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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, 326

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

34 — Eskál Vell 34I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 34’ 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. 326.

Né sigbjarka serkir
sómmiðjungum rómu
Hôars við Hǫgna skúrir
hléðut fast of séðir.

Né hléðut {fast of séðir serkir {sigbjarka}} {sómmiðjungum} við {skúrir Hǫgna} {rómu Hôars}.

Nor did {the firmly sewn shirts {of the battle-birches}} [WARRIORS > ARMOUR] protect {the bow-miðjungar} [WARRIORS] against {the showers of Hǫgni <legendary hero>} [ARROWS] {in the noise of Hárr <= Óðinn>} [BATTLE].

Mss: R(33v), Tˣ(35r), W(77), U(32v), A(11r), C(5r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] ‑bjarka: ‑bjarkar A    [2] ‑miðjungum: ‑niðjungum U, A, ‑mildingum C;    rómu: ‘[…]o’ U    [3] Hôars: ‘has’ U;    Hǫgna: ‘haugnar’ C    [4] hléðut: ‘hleiþv(t)’(?) U, ‘hlæðu’ A;    séðir: reiðir U, seðit C

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 35: AI, 131, BI, 123, Skald I, 69, NN §412; SnE 1848-87, I, 418-9, II, 327, 438, 587, SnE 1931, 149, SnE 1998, I, 67.

Context: The helmingr is cited in SnE (Skm) in a passage containing examples of battle-kennings.

Notes: [All]: This dramatic moment in the battle against the Jómsvíkingar is also commemorated in Tindr Hákdr 1 and Hfr Hákdr 2III, and described by Snorri in Hkr (ÍF 26, 281). So many arrows get lodged in Hákon jarl’s armour that he is forced to remove it during the battle. These are likely to have been special arrow-heads capable of piercing armour and mail-shirts (see Paulsen 1999, 137-9). — [2] sómmiðjungum ‘the bow-miðjungar [WARRIORS]’: On miðjungr see Note to st. 28/2. The first element sóm- has been subject to various interpretations. It could be sómr ‘bow’, sómi ‘honour’ or sómi ‘sword’ (LP: sómi, sómr; Þul Boga 1/4III, Þul Sverða 1/8III and Notes). (a) The absence of a connecting vowel between sóm- and -miðjungr favours the a-stem sómr ‘bow’ assumed here. (b) Because sómr ‘bow’ and sómi ‘sword’ are only attested in the þulur, Kock (NN §412) views sóm- as an embellishment in the sense of ‘honourable’, hence sómmiðjungr as the base-word of a warrior-kenning, with rómu Hars ‘the noise of Hárr <= Óðinn> [BATTLE]’ as its determinant. — [2-3] rómu Hôars ‘in the noise of Hárr <= Óðinn> [BATTLE]’: (a) This is taken here as a battle-kenning used adverbially to mean ‘in battle’ (so Faulkes, SnE 1998, I, 194). (b) As with st. 10/8 drífu Hôars ‘snow-storm of Hárr’, a temporal acc. is also possible (see Note). (c) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: róma 2) takes Hars as the base-word and the phrase as a warrior-kenning Hôars rómu ‘of the Hárr <= Óðinn> of battle’, a reference to the enemy and source of the showers of arrows. In this he is presumably following Konráð Gíslason (Nj 1875-8, II, 276 n. 243), who rejects rómu Hars as a battle-kenning because rómu itself can already signify ‘battle’. However, their view is contradicted by SnE, which cites this stanza to illustrate battle-kennings with base-words such as veðr ‘weather’ or gnýr ‘din’. Kock conjoins this kenning to sómmiðjungr (see Note to l. 2).

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