of Hákon’s revenge in st. 9. LP: erfa similarly interprets it as the equivalent of ‘to avenge’. — [2, 4] óðstafr hjǫrveðrs ‘the furious stave of the sword-storm [BATTLE > WARRIOR]’: The mss offer either ‘ostafr’ or ‘odd(a)sta(r)f’. Although oddstafr ‘arrow-stave’ is a possible warrior-kenning it is not acceptable here because the kenning would have two determinants (odd- ‘arrow, point’ and hjǫrveðrs ‘sword-storm’). A minor emendation produces óð- ‘furious’ in óðstafr, which functions as an adj. qualifying the entire kenning.

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