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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 23 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, 287

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Eskál Vell 4I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 4’ 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. 287.

Ullar gengr of alla
asksǫgn, þess’s hvǫt magnar,
byrgis bǫðvar sorgar,
bergs grynnilô dverga.

{Grynnilô bergs dverga} gengr of alla asksǫgn {Ullar {sorgar {byrgis bǫðvar}}}, þess’s magnar hvǫt.

{The shoal-wave of the rock of dwarfs} [POEM] passes over the entire ship’s crew {of the Ullr <god> {of the sorrow {of the fence of battle}}} [SHIELD > SWORD > WARRIOR = Hákon], who increases boldness.

Mss: R(21v), Tˣ(21v), W(46), U(27r), B(4r), 744ˣ(23r) (SnE)

Readings: [2] ask‑: ‘[...]sk‑’ B, ask 744ˣ;    ‑sǫgn: ‘‑song’ U;    hvǫt: ‘hot’ U    [3] byrgis: birkis Tˣ, U;    bǫðvar: Boðnar B;    sorgar: serkjar Tˣ, U, sorga B    [4] grynni‑: so B, ‘grymi‑’ R, Tˣ, W, U

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 2: AI, 122, BI, 117, Skald I, 66, NN §390; SnE 1848-87, I, 246-7, II, 306, 521, SnE 1931, 92, SnE 1998, I, 12.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [All]: Ms. 744ˣ, a copy of B by Jón Ólafsson, has been used selectively here and in sts 5, 35 and 37 to supply readings (whether these match or differ from the main text) where B is not legible. — [2] asksǫgn ‘ship’s crew’: Askr can denote several things made of ash, including a ship (LP: 1. askr B2). — [4] grynnilô bergs dverga ‘the shoal-wave of the rock of dwarfs [POEM]’: This is again a kenning for ‘poem’ (see Note to st. 1 [All]). (a) The interpretation given here follows from the reading of ms. B and avoids emendation. The basis for the kenning is the pattern ‘liquid of the dwarfs’ ( dverga). It is expanded by a verbal element grynni- from grynna(sk) ‘to shoal, become shallow’, a verbal derivative of ON grunnr ‘shallow’, which can be used impersonally (Fritzner: grynna 1). Hence grynnilô can be regarded as a variant of ModIcel. grunnfall, grunnsjór ‘wave that arises over a shoal’ (Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4, 276). Bergs refers to a skerry (flœðasker ‘skerry, a rock submerged at high tide’) on which the infuriated giant Suttungr maroons the dwarfs who had murdered his kinsmen (SnE 1998, I, 3) and from which they are only able to escape by relinquishing the mead of poetry to the giant. Compare LP: berg, where Finnur Jónsson points out that ModIcel. berg denotes a flat rock, as opposed to bjarg, which denotes a cliff. This seems to apply here as well, cf. also Marold (1994a, 473-4). (b) All other mss give ‘grymilá’, which requires emendation. Skj B and SnE 1998 follow a tentative suggestion by Konráð Gíslason (Nj 1875-8, II, 303) to emend ‘grymilá’ in mss R, Tˣ, U, W to geymilá ‘protective wave’. LP: geymilô explains the kenning bergs geymilô dverga as den i klipper opbevarede bølge, væske, der frelste dværgene, digterdrikken ‘the wave stored in the rocks, liquid that freed the dwarfs, mead of poetry’ (and cf. Krömmelbein 1983, 172). Apparently Finnur Jónsson assumes a dual function of geymi-, which he links both to the storage of the liquid and to the freeing of the dwarfs. Only the second function can be valid, however, because the dwarfs cannot be said to have stored the liquid in the rocks. (b) Kock (NN §390) interprets the mss’ ‘grymila’ as grymmilô ‘the fizzing liquid’, but no such verb as *grymma is attested in ON, and he is forced to rely on MHG and MLG evidence.

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