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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 24 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, 319

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

29 — Eskál Vell 29I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 29’ 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. 319.

Flótta gekk til fréttar
felli-Njǫrðr á velli;
draugr gat dolga Sôgu
dagráð Heðins váða.
Ok haldboði hildar
hrægamma sá ramma;
Týr vildi þá týna
teinlautar fjǫr Gauta.

{Felli-Njǫrðr flótta} gekk til fréttar á velli; {draugr {váða Heðins}} gat dagráð {Sôgu dolga}. Ok {haldboði hildar} sá {ramma hrægamma}; {Týr {teinlautar}} vildi þá týna fjǫr Gauta.

{The slaying-Njǫrðr <god> of the fleeing ones} [WARRIOR] sought an augury on the field; {the log {of the clothes of Heðinn <legendary hero>}} [ARMOUR > WARRIOR] got advice about a favourable day {for the Sága <goddess> of enmity} [VALKYRIE = Hildr (hildr ‘battle’)]. And {the provider of battle} [WARRIOR] saw {powerful corpse-birds} [RAVENS/EAGLES]; {the Týr <god> {of the sword-dale}} [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl] wanted to destroy the life of the Gautar then.

Mss: (149r), F(24vb), J1ˣ(88r), J2ˣ(82v) (Hkr); 61(15va), 53(13vb), 54(10va), Bb(20vb) (ÓT); FskBˣ(22r), FskAˣ(85) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] Flótta: flota J1ˣ;    gekk: fekk FskAˣ;    fréttar: ‘frettiar’ 53    [2] Njǫrðr: týs FskBˣ, týr FskAˣ    [3] draugr: drjúgr 53, 54, Bb, drengr FskBˣ    [4] Heðins: heiðins Bb;    váða: valla FskBˣ    [5] hald‑: hall‑ 53, 54, Bb, FskAˣ    [6] ramma: hramma F, ‘ramna’ FskBˣ    [7] vildi: vildri J1ˣ, valdi 54, Bb;    þá: so F, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, sá Kˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, 53, 54, Bb    [8] tein‑: ‘tens‑’ 53, teins‑ 54, Bb, ‘tæm‑’ FskAˣ;    ‑lautar: ‑hlautar F, ‘‑lꜹtr’ J1ˣ

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 30: AI, 129-30, BI, 122, Skald I, 69; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 304, IV, 82-3, ÍF 26, 261, Hkr 1991, I, 175 (ÓTHkr ch. 27), F 1871, 113; Fms 1, 131-2, Fms 12, 37-8, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 146 (ch. 71); Fsk 1902-3, 76-7 (ch. 15), ÍF 29, 118 (ch. 17).

Context: On his way back to Norway, Hákon jarl harries on both sides of the Eyrarsund (Øresund) and in Skáney (Skåne). He lands near the Gautasker and performs a great sacrifice. When two ravens approach, screaming loudly, Hákon is convinced that Óðinn has accepted the sacrifice, and he deems it a favourable time to do battle. He defeats Óttarr jarl of Gautland (Götaland), harries his territory and then returns to Norway. Hkr cites sts 29-31 without interruption and ÓT cites sts 29-30 without interruption, while Fsk cites st. 29 and then sts 30 and 31 (ll. 1-4 only) after the account of events in Gautland.

Notes: [1] fréttar ‘an augury’: Because of the appearance of ravens in this context, the frétt ‘intelligence, forecast’ will have been specifically an augury, a divination based on the flight of birds (on this cf. Pesch 2003, 136-7; ARG I, 428-9; ARG II, 61-3). It is unclear whether this was also typically accompanied by a sacrifice such as Hkr describes (Düwel 1985, 25-6). — [4] dagráð ‘advice about a favourable day’: Lit. ‘day-advice', either an indication that a day will be favourable for a particular act, or the fortunate day itself (Fritzner: dagráð 1, 2). — [7, 8] Týr teinlautar ‘the Týr <god> of the sword-dale [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl]’: The word teinlautar in this kenning has been subject to numerous interpretations. (a) Teinlautar ‘of the sword-dale [SHIELD]’ is assumed here and is one of the explanations considered in LP: teinlaut, ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991. One objection to this interpretation is that teinn ‘twig’, though it is often the base-word of a sword-kenning, is not known as a simplex denoting ‘sword’. In favour of it, however, is the similar hjǫrlaut ‘sword-dale’ in st. 30/4 below, and the fact that other solutions are still more problematic. (b) Týr teins lautar tíra ‘the Týr <god> of the twig of the dale of swords [SHIELD > SWORD > WARRIOR]’ (Fms 12; Vell 1865, 84) can be rejected since it requires emendation of týna to tíra. (c) Týr teinlautar ‘the Týr of the dale of the sacrificial twig [SACRIFICIAL BOWL > SACRIFICIAL PRIEST]’ (given as an alternative in LP: teinlaut, ÍF 26, ÍF 29 and Hkr 1991): Here tein- is equated with hlautteinn ‘sacrificial twig’. However, hlautteinn probably did not occur in the sense ‘sacrificial blood twig’ until the C13th; see (d). (d) Týr teinlautar emended to Týr hlautarteins ‘the Týr of the sacrificial blood twig [SACRIFICIAL PRIEST]’: Although the prose context favours this kenning, this interpretation is not tenable, as all mss give ‘lautar’ except for F. Further, the word hlaut assumed here is otherwise always n., with gen. sg. in ‑s not ‑ar, and its original meaning was probably just ‘lot’ (Düwel 1985, 28). The sense ‘sacrificial blood’ appears to have arisen through Snorri as a Christian reinterpretation (Düwel 1985, 32-8). — [7] þá ‘then’: This reading is preferable here, because the demonstrative in and other mss would be isolated from the noun it determines and because was most likely caused by in l.6.

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