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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, 322

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

31 — Eskál Vell 31I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 31’ 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. 322.

Valfǫllum hlóð vǫllu
(varð ragna konr gagni)
hríðar ôss (at hrósa)
— hlaut Óðinn val — Fróða.
Hver sé if, nema jǫfra
ættrýri goð stýra?
Rammaukin kveðk ríki
rǫgn Hôkunar magna.

{Ôss {hríðar Fróða}} hlóð vǫllu valfǫllum; {konr ragna} varð at hrósa gagni; Óðinn hlaut val. Hver if sé, nema goð stýra {{jǫfra ætt}rýri}? Kveðk rammaukin rǫgn magna ríki Hôkunar.

{The god {of the storm of Fróði <sea-king>}} [BATTLE > WARRIOR] piled up the fields with the slain; {the descendant of the gods} [= Hákon jarl] could boast of victory; Óðinn was allotted the slain. What doubt might there be that the gods guide {the destroyer {of the kin of princes}} [(lit. ‘kin-destroyer of princes’) PRINCES > RULER = Hákon jarl]? I declare that the exceedingly powerful gods increase the might of Hákon.

Mss: (149r-v), F(24vb), J1ˣ(88r), J2ˣ(82v) (Hkr); FskBˣ(22r), FskAˣ(86) (Fsk, ll. 1-4); R(36v), Tˣ(38v), U(36r), A(12v), C(6r) (SnE, ll. 7-8)

Readings: [2] ragna: rǫgna Kˣ, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, ‘rogna’ FskBˣ, FskAˣ    [3] hríðar: hirðar F, hildar FskAˣ    [4] hlaut: ‘haut’ FskBˣ    [7] kveðk (‘qveþ æc’): kvað ek C;    ríki: runnu J1ˣ    [8] magna: magni U

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 32: AI, 130, BI, 123, Skald I, 69, NN §§409, 1805, 1854B, 2247C; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 304-5, IV, 83-4, ÍF 26, 262, Hkr 1991, I, 175-6 (ÓTHkr ch. 27), F 1871, 113; Fsk 1902-3, 78 (ch. 15), ÍF 29, 119 (ch. 17); SnE 1848-87, I, 470, II, 340, 447, 591, SnE 1931, 166, SnE 1998, I, 85.

Context: See Context to st. 29. SnE (Skm) cites ll. 7-8 to illustrate how the gods can be called rǫgn.

Notes: [1-4]: Kock (NN §409) construes ôss hríðar Fróða ‘the god of the storm of Fróði <sea-king> [BATTLE > WARRIOR]’ in the subordinate clause in apposition to konr ragna ‘the descendant of the gods’ (l. 2) in order to simplify the syntactic structure of the helmingr. However, the main clause then lacks a subject (cf. Reichardt 1928, 113-14 n. 92). — [2] ragna ‘of the gods’: All mss have rǫgna, the analogical gen. pl. form based on nom. pl. rǫgn, a variant of regin (ANG §362 Anm. 2). However, normalisation to the etymological form ragna is likely to be appropriate for a C10th text, and produces a more exact aðalhending here (Marold 1992, 709). — [2] konr ragna ‘the descendant of the gods [= Hákon jarl]’: It was presumably Hákon jarl’s policy to emphasise the divine lineage of his house; cf., e.g., Eyv Hál 1/5, 8. It can be doubted whether konr ragna can be interpreted as a kenning because in that case it would mean ‘god’. There is a similar kenning niðr Yggs ‘descendant of Yggr <= Óðinn>’ [= Hákon jarl] in st. 19/8 (see Note), but it differs from konr ragna in having an individual ancestor for the determinant, as do the kennings ôttungr Týs ‘descendant of Týr <god>’ (Þjóð Yt 14/3) and ôttungr Freys ‘descendant of Freyr <god>’ (Þjóð Yt 16/7), both denoting ‘Swedish king’. In any case konr ragna can be interpreted as an assertion of the divine descent of the ruler. — [3, 4] hríðar Fróða ‘of the storm of Fróði [BATTLE]’: Fróði is the name of several Danish legendary kings (see Notes to st. 17/2 and Þjóð Yt 1/2). It appears in some kennings as the name of a sea-king (Hár Lv 2/7; cf. LP: Fróði 1; Þul Sækonunga 1/1III). — [5-8]: Fidjestøl (1982, 187) regards these lines as the poem’s stef and compares it to that of Bandadrápa (Edáð Banddr 9). — [5-6] jǫfra ættrýri ‘the destroyer of the kin of princes [(lit. ‘kin-destroyer of princes’) PRINCES > RULER = Hákon jarl]’: Among the kennings for ‘king, ruler’ is a group which portrays the ruler as the oppressor or destroyer of hersar, jarlar, jǫfrar, harrar or hertogar (various ranks of chieftain or ruler). According to Meissner 359-60 these kennings stem from battles or confrontations with political opponents within a particular country’s hierarchy. By contrast Hkr 1991 interprets the kenning as konungs bani ‘regicide’, presumably with regard to the killing of Haraldr gráfeldr, though Hákon did not carry this out himself (similarly Vell 1865, 90; Hkr 1893-1901, IV). — [7, 8] rammaukin rǫgn ‘the exceedingly powerful gods’: The strict sense of rammaukin is ‘grown with respect to power’, i.e. made powerful. Possibly the phrase alludes to Hákon jarl’s reintroducing the heathen cult; cf. st. 14.

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