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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, 321

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

30 — Eskál Vell 30I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 30’ 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. 321.

Háði jarl, þars áðan
engi mannr und ranni,
hyrjar þing, at herja,
hjǫrlautar, kom Sǫrla.
Bara maðr lyngs enn lengra
loptvarðaðar barða
— allt vann gramr of gengit
Gautland — frá sæ randir.

Jarl háði {þing {hyrjar {hjǫrlautar}}}, þars engi mannr und {ranni Sǫrla} kom áðan at herja. Maðr bara randir {{lyngs barða} lopt}varðaðar enn lengra frá sæ; gramr vann allt Gautland of gengit.

The jarl held {an assembly {of the fire {of the sword-dale}}} [SHIELD > SWORD > BATTLE], where no man carrying {a house of Sǫrli <legendary hero>} [SHIELD] had come to harry before. No one carried shields, adorned with {the loft {of the whale of the heath}} [SNAKE > GOLD] any further from the sea; the ruler managed to march through all of Götaland.

Mss: (149r), F(24vb), J1ˣ(88r), J2ˣ(82v) (Hkr); 61(15va), 54(10va), Bb(20vb) (ÓT); FskBˣ(22r), FskAˣ(86) (Fsk); A(4r), W(102), B(2v) (TGT, ll. 1-2); 761aˣ(90v) (ll. 1-2)

Readings: [1] Háði: hafði W, 761aˣ;    jarl: om. J1ˣ;    þars (‘þar er’): var FskBˣ, þar FskAˣ    [2] engi: ‘eng(in)’(?) J1ˣ, ‘aungr’ 61;    mannr: mann F, 54, Bb, W, 761aˣ;    ranni: ský ranni 61, 54, Bb, ‘vanni’ B    [3] þing: so J1ˣ, 61, 54, Bb, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, þings Kˣ, F, J2ˣ    [4] ‑lautar: ‑lautr J1ˣ;    Sǫrla: sǫrva 61, gjǫrva 54, Bb    [5] Bara: bera 61, 54, Bb, barat FskAˣ;    maðr: mun 54, munn Bb, om. FskBˣ;    lyngs: ‘laungs’ 54, Bb;    enn: ins 54, Bb;    lengra: ‘leng(ra)’(?) J1ˣ    [6] lopt‑: láð‑ FskAˣ;    barða: garða FskBˣ, FskAˣ    [7] of: und F    [8] frá: fyr 54, Bb;    sæ: sjó FskBˣ, FskAˣ

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 31: AI, 130, BI, 123, Skald I, 69, NN §§303C, 318, 408, 1886, 2240A, 2246; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 304, IV, 83; ÍF 26, 261, Hkr 1991, I, 175 (ÓTHkr ch. 27), F 1871, 113; Fms 1, 132, Fms 12, 38, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 146-7 (ch. 71); Fsk 1902-3, 77-8 (ch. 15), ÍF 29, 119 (ch. 17); SnE 1848-87, II, 108-9, TGT 1884, 70, TGT 1927, 48, TGT 1998, 120-1.

Context: See Context to st. 29. TGT cites ll. 1-2 to illustrate iotacismus, which is the occurrence of j between two vowels, as in the stanza’s háði jarl. TGT classifies it as a form of barbarismus, an ugly combination of sounds (ofagra samansætning stafanna, TGT 1998, 118).

Notes: [2, 5] mannr; maðr ‘man’; ‘one’: Mannr (l. 2) forms an aðalhending with ranni ‘house’ and is stressed, while maðr (l. 5) is in unstressed position (in Bara maðr ‘No one carried’, lit. ‘One did not carry’). — [2, 4] und ranni Sǫrla ‘carrying a house of Sǫrli <legendary hero> [SHIELD]’: Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Fsk 1902-3; Skj B) places this phrase in the main clause, but this leads to a tripartition of l. 4 that can be avoided if it is placed in the subordinate clause. — [4] hjǫrlautar ‘of the sword-dale [SHIELD]’: See teinlautar ‘of the sword-dale [SHIELD]’ in st. 29/8. — [5, 6] lyngs barða lopt- ‘the loft of the whale of the heath [SNAKE > GOLD]’: Lopt denotes a bedroom on the upper floor (Fritzner: lopt 5) and may be considered a variation of ‘lair’; ‘lair of the snake’ is one of the most common patterns of gold-kenning (Meissner 237-41). — [6] -varðaðar ‘adorned with’: This is the p. p. of varða ‘to guard’. The sense is assumed to have arisen via the meaning ‘to surround’ (LP: loptvarðaðr).

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