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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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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, 285

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Eskál Vell 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 3’ 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. 285.

Eisar vágr fyr vísa
(verk) Rǫgnis (mér hagna);
þýtr Óðrœris alda
ǫldrhafs við fles galdra.

{Vágr Rǫgnis} eisar fyr vísa; verk mér hagna; alda {ǫldrhafs Óðrœris} þýtr við {fles galdra}.

{The wave of Rǫgnir <= Óðinn>} [POEM] roars before the ruler; the works are successful for me; the wave {of the ale-sea of Óðrœrir <mythical vat>} [POEM] booms against {the skerry of incantations} [TEETH].

Mss: R(21v), Tˣ(22r), W(46), U(27r), B(4r) (SnE)

Readings: [1] vágr: so Tˣ, W, vargr R, U, B    [2] verk: veri Tˣ;    hagna: hǫgna all    [3] Óðrœris: so Tˣ, U, ‘odreris’ R, W, B    [4] ǫldr‑: aldr‑ all;    fles: flest Tˣ

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 5: AI, 123, BI, 117, Skald I, 66, NN §§391, 1884A, 1936B, 2240B, 2916; SnE 1848-87, I, 248-9, II, 307, 522, SnE 1931, 93, SnE 1998, I, 13.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [1-2]: The lines are difficult and the solution proposed here (and explained at (c) below) tentative. (a) Finnur Jónsson (1891a, 155; Skj B; Finnur Jónsson 1924a, 325-7; 1934a, 18) reads vágr Rǫgnis eisar fyr mér; verk hagna vísa aldr ‘the wave of Rǫgnir [POEM] crashes before me; the deeds are advantageous for the leader for all time’. This has drawn two justified objections, however: it splits the prepositional phrase fyr vísa ‘before the ruler’, and it includes ms. aldr (l. 4) in the intercalary clause, making it extremely fragmented (Reichardt 1928, 199; NN §391). (b) Kock’s interpretation (NN §391), vágr eisar fyr vísa; verk Rǫgnis mér hagna ‘the wave breaks upon the leader; I succeed at Óðinn’s works [POETRY]’, assumes simpler word order, but requires the determinant of the first poem-kenning (with base-word vágr ‘wave’) to be supplied from the context (see Reichardt 1928, 199-200). It also assumes that verk Rǫgnis ‘Óðinn’s deeds’ is a poetry-kenning, although verk would not be paralleled as a base-word in such a kenning (see Meissner 429). Kock later (NN §2916) took ǫldrhafs ‘of the ale-sea’ (l. 4, emended from aldr-) as the determinant of vágr, followed by Ohlmarks (1958, 363) and Frank (1981, 162). However, ‘wave of the ale-sea’ cannot be a kenning for ‘poem’, cf. Faulkes, SnE 1998, I, 162. (c) The simpler interpretation of the first two lines given here matches that of Reichardt (1928, 199; also Davidson 1983, 238, 241). It has the disadvantage that in l. 2 verk hagna mér ‘works are successful for me’ (i. e. I succeed in making my poem), a typical phrase for a parenthesis, is interrupted, producing a tripartite line. However, this seems marginally less problematic than the incomplete kenning assumed by Kock, especially given the careful and elaborate kenning structure of sts 1-3. — [1] vágr ‘the wave’: The variant vargr ‘wolf’ given in R, U and B does not make sense in this context; see Finnur Jónsson (1891a, 154; 1924, 325). — [2] hagna ‘are successful’: All mss give ǫ as this word’s root vowel, which is explained as an attempt on the part of the scribes to create the aðalhending required in this line (Finnur Jónsson 1924a, 325). However, it was still possible in Einarr’s day to conjoin a and ǫ in an aðalhending (Kuhn 1983, 79). — [3]: The line lacks a hending, but the emendation suggested by Lindquist (1929, 44) and Kock (NN §1884A) in order to