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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 27 January 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, 301

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Eskál Vell 14I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 14’ 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. 301.

Ǫll lét senn inn svinni
sǫnn Einriða mǫnnum
herjum kunn of herjuð
hofs lǫnd ok vé banda,
áðr veg jǫtna vitni
valfalls of sæ allan
— þeim stýra goð — geira
garðs Hlórriði farði.

Inn svinni lét senn ǫll of herjuð lǫnd hofs Einriða ok vé banda, kunn herjum, sǫnn mǫnnum, áðr {Hlórriði {garðs geira}} farði {veg jǫtna} vitni valfalls of allan sæ; goð stýra þeim.

The wise one soon made all the harried lands of the temple of Einriði <= Þórr> and the sanctuaries of the gods, famous among the peoples, lawful for men, before {the Hlórriði <= Þórr> {of the fence of spears}} [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl] ferried evidence of slaughter {to the path of the giants} [MOUNTAINS = Norway?] across all the sea; the gods guide him.

Mss: (139v-140r), 39(5va), F(23ra), J1ˣ(81r-v), J2ˣ(76r) (Hkr); 61(11ra), 53(9rb), 54(5ra), Bb(14vb) (ÓT); FskBˣ(22v), FskAˣ(87) (Fsk, ll. 1-4)

Readings: [1] senn: so 39, F, J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, sǫnn Kˣ, J2ˣ;    inn: en 61    [2] sǫnn: ‘sunn’ 39;    Einriða: corrected from einráða Bb    [3] herjum: ‘herion’ 39, F, hverjum 53, 54, Bb;    kunn: so 39, F, J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, kunnr Kˣ, J2ˣ;    herjuð: ‘heruð’ FskAˣ    [4] lǫnd: abbrev. as ‘ld’ 61, 53, Bb, land 54    [5] áðr: so 39, F, J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb, at Kˣ;    veg: út 39, F, vé J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, ‘ví’ Bb;    jǫtna: ‘eidma’ Bb;    vitni: ‘v(it)ni’(?) 39    [8] Hlórriði: ‘loriþi’ 39, ‘hloðriðe’ J1ˣ, ‘floriði’ 53, 54, Bb;    farði: varði 61, sparði 53, 54, Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 15: AI, 125-6, BI, 119, Skald I, 67, NN §§401, 402; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 280-1, IV, 73, ÍF 26, 241-2, Hkr 1991, I, 161 (ÓTHkr ch. 16), F 1871, 105; Fms 1, 91, Fms 12, 34, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 98 (ch. 55); Fsk 1902-3, 78 (ch. 15), ÍF 29, 120 (ch. 17).

Context: In Hkr and ÓT, Hákon jarl, after driving the Eiríkssynir (Gunnhildarsynir) from Norway, orders his subjects to maintain the temples and sacrifices. Hkr cites sts 14-16 in unbroken sequence, whereas ÓT cites only sts 14 and 16. Fsk cites only the first helmingr, also to illustrate Hákon’s restoration of sacrifices, but much later in the narrative, after Hákon’s return from Denmark.

