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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, 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 — sá branda
Ullr stóð af því allri
yrþjóð — Heðins byrjar.

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

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 <god> {of the wind of Heðinn <legendary hero>}} [BATTLE > WARRIOR] set out from four folklǫnd; {that Ullr <god> of swords} [WARRIOR] thereby helped the whole people.

Mss: (141v), F(23rb-va), J1ˣ(82v), J2ˣ(77v), 325VIII 1(3rb) (Hkr); 61(11v), 53(9va), 54(5rb), Bb(15rb), 62(4ra), Flat(11vb) (ÓT); FskBˣ(20v), FskAˣ(81) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] vas: varð FskAˣ;    meir: so J1ˣ, 325VIII 1, Bb, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, meirr Kˣ, F, J2ˣ, 61, 53, 54, 62, Flat;    at: er 61, Bb, 62, FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    Mœra: meira 325VIII 1, mœta 61, FskAˣ, ‘mœ[..]’ 53    [2] morð‑: ‘mork‑’ F, morðs‑ 62;    ‑fíkinn: ‑ríkinn Flat;    lét: ‘lec’ J2ˣ, lett Bb    [3] fyrva: fyrða 53, fjǫrva 62, Flat, FskBˣ, fjǫrvi FskAˣ    [4] Sogns: sogn Bb, 62;    of: ok Bb    [5] Ýtti: so F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, 53, Bb, FskBˣ, ýti Kˣ, 325VIII 1, 54, veit ek at 62, Flat, ýtri FskAˣ    [6] branda: brandi F, 53, brandr 54, brǫndum 62, Flat    [7] Ullr stóð: stóð uggr 53, 54, Bb;    af: so J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb, 62, Flat, á Kˣ, F, J2ˣ, 325VIII 1, FskBˣ, FskAˣ    [8] ‑þjóð: ‑þjóðir 54, Bb

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).

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: [1, 3] folkverjandi Mœra ‘the people-defender of the Mœrir [NORWEGIAN RULER = Hákon jarl]’: Although the kenning could refer to any Norwegian ruler, in this case it is a direct reference to Hákon jarl, who has become the defender of the people of Møre since Ragnfrøðr has occupied the regions bordering it to the south. — [2, 3, 4] lét of gǫrva fǫr fyrva ‘had his men undertake a journey’: Lit. ‘had a journey of men undertaken’: Gǫrva here is f. acc. sg. of the adj. gǫrr ‘done’, agreeing with fǫr ‘journey’ and used as a p. p. ‘undertaken, made’ (see Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 139; LP: gǫrr 2; NN §3213). — [3] fyrva ‘his men’: A less common derivative of fjǫr ‘life’ which, along with fjǫrvar and the more common forms fyrðar and firar, means ‘the living’ (AEW: firar, fyrvar). — [5, 6] ýtti af fjórum folklǫndum ‘set out from four folklǫnd’: Ýtti has been rendered in one of two ways. (a) ‘He set out (on a ship)’ (this edn, and Konráð Gíslason 1872, 30 and 1895-7, I, 141; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; cf. Fritzner: ýta 2; LP: ýta). (b) ‘He called for, conscripted’ in conjunction with allri yrþjóð ‘the whole people’ (Vell 1865, 49-50; ÓT 1892, 374; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991; ÍF 29). However, ýta with a personal object in the dat. means ‘to assist in launching a boat’ (Fritzner: ýta 1), and allri yrþjóð is better construed with the intercalary clause. — [5-6] af fjórum folklǫndum ‘from four folklǫnd’: The uncommon word folkland (see LP, Fritzner: folkland) is often thought to be synonymous with fylki (for this term see Note to st. 13/1). Indrebø (1931, 36-9), however, rejects this notion, assuming that it designated a stamme-umraade ‘tribal area’. He refers to this stanza and points out that Hákon, anticipating a major battle, would not have summoned warriors from only four of the seven fylki that he ruled according to st. 13/1. From the prose context, which tells that the south of Norway had been occupied by Ragnfrøðr, he concludes that the four folklǫnd are Trøndelag, Møre, Romsdalen and Hålogaland which he thinks to have included Namdalen. Even if Indrebø’s interpretation of folklǫnd as ‘tribal area’ is contentious, it can be assumed that the term probably designated a larger area than fylki. — [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). — [8] yrþjóð ‘people’: The word yrþjóð, which occurs again in st. 28/8 and in Sturl Hákkv 30/7II, and is presumably identical with urþjóð in Egill Arkv 17/3V (LP: yrþjóð), is usually claimed to be related to *verþjóð ‘man-folk’ despite uncertainty about the phonological development (see Falk 1889a, 118‑20; AEW: yrþjóð).

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