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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 24 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, 306

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

19 — Eskál Vell 19I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 19’ 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. 306.

Hóf und hyrjar kneyfi
— hraut unda fjǫl — Þundar
— þat sleit víg á vági —
vandar dýr at landi.
Né fjǫlsnerrinn fyrri
fégildandi vildi
— vægðit jarl fyr jǫfri —
Yggs niðr friðar biðja.

Hóf {dýr vandar} at landi und {kneyfi {hyrjar Þundar}}; fjǫl unda hraut; þat sleit víg á vági. {Fjǫlsnerrinn fégildandi niðr Yggs} né vildi biðja friðar fyrri; jarl vægðit fyr jǫfri.

{The beast of the mast} [SHIP] was carried towards land under {the destroyer {of the fire of Þundr <= Óðinn>}} [SWORD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl]; a multitude of wounds spurted; that broke off the battle on the sea. {The war-seasoned generous descendant of Yggr <= Óðinn>} [= Hákon jarl] did not want to be the first to ask for peace; the jarl did not yield to the prince.

Mss: FskBˣ(20r-v), 51ˣ(17v-18r), 302ˣ(28r), FskAˣ(80), 52ˣ(31r-v), 301ˣ(28v) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] hyrjar: ‘hytar’ FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ    [3] á: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, at FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 301ˣ, á corrected from at 302ˣ;    vági: ‘væghe’ 301ˣ    [4] vandar: ‘vendar’ FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ    [5] Né: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, vé FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 302ˣ;    ‑snerrinn: so FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, ‘‑ner rennr’ FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 302ˣ    [6] ‑gildandi: ‑gjaldandi FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 302ˣ, ‑mildr konungr FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ;    vildi: so 51ˣ, 302ˣ, FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ, ‘vi(ll)de’(?) FskBˣ    [7] vægðit (‘vægðe at’): vægðisk FskAˣ, 52ˣ, 301ˣ

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 20: AI, 126-7, BI, 120, Skald I, 67, NN §§1626, 2240A, 2441; Fsk 1902-3, 71 (ch. 14), ÍF 29, 113 (ch. 16).

Context: Since Hákon has fewer ships but a larger land force, he lands and challenges Ragnfrøðr Eiríksson to do battle with him there; but because he fears Hákon’s host, Ragnfrøðr declines. Fsk cites sts 19 and 20, which both refer to this event, without interruption.

Notes: [1] hóf ‘was carried’: Hóf (inf. hefja) is used impersonally of ships being driven by winds or currents (Fritzner: hefja 4). Dýr ‘beast’, as its object, is acc. here (NN §2441). — [2] fjǫl ‘a multitude’: The ms. spellings point to the synonymous fjǫlð, but since Craigie’s Law demands a short-stemmed noun here (cf. Gade 1995a, 29-30), it appears that fjǫlð has replaced an earlier fjǫl (as also in Hfr ErfÓl 7/6). — [4] vandar ‘of the mast’: Vǫndr normally means ‘wand’ or ‘staff’, but can also denote a ‘mast’ (LP: vǫndr 5). — [5] fjǫlsnerrinn ‘war-seasoned’: The cpd, and indeed the simplex snerrinn, is a hap. leg. Snerrinn is related to adj. snarr ‘bold, keen, vigorous’ and snerra f. ‘battle, tumult’ (AEW: snerra 1, 2), hence fjǫlsnerrinn means ‘much experienced in battle’, or ‘very bold’. — [6] fégildandi ‘generous’: (a) Most eds follow Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 134) and Finnur Jónsson (1891a, 169-70) in choosing fémildr konungr ‘generous king’, the reading of the FskA transcripts, emending konungr to konung. This creates syntactically complicated relationships between l. 6 and l. 8, with fémildr qualifying niðr Yggs ‘descendant of Yggr [= Hákon jarl]’, konung as the object of biðja ‘ask’, and vildi ‘wanted to’ as an auxiliary of biðja. This interpretation also raises the issue of who would be the first to ask the king (who is presumably Ragnfrøðr, see Note to st. 20/2) for peace if it were not the jarl. (b) Selecting fégjaldandi from FskBˣ and 51ˣ, with minor emendation to fégildandi ‘wealth-distributing’, i.e. ‘generous’, solves both of these problems and is adopted by this edn (so Kock, Skald; Ohlmarks 1958, 375). Although gilda normally means ‘appraise, value’, gildir occurs with the sense ‘distributor’ in several kennings (see LP: gildir). — [8] niðr Yggs ‘the descendant of Yggr <= Óðinn> [= Hákon jarl]’: Cf. Eyv Hál 2, which identifies Óðinn and Skaði as ancestors of Hákon jarl. On the divine descent of the jarls of Hlaðir see Introduction to Hál.

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