Notes: [All]: The overall understanding of the stanza in this edn matches that of the medieval sources and most eds, and appears to be the best solution available, but given the difficulties, especially of ll. 5-8, it can only be tentative. — [1, 2] lét ... sǫnn mǫnnum ‘made ... lawful for men’: Sannr means ‘true, correct, rightful’ (cf. Fritzner: sannr 3, though the examples are of abstract situations). Sǫnn here denotes the opposite of ‘forbidden’ (cf. Olsen 1962a, 38-9). — [2] Einriða ‘of Einriði <= Þórr>’: a name of Þórr. On its etymology, see Note to Þul Þórs 1/4III. The gen. Einriða is taken here with lǫnd hofs ‘land of the temples’. Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 121), Freudenthal (Vell 1865, 35, 38), Kock (NN §401) and Turville-Petre (1976, 61) associate it with the following mǫnnum ‘for men’ and interpret this as ‘the followers of Þórr’. However, it is unclear why the sanctuaries of the bǫnd ‘gods’ should have to be authorised for these followers of Þórr. Moreover menn ‘men, humans’, while it is used to denote the followers of a ruler (LP: maðr 3), is never used for the devotees of a god. — [3] kunn herjum ‘famous among the peoples’: The main ms. has herjum kunnr, an epithet praising Hákon jarl. The correct reading remains uncertain, and eds have been divided in their preferences. — [3] of herjuð ‘harried’: During his reign, Haraldr gráfeldr had the heathen temples burned down, perhaps less out of Christian zeal than in order to break the political opposition, cf. Eskál Hákdr 1/3, 4. — [4] lǫnd hofs ‘the lands of the temple’: Whether hof denoted a structure solely devoted to religion, or a large hall serving both religious purposes and other uses, cannot be clearly discerned (Sundqvist 2005b, 331-4). It may be that the land surrounding the temple was somehow part of the sanctuary (Vikstrand 2001, 265). — [4] vé banda ‘the sanctuaries of the gods’: On the function of the bǫnd, see Note to st. 8/2. In skaldic poetry they appear especially often in conjunction with Þórr (Þjóð Haustl 17/2III, ÚlfrU Húsdr 3/2III, Steinunn Lv 1-2V, Anon (ÓTHkr) 1; see Marold 1992, 705-6). — [5-8]: All eds regard Hlórriði garðs geira ‘Hlórriði <= Þórr> of the fence of spears [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl]’ as the subject of farði of allan sæ ‘ferried all across the sea (lit. across all the sea)’. The remainder of this difficult helmingr is subject to several interpretations. (a) The construal shown above follows Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) in taking together veg jǫtna ‘path of the giants [MOUNTAINS]’, which could refer to Norway, and taking valfall ‘slaughter’ to refer to the death of Haraldr gráfeldr in the battle in Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden, c. 970). Hence the helmingr appears to mean that Hákon, returning to Norway with this news, at the same time has a claim to authority there. In this edn, veg jǫtna is further taken as part of a construction ferja e-m e-t ‘to ferry/bring sby sth.’, parallel to similar constructions using færa ‘bring’ or senda ‘send’. Finnur Jónsson reads at ‘to’ rather than áðr ‘before’ in l. 5, and this forms a satisfactory prepositional phrase with veg jǫtna, but is problematic in other ways (see Note to l. 5). (b) Kock (NN §402, followed by ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991) interprets vitnir valfalls ‘wolf of death in battle’ as a kenning referring to a sword that Hákon jarl brought across the sea to the mountains (to Norway), but this is unsatisfactory because it would indicate an attack on Norway by Hákon. (c) Kuhn (1971b, 5), on the basis of (l. 5) in some mss, interprets vitni valfalls véjǫtna to mean ‘evidence of the death of the sanctuary-giants [DESECRATORS OF THE TEMPLE]’. Only one instance of jǫtunn in the sense of ‘harmful being’ is attested, however, in Egill Lv 25/4V (Eg 32) jǫtunn vandar ‘giant of the mast [WIND]’. — [5] áðr ‘before’: (a) The word order in ll. 5-8, with the finite verb farði ‘ferried’ in final position, favours the conj. áðr ‘before’ in l. 5, which is also the reading of all mss except (see Kuhn 1971b, 5-6). This means that Hákon is said to re-authorise the heathen cult before bringing news of the fall of Haraldr gráfeldr to Norway, although the reverse sequence of events would be expected. There is no evident solution to this difficulty. (b) This problem is presumably the reason why at ‘to’ is adopted in most eds, but both the ms. evidence and the word order tell against at. — [7] goð stýra þeim ‘the gods guide him’: On this, cf. st. 31. — [7-8] Hlórriði garðs geira ‘the Hlórriði <= Þórr> of the fence of spears [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl]’: Hlórriði is a name for Þórr; for an explanation see Note to Þul Þórs 1/5III. Normally Þórr does not serve as a base-word for kennings of this type (see Meissner 1913, 28, 49-50). This unique instance may be explained by the special significance of Þórr for the rulers of Hlaðir (Lade), which is apparent from the analogies drawn between the deity and the ruler in KormǪ SigdrIII and Eil ÞdrIII (see Marold 1990a, 113‑129).

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