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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, 315

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

26 — Eskál Vell 26I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 26’ 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. 315.

Ok við frost at freista
fémildr konungr vildi
myrk- Hlóðynjar -markar
morðalfs, þess’s kom norðan,
þás valserkjar virki
veðrhirði bað stirðan
fyr hlym-Njǫrðum hurða
Hagbarða gramr varða.

Ok {fémildr konungr {Hlóðynjar myrkmarkar}} vildi at freista {morðalfs} við frost, þess’s kom norðan, þás gramr bað {stirðan {{valserkjar} veðr}hirði} varða virki fyr {{{Hagbarða hurða} hlym}-Njǫrðum}.

And {the generous king {of the Hlóðyn = Jǫrð (jǫrð ‘earth’) of the dark forest <= Myrkviðr>}} [JUTLAND > DANISH KING = Haraldr blátǫnn] wanted at the time of the frost to test {the battle-elf} [WARRIOR = Hákon jarl] who came from the north, as the ruler bade {the unbending keeper {of the weather {of the shirt of the slain}}} [(lit. ‘weather-keeper of the slain-shirt’) MAIL-SHIRT > BATTLE > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl] to defend the rampart against {the Nirðir <gods> {of the din {of the doors of Hagbarði <legendary hero>}}} [(lit. ‘din-Nirðir of the doors of Hagbarði’) SHIELDS > BATTLE > WARRIORS].

Mss: (147r), F(24va), J1ˣ(86v), J2ˣ(81r) (Hkr); 61(14va), 53(13ra), 54(9rb), Bb(19va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] frost: fóstr Bb    [2] ‑mildr: ‑mildum F    [3] myrk‑: merkr 61, 53, 54, Bb;    Hlóðynjar: so 61, 53, ‘folðyniar’ Kˣ, J2ˣ, ‘follðyniar’ F, ‘loðyniar’ J1ˣ, ‘hloðynar’ 54, Bb;    markar: serkjar 53, 54, Bb    [4] þess’s (‘þess er’): þess sér 53    [5] ‑serkjar: so J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb, ‑serkja Kˣ, F, J2ˣ    [6] ‑hirði: so J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb, ‑hirðir Kˣ, F, ‑harðr J2ˣ    [7] hlym‑: hlunn‑ 61, 54, Bb, ‘hlid‑’ 53;    Njǫrðum: morðum 53, 54, Bb;    hurða: hǫrða F, hurðar J1ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb    [8] ‑barða: ‘‑brata’ J1ˣ, ‑varða Bb;    gramr: gram 53, Bb;    varða: varði Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 27: AI, 129, BI, 122, Skald I, 68, NN §§318, 406; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 299-300, IV, 81, ÍF 26, 256-7, Hkr 1991, I, 172 (ÓTHkr ch. 26), F 1871, 112; Fms 1, 123, Fms 12, 36, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 136 (ch. 69).

Context: See st. 25.

