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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, 290

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Eskál Vell 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 6’ 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. 290.

Ok oddneytir úti
eiðvandr flota breiðan
glaðr í Gǫndlar veðrum
— gramr svafði bil — hafði.
Ok rauðmána reynir
rógsegl Heðins bóga
upp hóf jǫfra kappi
etjulund at setja.

Ok {eiðvandr oddneytir}, glaðr í {veðrum Gǫndlar}, hafði breiðan flota úti; gramr svafði bil. Ok {reynir {rauðmána bóga Heðins}} hóf upp {rógsegl} kappi jǫfra at setja etjulund.

And {the oath-true arrow-user} [WARRIOR], glad in {the winds of Gǫndul <valkyrie>} [BATTLES], had a great fleet out at sea; the ruler ended delay. And {the tester {of the red moon of the arm of Heðinn <legendary hero>}} [SHIELD > WARRIOR] raised {the strife-sail} [SHIELD] with the vigour of rulers to calm the spirit of aggression.

Mss: (112v), 39(3vb), F(19vb), J1ˣ(67v), J2ˣ(64v-65r) (Hkr); 61(7rb), 325IX 1 a(3ra), Bb(9va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] odd‑: óð‑ J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    ‑neytir: ‑neyðir J1ˣ, ‘‑nexstir’ 325IX 1 a, Bb;    úti: ýti 61, ‘vt[...]’ 325IX 1 a    [2] eiðvandr flota: ‘[...]a’ 325IX 1 a    [2, 3] breiðan glaðr í: ‘(b)rei[...] glad[...]’(?) 325IX 1 a    [3] veðrum: ‘veiðrum’ J1ˣ    [6] bóga: so 39, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, ‘bogra’ Kˣ, ‘boga’ 325IX 1 a, ‘bega’ Bb    [8] ‑lund: ‑lundr 61, 325IX 1 a, ‑sund Bb;    setja: segja at segja J1ˣ, segja J2ˣ

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 7: AI, 123, BI, 118, Skald I, 66, NN §§393, 1825, 1826, 1853A, 2241; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 236, IV, 66-7; ÍF 26, 208-9, Hkr 1991, I, 138-9 (HGráf ch. 6), F 1871, 89; Fms 1, 56, Fms 12, 31-2, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 55 (ch. 35).

Context: After the death of Sigurðr jarl, his son Hákon is able to hold on to power in Þrándheimr (Trøndelag) for three years with the help of his friends. He fights several battles against the Eiríkssynir (Gunnhildarsynir), at which many are killed. Hkr cites sts 6-8 in unbroken sequence; ÓT inserts a brief link between sts 6 and 7.

Notes: [1-4]: There have been various opinions as to how l. 3 relates to the main and intercalary clauses of the first helmingr. (a) In this edn, the intercalary clause consists only of gramr svafði bil ‘the ruler ended delay’ (l. 4; cf. NN §393; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991); Kock (NN §1825) collected many examples of this kind of division of the fourth line. Line 3, glaðr í veðrum Gǫndlar is taken as part of the main clause, qualifying oddneytir, hence ‘the arrow-user [WARRIOR], glad in the winds of Gǫndul [BATTLES]’ (following Konráð Gíslason 1895-7, I, 105-6). Keeping the same arrangement of clauses, ‘in the winds of Gǫndul’ might instead be taken as a prepositional phrase meaning that the ruler had deployed his fleet in battle (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991), but this is less likely because it would have to be linked to úti ‘out at sea’ in l. 1. Alternative clause arrangements are as follows. (b) The intercalary clause could comprise glaðr gramr svafði bil í veðrum Gǫndlar ‘the glad ruler ended delay in the winds of Gǫndul [BATTLES]’ (Fms 12; Vell 1865, 8; CPB II, 44; Reichardt 1928, 10-12). The meaning of this is problematic because, at the time of battle, any delay has already been overcome. Moreover, the syntax and word order would hardly be acceptable. (c) The intercalary clause could comprise glaðr gramr svafði bil ‘the glad ruler ended delay’ (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B). Whereas Kock (NN §§393, 1825) rejects this version because of its convoluted word order, Reichardt (1928, 11) thinks it more poetic. — [5, 6] reynir rauðmána bóga Heðins ‘the tester of the red moon of the arm of Heðinn <legendary hero> [SHIELD > WARRIOR]’: It is impossible to decide whether reynir, the base-word of the kenning, should be translated as ‘tester’ or as its homonym ‘rowan tree’, because both result in a standard warrior-kenning (‘tester of the sword’ or ‘tree of the sword’; see Meissner 299, and cf. SnE 1998, I, 40, 148). — [7] kappi jǫfra ‘with the vigour of rulers’: (a) This edn, with almost all others, takes the dat. kappi ‘with vigour’ with the verb hóf upp ‘raised’. Kappi is interpreted as an instr. dat. or dat. of manner, of which there are prose examples involving abstract nouns (NS §110), though these normally occur in specific circumstances which are not precisely matched here. The jǫfra (gen. pl.) ‘rulers’ are unidentified but could be Hákon’s supporters, or jǫfra could be an adjectival gen., ‘lordly’, as jarla seems to be in Arn Mdr 5/1II orðgnótt jarla ‘lordly wealth of words’. (b) Jǫfra could be taken with etjulund, but this entails separating jǫfra and kappi, which are consecutive and form a natural phrasal unit. (c) In order to avoid such separation, Kock (NN §1826) takes kappi as a variation of etjulund ‘inclination for strife’, both being dat. objects of setja in the sense ‘to settle, calm, allay’. However, the suggestion is unconvincing because apposition like this is rare in skaldic style (tellingly Kock only produces WGmc parallels). Moreover, Kock claims setja máli as a parallel, but that means ‘to settle a dispute’ (Fritzner: setja 4), whereas here setja would mean ‘to calm an emotion’ (Fritzner: setja 5), and would be construed with the acc.

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