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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

 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, 308

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

21 — Eskál Vell 21I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 21’ 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. 308.

Hitt vas meir, at Mœra
morðfíkinn lét norðan
folkverjandi fyrva
fǫr til Sogns of gǫrva.
Ýtti Freyr af fjórum
folklǫndum — branda
Ullr stóð af því allri
yrþjóð — Heðins byrjar.


It also happened that {the battle-eager people-defender of the Mœrir} [NORWEGIAN RULER = Hákon jarl] had his men undertake a journey from the north to Sogn. {The Freyr {of the wind of Heðinn}} [BATTLE > WARRIOR] set out from four folklǫnd; {that Ullr of swords} [WARRIOR] thereby helped the whole people.

context: In Hkr and ÓT, Ragnfrøðr Eiríksson occupies the entire region south of Staðr (Stadlandet) including Sogn, Firðafylki (Sogn og Fjordane), Hǫrðaland (Hordaland) and Rogaland. The following spring Hákon jarl musters warriors from Hálogaland (Hålogaland), Naumudalr (Namdalen), from the region between Byrða (Børøya) and Staðr (probably Nordmøre) and from Þrœndalǫg (Trøndelag), as well as Raumsdalr (Romsdalen). In Hkr and ÓT, sts 21 and 22 are cited as evidence of this mustering and mobilisation for battle. Fsk cites st. 21 and st. 22/1-4 after a similar account, whereas Flat cites only st. 21.

notes: [6-8]: The intercalary clause has been construed in two different ways (with variants which include or exclude allri yrþjóð ‘the whole people’). (a) The construal in this edn follows NN §2243, ÍF 26 and ÍF 29 in taking stóð as a verb. This is favoured by Kuhn’s thesis (1983, 149) that odd E-lines always contain the finite verb of an independent clause. On the translation of stóð as ‘helped’ see Fritzner: standa 22. (b) The word could be the noun stoð ‘support’: Ullr branda sá stoð af því allri yrþjóð ‘The Ullr of swords [WARRIOR] saw in this the support of the whole people’ (so Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 141; Skj B).

texts: Flat 209, Fsk 79, ÓT 43, ÓTC 8 (I 112), Hkr 139 (I 112)

editions: Skj Einarr Helgason skálaglamm: 3. Vellekla 22 (AI, 127; BI, 120); Skald I, 68, NN §§2243, 3213; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 285, IV, 75, ÍF 26, 245, Hkr 1991, I, 163 (ÓTHkr ch. 18), F 1871, 107; Fms 1, 94, Fms 12, 34, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 101-2 (ÓT ch. 56), Flat 1860-8, I, 87; Fsk 1902-3, 72 (ch. 14), ÍF 29, 114 (ch. 16).


AM 35 folx (Kx) 141v, 9 - 141v, 16 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 45 fol (F) 23rb, 37 - 23va, 2 (Hkr)  image  image  image  image  
AM 37 folx (J1x) 82v, 2 - 82v, 6 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 77v, 3 - 77v, 10 (Hkr)  image  
AM 325 VIII 1 4° (325VIII 1) 3rb, 10 - 3rb, 14 (Hkr)  image  
AM 61 fol (61) 11v, 4 - 11v, 6 (ÓT)  image  
AM 53 fol (53) 9va, 15 - 9va, 19 (ÓT)  image  
AM 54 fol (54) 5rb, 26 - 5rb, 30 (ÓT)  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 15rb, 13 - 15rb, 17 (ÓT)  transcr.  image  
AM 62 fol (62) 4ra, 9 - 4ra, 12 (ÓT)  image  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 11vb, 28 - 11vb, 31 (ÓT)  image  image  image  
OsloUB 371 folx (FskBx) 20v, 11 - 20v, 18 (Fsk)  image  
AM 51 folx (51x) 18r, 17 - 18r, 24 (Fsk)  image  
AM 302 4°x (302x) 22r - 22r (Fsk)  
AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 81, 5 - 81, 12 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
AM 52 folx (52x) 31v, 13 - 31v, 20 (Fsk)  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 29r, 7 - 29r, 10 (Fsk)  image  
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