correct this, to þýrr alda Óðhrœris, is strained and is therefore rejected. It rearranges two words, and þýrr runs counter to all mss. — [3] Óðrœris ‘of Óðrœrir <mythical vat>’: In Skm (SnE 1998, I, 4) this is the name of one of the three vats in which the giant Suttungr stores the mead of poetry before Óðinn steals it. But de Vries (ARG II, 72) and Frank (1981, 162) may be right to interpret Óðrœrir as the mead of poetry itself, which is certainly plausible with respect to the name’s origins (see below). On the basis of the ms. spellings, several eds have chosen Óðreris (SnE 1848-87, I; SnE 1931; SnE 1998), others Óðrøris (Skj B; LP). But Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1915b, 82) and Lindroth (1915, 176) are justified in choosing Óðrœris in light of the name’s composition. It is a cpd of óðr ‘soul, poem’ and hrœra ‘to move’, but scholars diverge on the interpretation. Two suggestions are (a) ‘that which moves the soul’ (LP: Óðrørir; North 1991, 47) or (b) ‘he who stirs, mixes poetry’ (Björn Magnússon Ólsen 1915b, 83; LP: hrœra 2). (c) However, in view of the generic meaning of hrœra, ‘to move’, the sense ‘that which sets the poem in motion’ is preferable. This would suggest that Óðrœrir denoted ‘mead of poetry’ at the time it was coined. It is unclear what the two further instances of Óðrœrir (Hávm 107/4, 140/6) denote, but they seem to indicate ‘mead of poetry’ rather than the vat from the myth (cf. S-G I, 129, 140). It seems that already Einarr skálaglamm uses Óðrœrir as the name of the vat. — [3, 4] ǫldrhafs Óðrœris ‘of the ale-sea of Óðrœrir <mythical vat> [POEM]’: Here again, as in all other introductory stanzas (see Notes to st. 1 [All] and 1/1, 3, 4), we find a kenning for ‘poem’ combined with metaphors for the recitation of the poem: alda … hafs þýtr við fles ‘the wave of the … sea booms against the skerry’. Hafs, although here given as a part of the kenning for ‘poem’, strictly belongs to the imagery of recitation. The kenning for ‘poem’, ǫldr Óðrœris ‘the ale of Óðrœrir’, is inserted into this metaphorical image and fles ‘the skerry’ is used as the base-word of a kenning for ‘teeth’. — [4] ǫldrhafs ‘of the ale-sea’: The mss’ aldr and hafs have been subject to various interpretations. The main challenge in ll. 3-4 is aldr (l. 4), found in all mss, which interpreters have construed variously. (a) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) incorporates aldr into the intercalary clause in ll. 1, 2, giving verk hagna vísa aldr ‘deeds will always ornament the prince’. (b) Reichardt (1928, 199) also takes it to be an adv. ‘constantly’, but modifying þýtr ‘booms’. Finnur Jónsson (1934a, 18) rightly objects that this could not apply to the recitation of a poem. (c) Kock (NN §391) emends it to ǫldr ‘ale’ and links it to hafs ‘sea’. Kock first linked the cpd ǫldrhafs to Óðrœrir, but later (NN §2916) to vágr ‘wave’ in l. 1 (see Note to ll. 1-2). This edn follows Kock’s emendation but not his further suggestions. (d) Faulkes (SnE 1998, I, 162) considers verk Rǫgnis aldrhafs as a kenning for ‘poetry’, though he provides no exact interpretation of it. It could only mean ‘work of the ale-sea of Óðinn [POEM]’, and as such would not match the structure of this type of kenning, in which ‘mead of poetry’ already stands for ‘poem’. — [4] fles galdra ‘the skerry of incantations [TEETH]’: This kenning is a so-called nýgerving ‘new creation, new construction’ based on the image that the poem is a sea pouring out of the poet’s mouth. The ‘skerry’ against which this sea breaks are hence ‘teeth’ (cf. also Marold 1994a, 475).

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