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Runic Dictionary

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Einarr skálaglamm Helgason (Eskál)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Edith Marold;

2. Vellekla (Vell) - 37

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 20 September 2021)

stanzas:  1   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 

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.


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

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. — [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.

texts: Skm 34, SnE 36

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.


GKS 2367 4° (R) 21v, 10 - 21v, 11 (SnE)  transcr.  image  image  image  
Traj 1374x (Tx) 22r, 3 - 22r, 4 (SnE)  transcr.  image  
AM 242 fol (W) 46, 21 - 46, 21 (SnE)  transcr.  image  image  image  
DG 11 (U) 27r, 13 - 27r, 14 (SnE)  transcr.  image  
AM 757 a 4° (B) 4r, 42 - 4r, 43 (SnE)  image  image  image  image  
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