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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 20 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, 317

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

27 — Eskál Vell 27I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 27’ 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. 317.

Vasat í gǫgn, þótt gerði
garð-Rǫgnir styr harðan,
gengiligt at ganga,
geirrásar, her þeira,
þás með fylki Frísa
fór gunn-Viðurr sunnan
(kvaddi vígs) ok Vinða
(vágs blakkriði) Frakka.

Vasat gengiligt at ganga í gǫgn her þeira, þótt {{{geirrásar} garð}-Rǫgnir} gerði harðan styr, þás {gunn-Viðurr} fór sunnan með fylki Frísa, Frakka ok Vinða; {{vágs blakk}riði} kvaddi vígs.

It was not easy to go against their army, although {the Rǫgnir <= Óðinn> {of the fence {of the spear-onslaught}}} [(lit. ‘fence-Rǫgnir of the spear-onslaught’) BATTLE > SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl] made a hard attack, when {the battle-Viðurr <= Óðinn>} [WARRIOR = Otto II] came from the south with a host of Frisians, Franks and Wends; {the rider {of the horse of the wave}} [(lit. ‘horse-rider of the wave’) SHIP > SEAFARER = Hákon jarl] called for battle.

Mss: (147v), F(24va), J1ˣ(87r), J2ˣ(81v) (Hkr); 61(14va), 54(9rb), Bb(19va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] gǫgn: gegn F, J1ˣ, 61, 54, Bb    [2] Rǫgnir: ‘rǫknir’ 61, ‘raknir’ 54, Bb    [4] geirrásar: ‘geírra sár’ Bb;    her: lið 61, ok Bb    [5] fylki Frísa: Frísa fylki all    [6] Viðurr: ‘viðuiður’ J1ˣ, undr 54, Bb    [7] ok: of J1ˣ;    Vinða: víða F

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 28: AI, 129, BI, 122, Skald I, 68, NN §§1370 Anm. 1, 1886, 2240A; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 300, IV, 81-2, ÍF 26, 257-8, Hkr 1991, I, 172-3 (ÓTHkr ch. 26), F 1871, 112; Fms 1, 123-4, Fms 12, 37, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 137 (ch. 69).

Context: Emperor Otto II and his forces arrive at the great defensive wall of the Danavirki (Danevirke), and a mighty battle ensues.

Notes: [2, 4] geirrásar garð-Rǫgnir ‘the Rǫgnir <= Óðinn> of the fence of the spear-onslaught [(lit. ‘fence-Rǫgnir of the spear-onslaught’) BATTLE > SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl]’: That the kenning refers to Hákon jarl is suggested by her þeira ‘their host’, which probably refers to the army of Otto II; see Note to l. 4. — [4] þeira ‘their’: Otto II’s force, possibly the warriors mentioned in st. 26/7-8 (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 161; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991). — [5] fylki Frísa ‘a host of Frisians’: Although all mss give Frísa fylki, the word order must be reversed to achieve the hending on the third lift.

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