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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 19 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, 289

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Eskál Vell 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 5’ 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. 289.

Hljóta munk, né hlítik,
hertýs, of þat frýju,
fyr ǫrþeysi at ausa
austr vín-Gnóðar flausta.

Munk hljóta at ausa {{{{hertýs} vín}-Gnóðar} austr} fyr {ǫrþeysi flausta}; né hlítik frýju of þat.

It will fall to me to bale out {the bilge-water {of the Gnóð <ship> {of the wine {of the army-god}}}} [(lit. ‘bilge-water of the wine-Gnóð of the army-god’) = Óðinn > POEM > VAT > POEM] for {the valiant racer of ships} [SEAFARER = Hákon]; I will not endure a reproach on account of it.

Mss: R(21r), Tˣ(21v), W(45), U(26v), B(4r), 744ˣ(21v) (SnE)

Readings: [1] né: en U;    hlítik: hlítir R, Tˣ, B, ‘hlít(ri)’(?) W, heitir U    [2] ‑týs: ‑týrs B;    of þat: ‘[...]’ B, of þat 744ˣ;    frýju: so U, ‘fr(ý)iv’(?) R, freyju Tˣ, W, B    [4] vín‑: um‑ U;    Gnóðar: ‘gnaðar’ W, ‘gadar’ B

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 3: AI, 123, BI, 117, Skald I, 66, NN §§1884A, B, 1923C; SnE 1848-87, I, 240, II, 304, 519, SnE 1931, 90, SnE 1998, I, 10.

Context: In SnE (Skm) the stanza is cited in a collection of stanzas illustrating poetic expressions (mostly kennings) for Óðinn.

Notes: [1] né hlítik ‘I will not endure’: Konráð Gíslason’s (1872, 31) emendation is adopted because the verb hlítir as preserved in the mss would have no fitting subject. — [2, 4] hertýs vín-Gnóðar austr ‘the bilge-water of the Gnóð <ship> of the wine of the army-god [(lit. ‘bilge-water of the wine-Gnóð of the army-god’) = Óðinn > POEM > VAT > POEM]’: Another kenning based on the myth of the mead of poetry (see Note to st. 1 [All]). Reciting poetry is represented by the image of pouring the mead of poetry out of its vat. In harmony with the sea imagery of the introductory stanzas the poet chooses Gnóð, a ship’s name (see Þul Skipa 3/1III; Introduction to Anon GnóðÁsmIII), as the base-word of the kenning for the vat, and accordingly uses ausa austr ‘to bale the bilge-water’ for pouring out the mead of poetry. Austr thus becomes the base-word of the kenning for ‘poem’ (Marold 1994a, 474). — [2] hertýs ‘of the army-god [= Óðinn]’: The second element could be the common noun týr ‘god’ or the god-name Týr: see Note to Eyv Hák 1/2 Gautatýr. — [2] frýju ‘a reproach’: Only ms. U supplies a viable reading here, since Freyju in most mss cannot be accommodated in the stanza (so Konráð Gíslason 1872, 31).

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