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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 28 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, 284

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Eskál Vell 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 2’ 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. 284.

Nús, þats Boðnar bára
(berg-Saxa) tér vaxa
(gervi í hǫll ok hlýði
hljóð fley jǫfurs þjóðir).

Nús, þats {bára Boðnar} tér vaxa; þjóðir jǫfurs gervi hljóð í hǫll ok hlýði {fley {berg-Saxa}}.

Now it happens that {the wave of Boðn <mythical vat>} [POEM] grows; may the retinue of the ruler give a hearing in the hall and listen to {the ship (líð ‘ale’) {of the rock-Saxons}} [GIANTS > POEM].

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

Readings: [1] þats: þat B    [2] Saxa: sára B;    vaxa: vara B    [3] gervi: gefi W    [4] fley: ‘fr(e)y’(?) B;    þjóðir: corrected from þjóðar Tˣ

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 6: AI, 123, BI, 117, Skald I, 66, NN §§392, 2240B; SnE 1848-87, I, 248, II, 522, SnE 1931, 93, SnE 1998, I, 13.

Context: See Context to st. 1.

Notes: [All]: This stanza continues the sea metaphor (see Note to st. 1/1, 3, 4), as the poem swells within the poet like a wave at sea (cf. 3/3-4, where the poetry booms against his teeth). The call for attention is extended from the ruler to his retinue. — [1] bára Boðnar ‘the wave of Boðn <mythical vat> [POEM]’: This is a periphrasis for ‘mead of poetry’, which is used as a metonymical expression for ‘poem’ (see Note to st. 1 [All]). Boðn is one of the three vats in which the giant Suttungr kept the mead of poetry (SnE 1998, I, 4). Frank (1981, 162) thinks it a common noun meaning ‘vessel’ on the basis of etymologically related words in OE and ModIcel. However, the etymology of Boðn is disputed. Kock (1899, 109) relates it to OIcel. boð ‘feast’; Lindroth (1915, 174) relates it to OE byden, MLG boden(e) ‘vat, barrel’. Kock’s suggestion (NN §392), followed by Frank (1981, 162) and Krömmelbein (1983, 173-4), of combining bára Boðnar berg-Saxa into a kenning ‘the wave of the vat [DRINK?] of the mountain-Saxons [GIANTS > POEM]’, is impossible because of its structure: the kenning is overdetermined, i.e. it contains two determinants, Boðn and berg-Saxa. Furthermore the kenning bára Boðnar is attested elsewhere, albeit in the C13th, without the additional determinant ‘giants’, in hrœrik báru Boðnar ‘I stir (i.e. I deliver) the wave of Boðn’ (SigvSt Lv 2/3IV). — [2, 4] fley berg-Saxa ‘the ship (líð ‘ale’) of the rock-Saxons [GIANTS > POEM]’: This kenning for ‘poem’ contains an example of the type of word-play known as ofljóst (‘too transparent’): fley ‘ship’ is synonymous with lið/líð ‘ship’, a homonym or near homonym of líð ‘ale, drink’ (see Note to Þul Skipa 4/8III on lið ‘ship’, and see LP: 2. lið for the possibility of a variant with long vowel). The ofljóst is explained in Skm (SnE 1998, I, 14). Hence the kenning is interpreted as ‘ale of the giants’, and thus as ‘poem’ (see Marold 1994a, 475 n. 34). — [3] hlýði ‘may ... listen’: Skj B conjectures heyri instead of hlýði, given by all mss, to achieve the expected hending. Despite Skj A and SnE 1998, I, 163 attributing the conjecture to him, Konráð Gíslason repeatedly rejects it (Konráð Gíslason 1872, 14; Konráð Gíslason 1892, 18, 99). Kock (Skald) and Faulkes (SnE 1998) also adhere to the mss. Emendation is unnecessary since the hending is also missing in the first line, as noted by Konráð Gíslason (1872, 14) and Kock (NN §392). Moreover it is apparent that Einarr links ll. 3 and 4 through a hending in the introductory sts 1-5: 1. fyrðafjarð, 3. aldaǫldr (ms. aldr), 4. sorgarbergs, 5. ausaaustr. Hlýðihljóð fits well with this special use of rhyme.

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