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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, 323

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

32 — Eskál Vell 32I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 32’ 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. 323.

Hvar viti ǫld und einum
jarðbyggvi svá liggja
— þat skyli herr of hugsa —
hjarl sextían jarla?
Þess ríðr fúrs með fjórum
folkleikr Heðins reikar
logskundaðar lindar
lofkenndr himins endum.

Hvar viti ǫld hjarl sextían jarla liggja svá und {einum jarðbyggvi}? Herr skyli of hugsa þat. {Lofkenndr folkleikr} {fúrs reikar Heðins} {þess {lindar log}skundaðar} ríðr með fjórum endum himins.

Where would people know of the territory of sixteen jarls lying in such a way under {one land-owner} [RULER]? The army ought to consider that. {The renowned army-game} [BATTLE] {of the fire of the hair-parting of Heðinn <legendary hero>} [SWORD] {of that impeller {of the fire of the spring}} [(lit. ‘fire-impeller of the spring’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN] spreads along the four ends of the sky.

Mss: (165r), 39(8vb), F(27vb), J1ˣ(99v), J2ˣ(92r) (Hkr); 61(21ra), 54(17vb), Bb(28rb), Flat(28va) (ÓT, ll. 1-4)

Readings: [1] viti: vit 39, veit F, ‘vit(ut)’(?) Bb;    ǫld und: ‘olld(ot)’(?) Bb;    einum: ǫðrum 61, eldi 54, Bb    [2] jarð‑: jarl‑ Bb;    ‑byggvi: ‑byggvis 39, F, J1ˣ, 61, ‘‑byggis’ 54, Bb, ‘‑ygg(uis)’(?) Flat    [3] þat: þar Flat;    skyli: ‘(s)kyli’(?) 39, skuli Bb, Flat;    herr: hver Bb    [4] hjarl: so F, J1ˣ, hjarl ok Kˣ, J2ˣ, ‘hjall’ 39, hjarli 61, 54, Bb, ‘harli’ Flat;    jarla: jarlar 61    [7] logskundaðar: ‘lugscunnaðar’ 39, ‘lungs vnnadar’ F;    lindar: linna F

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 37: AI, 131, BI, 124, Skald I, 69, NN §§1887, 2240A, C; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 342-3, IV, 91, ÍF 26, 290, Hkr 1991, I, 195 (ch. 45), F 1871, 126; Fms 1, 187, Fms 12, 46, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 204 (ch. 93); Flat 1860-8, I, 216.

Context: Hákon jarl is said to have ruled sixteen districts (fylki), delegating power to sixteen jarls – a system instituted by King Haraldr hárfagri.

Notes: [All]: The first helmingr lacks hendingar in ll. 1 and 3, and l. 2 has a skothending instead of an aðalhending, while the second helmingr has regular hendingar. But emendation for the sole purpose of achieving well-formed hendingar (as for instance by Jón Þorkelsson, 1884, 57) is not justified. — [2] jarðbyggvi ‘land-owner [RULER]’: According to Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; LP: jarðbyggvir) Hákon jarl is referred to here as a free farmer (odelsbonde), since he is only a jarl, not a king. Olsen (1962a, 50) suggests the sense ‘landlord’ (based on byggja ‘to loan, let’; see Fritzner: byggja 2). However, in the context of praise of the scope of Hákon’s rule, it is better to understand jarðbyggvir as a kenning of the type jarðhljótr ‘landowner’ (KormǪ Sigdr 3/2III) or jarðráðandi ‘land-ruler’ (Eyv Hál 11/7, Anon Mlag 3/4II). ÍF 26 adopts the gen. sg. jarðbyggvis given by all except the main ms. , and combines it with herr ‘host’ from the intercalary clause. This results in unnecessarily complicated syntax. — [3] hugsa ‘consider’: Jón Þorkelsson (1884, 57) believes the verb hugsa and the verbal noun hugsan not to have been in use before 1200-60, and suggests (ibid., 59) that the verb heyra ‘to hear’ would be fitting instead, as this would result in a skothending. Finnur Jónsson (1891a, 321-2) correctly rejects this. — [4] hjarl sextían jarla ‘of the territory of sixteen jarls’: It is uncertain whether the territory of a jarl corresponds to a fylki (see Note to st. 13/1). Snorri seems to have understood it this way (see Context). Historians’ opinions on the issue vary, not least because Hákon jarl is reported to have ruled seventeen fylki (eleven in Þrœndalǫg, six in Gulaþingslǫg); on this see Koht (1921b, 97-8 n. 2; Indrebø 1931, 44; Olsen 1962a, 50). — [5] þess ‘of that’: This is regarded here as a demonstrative pron. and combined with logskundaðr (so also Skj B; ÍF 26). Kock (NN §1887B) instead interprets it as an adverbial use of the gen. of the demonstrative , meaning ‘therefore’; see also LP: 3. — [5, 6] folkleikr fúrs reikar Heðins ‘army-game [BATTLE] of the fire of the hair-parting of Heðinn <legendary hero> [SWORD]’: (a) This edn follows Kock (NN §1887A), ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991 in regarding this problematic phrase as an elaboration of the expression ‘sword-battle’, of which Kock (NN §1887) adduces some examples. ‘Battle’ is replaced by folkleikr ‘army-game’ while ‘sword’ is rendered by the phrase fúrs reikar Heðins ‘of the fire of the hair-parting of Heðinn’ and interpreted as ‘that which flames against the head of Heðinn’. Reik f. ‘parting of the hair, hair-parting’ functions as a pars pro toto expression for ‘head’. ‘Fire’ is one of the commonest base-words in sword-kennings, but it is not usually determined by the object that the sword injures (cf. Meissner 157-64). (b) A totally different interpretation which contains a more standard kenning is proposed by Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Finnur Jónsson 1891a, 170-81; Skj B): reikar Heðins faldfúrsleikr ‘the game of the fire of the headgear of the head of Heðinn <legendary hero> [(lit. ‘headgear-fire-game of the head of Heðinn) HELMET > SWORD > BATTLE]’. This is problematic since it both includes an emendation of folk (all mss) to fald ‘headgear’ and configures the determinants in an unusual way, by inserting a freestanding noun from l. 5 (fúrs) between the two elements of a cpd l. 6 (faldleikr) to form fald-fúrs-leikr. There is a structurally similar kenning in Eil Þdr 12/8III Heðins reikar skálleik ‘the game of the bowl of the hair-parting of Heðinn [(lit. ‘bowl-game of the hair-parting of Heðinn’) HELMET > BATTLE]’, yet this does not match the extreme complexity assumed by Finnur Jónsson. — [7] lindar logskundaðar ‘of the impeller of the fire of the spring [(lit. ‘fire-impeller of the spring’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’: The kenning can be interpreted one of three ways depending on whether lind means ‘spring’, ‘shield’ or ‘ship’: (a) ‘impeller of the fire of the spring [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN]’; (b) ‘impeller of the fire of the shield [SWORD > WARRIOR]’; (c) reading lindar lǫgskundaðar, ‘impeller of the lime-tree of the water [SHIP > SEA-WARRIOR]’. The stanza’s context is the only decisive factor: (a) appears the best solution, and is chosen in this edn, as in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B, because Hákon jarl is being praised as a powerful ruler.

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