Notes: [All]: This and the following stanzas relate to an armed conflict between the German Emperor Otto II and the Danish king Haraldr blátǫnn. The year following the death of Otto I (973), Haraldr advanced into Holstein, whereupon Otto II conquered the Danevirke and defeated him. Various legends developed in Scandinavia surrounding this event, all of which report that Hákon jarl fought alongside Haraldr (on the legends’ development see Ussing 1928; on the portrayal of the event in Old Icelandic literature see Marold 2001a, 85-92). — [1] við frost ‘at the time of the frost’: (a) The phrase is taken here (as in Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 159; NN §406; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991) with the main clause, since it seems unlikely that Hákon jarl would have taken his fleet to Denmark at the beginning of winter, but conceivable that Haraldr charged him with defending the Danevirke at that time. Moreover in Hkr (ÍF 26, 254) Snorri reports that the jarl came to Denmark on King Haraldr’s invitation in the spring, which need not be a misreading of the stanza on Snorri’s part, as assumed in ÍF 26. (b) Other eds have related the phrase to the subordinate clause (ÓT 1892, 378; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B); however, that would produce abnormal word order. — [1] at ‘to’: Normally the inf. is not preceded by at in a construction with vilja ‘to desire’. Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 157) analyses it as a deictic particle, hence ‘(to put the jarl to the test) at (it)’, but this is unlikely since the particle is not stressed. — [3] Hlóðynjar myrkmarkar ‘of the Hlóðyn = Jǫrð (jǫrð ‘earth’) of the dark forest <= Myrkviðr> [JUTLAND]’: Except for Kock (NN §406) all eds analyse myrk- … ‑markar as tmesis (see Reichardt 1928, 9, 93 n. 20, 207-8). The cpd appears to refer to the Myrkviðr ‘Dark Forest’ that lies between Jutland and Holstein (Fms 1, 111; ÓT 1958-2000, I, 123), and if this is correct its ‘earth’ is Jutland. However, the numerous instances of the ON Myrkviðr refer to forests at various borders (Eggers 2002, 460-1), and the cpd here could refer to any wooded country (Finnur Jónsson 1891a, 174). Some interpreters have accordingly assumed it refers to Norway and conjoined it to morðalfs ‘battle-elf [WARRIOR]’ or simply to alfs ‘elf’ as a kenning for Hákon jarl (Fms 12; NN §406; Ohlmarks 1958, 381-2); Konráð Gíslason (1895-7, I, 159) rejects this. — [3] Hlóðynjar ‘of the Hlóðyn = Jǫrð (jǫrð ‘earth’)’: Hlóðyn (or Hlǫðyn) is attested as a name of the goddess Jǫrð (LP: Hlǫðyn) and as a heiti for ‘earth’ in Þul Jarðar 1/2III (see Note) and in Vsp 56/2 and VSt Erf 2/4III. Finnur Jónsson conjectured Hlǫðvinjar in his eds (Hkr 1893-1901, I and Skj B), but this is not supported by any ms., nor by metrical considerations (contra Olsen 1962a, 47 n. 1). This edn follows the majority of others in choosing Hlóðynjar, found in mss 61 and 53. — [5, 6] valserkjar veðrhirði ‘the keeper of the weather of the shirt of the slain [(lit. ‘weather-keeper of the slain-shirt’) MAIL-SHIRT > BATTLE > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl]’: (a) Normally hirðir ‘keeper, protector, owner’ appears in connection with weapons, precious objects or the like, rather than with battle (see LP: 1. hirðir; cf. also Fritzner: hirða). For this reason most interpreters (Fms 12; Finnur Jónsson 1891a, 176; Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 160; LP: veðrhirði) reverse the order of the kennings that form the determinant: hirði serkjar valveðrs ‘keeper of the shirt of the slain-weather [BATTLE > MAIL-SHIRT > WARRIOR]’. (b) This edn (with Vell 1865, 73; ÓT 1892, 378; Hkr 1991) leaves the kenning unaltered, understanding hirðir in the sense of nærir ‘nourisher’, cf. Glúmr Gráf 6/3 nærir naddskúrar ‘nourisher of the point-shower [BATTLE > WARRIOR]’. (c) In ÍF 26 veðr is rendered as a ‘ram’ charging the mail-shirt (valserkjar ‘of the shirt of the slain’), and this results in a sword-kenning which is conjoined to hirðir ‘owner’ to form a warrior-kenning ‘owner of the sword’. But this is unlikely because an animal name used as the base-word of a sword-kenning is always that of a harmful, aggressive animal such as a wolf, hound or bear (Meissner 155). — [5] virki ‘the rampart’: This is a reference to the Danevirke, the Danes’ array of defensive structures in southern Jutland (see ÍF 26, 257 and n.). — [6] -hirði ‘keeper’: Mss and F give both -hirðir and gramr ‘ruler’ in the nom. form. Because only one of these words can be the subject of the sentence, this edn follows the majority of other mss, which have the nom. gramr and the acc. -hirði. — [8] Hagbarða ‘of Hagbarði <legendary hero>’: The name is normally an a-stem, Hagbarðr, in which case its ending in -a here would make it a gen. pl. This edn therefore follows most others in assuming Hagbarða to be gen. sg. of the nom. Hagbarði, an n‑stem.

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