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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Einarr skálaglamm Helgason (Eskál)

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

2. Vellekla (Vell) - 37

Skj info: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, Islandsk skjald, d. o. 995. (AI, 122-132, BI, 116-125).

Skj poems:
1. Drape om Hakon jarl
2. Et digt om Harald blåtand(?)
3. Vellekla
4. Lausavísur
4. Lausavísur

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 20 May 2022)

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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, 299

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

13 — Eskál Vell 13I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 13’ 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. 299.

Sjau fylkjum kom silkis
(snúnaðr vas þat) brúna
geymir grundar síma
grandvarr und sik (landi).

{Grandvarr geymir {síma silkis {grundar brúna}}} kom sjau fylkjum und sik; þat vas snúnaðr landi.

{The damage-wary keeper {of the silken band {of the land of the brows}}} [HEAD > HEADBAND > RULER] brought seven fylki under himself; that was a change for the better for the land.

Mss: (139v), 39(5va), F(23ra), J1ˣ(81r), J2ˣ(76r) (Hkr); 61(11ra), 53(9ra), 54(5ra), Bb(14vb), 62(3vb), Flat(11va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] silkis: fylkir 53, ‘sylkis’ 54, Bb    [2] snúnaðr: ‘snuðaðr’ J1ˣ, ‘f(ra)naðr’(?) 53, ‘sniviadr’ Bb, svarr maðr 62, Flat;    þat: þar Bb;    brúna: ‘briuna’ 54, ‘brynnia’ Bb, ‘barma’ 62, Flat    [3] grundar: gegn at 53, granda 54, Bb;    síma: sinnar J1ˣ, sínum 53, sinna Bb, seima 62    [4] grand‑: ‘gund‑’ 54, Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 14: AI, 125, BI, 119, Skald I, 67; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 280, IV, 72-3; ÍF 26, 241, Hkr 1991, I, 160 (ÓTHkr ch. 16), F 1871, 105; Fms 1, 91; Fms 12, 33-4, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 98 (ch. 55), Flat 1860-8, I, 86.

Context: The stanza is cited as evidence that Hákon jarl had conquered the entire country.

Notes: [1] sjau fylkjum ‘seven fylki’: The term fylki denotes a community under the law centred around a þing ‘assembly’, and applies by extension to the geographical area under a particular jurisdiction. Information on which seven fylki might be meant here can be gleaned from reports on the rule of Hákon jarl. Eyv Hál 12/2 indicates that Hákon’s rule extended to settlements of the Egðir, the people of Agðir (Agder). This would include the following seven fylki, excluding Þrœndalǫg (Trøndelag), Hákon’s native region: Raumsdalr (Romsdalen), Norðmœrr (Nordmøre) and Sunnmœrr (Sunnmøre), the three peripheral districts that later combined with Þrœndalǫg to form the Frostuþingslǫg, plus Rogaland, Hǫrðaland (Hordaland), Sogn and Firðafylki (Fjordane), the four districts of Gulaþingslǫg (see Indrebø 1931, 43-4). These are also the same fylki given to Hákon by the Danish king Haraldr blátǫnn according to Hkr (ÍF 26, 240). However, the present stanza of Vell portrays this as an autonomous expansion on the part of Hákon. — [1, 2, 3] síma silkis grundar brúna ‘of the silken band of the land of the brows [HEAD > HEADBAND]’: Silk had been imported from Byzantium, and to a lesser extent from China, since the C8th (Mayerhofer 2005, 122-3). Clothing, headdresses, and headbands made of silk have been recovered from graves, especially in Birka (Sweden) and in Mammen (Jutland), in which decorative ornaments of silver, gold and silk are taken to have symbolized social standing (Hägg 1991; Hägg 2000, 619). The silk band worn by Hákon jarl must indicate high status, but it is uncertain whether it was specifically the emblem of a ruler (so Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 120; Ohlmarks 1958, 371). KormǪ Sigdr 3/1III and Egill Arkv 19/1-4V (Eg 115) mention similar bands but do not resolve the issue. — [4] grandvarr ‘damage-wary’: Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 119) and Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; LP: grandvarr) translate the adj. as retfærdig, retskaffen ‘just, upright’. However, it probably does not refer to moral integrity but to Hákon jarl’s duty to defend his country. This is also supported by the intercalary clause þat vas snúnaðr landi ‘that was a change for the better for the land’ (Marold 1993c, 102-3). Cf. also the phrase on the Karlevi memorial stone (Run Öl 1/8VI) which proclaims that no ruler in Denmark shall be ørgrandari ‘more unharmful’ than the one commemorated in the inscription.

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