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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, 291

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — Eskál Vell 7I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 7’ 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. 291.

Vasat ofbyrjar ǫrva
odda vífs né drífu
sverða sverrifjarðar
svanglýjaði at frýja.
Brak-Rǫgnir skók bogna
(barg óþyrmir varga)
hagl ór Hlakkar segli
hjǫrs (rakkliga fjǫrvi).

Vasat at frýja {{{sverrifjarðar sverða} svan}glýjaði} {ofbyrjar ǫrva} né {drífu {vífs odda}}. {{Hjǫrs brak-}Rǫgnir} skók {hagl bogna} ór {segli Hlakkar}; {óþyrmir varga} barg rakkliga fjǫrvi.

One did not have to taunt {the delighter {of the swan {of the seething fjord of swords}}} [BLOOD > RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR] [into joining] {the strong wind of arrows} [BATTLE] nor {the snow-storm {of the woman of weapon-points}} [VALKYRIE > BATTLE]. {The Rǫgnir <= Óðinn> {of the noise of the sword}} [(lit. ‘noise-Rǫgnir of the sword’) BATTLE > WARRIOR] shook {the hail of bows} [ARROWS] out of {the sail of Hlǫkk <valkyrie>} [SHIELD]; {the crusher of outlaws} [RULER] bravely saved his life.

Mss: (112v), 39(3vb), F(19vb), J1ˣ(67v), J2ˣ(65r) (Hkr); 61(7rb), 325IX 1 a(3ra), Bb(9va) (ÓT); R(34v), Tˣ(35v), W(78), U(33v), A(11v) (SnE, ll. 5-8); 2368ˣ(113), 743ˣ(86v) (LaufE, ll. 5-6)

Readings: [1] Vasat (‘vara’): vant J1ˣ, J2ˣ, veit 61    [2] vífs: ‘nífs’ 325IX 1 a, Bb;    né: í 61, 325IX 1 a, Bb    [3] sverri‑: ‘sværi‑’ 39, ‘svǫrri‑’ F, ‘sverþri‑’ J1ˣ, J2ˣ, sund‑ 325IX 1 a, sund ok Bb;    ‑fjarðar: ‘‑fiarþ(ar)’(?) J1ˣ    [4] svan‑: sval‑ F;    ‑glýjaði: ‘‑glyjaðri’ F, ‑glýjaðr J2ˣ;    at: á J2ˣ;    frýja: flýja Bb    [5] Brak‑: ‘(br)ac‑’(?) 39, brag‑ F;    ‑Rǫgnir: ‑reynir 39, F, ‑rǫknir J1ˣ, J2ˣ, ‑rǫgnir corrected from ‘‑reignir’ W, ‘‑raugna’ U, ‑tognir 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    skók: skaut R, skóg W, U, hjó 2368ˣ, 743ˣ;    bogna: boga 61, bognum W    [6] barg: bjarg 39, F, barð Tˣ, W;    varga: varða Tˣ, W    [7] hagl: hagls R;    ór: þat er A;    Hlakkar: hlakka 61;    segli: so 61, seglum Kˣ, 39, F, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325IX 1 a, Bb, R, Tˣ, W, U, A

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 8: AI, 124, BI, 118, Skald I, 66, NN §§394, 395; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 236-7, IV, 67, ÍF 26, 209, Hkr 1991, I, 139 (HGráf ch. 6), F 1871, 90; Fms 1, 56, Fms 12, 32, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 55-6 (ch. 35); SnE 1848-87, I, 430-1, II, 330-1, 441, SnE 1931, 153, SnE 1998, I, 71; LaufE 1979, 371.

Context: For the Context in Hkr and ÓT, see st. 6. SnE cites ll. 5-8 among stanzas illustrating expressions for arrows. Lines 5-6 are cited in LaufE in the section on man-kennings (see Note below).

Notes: [1, 4] vasat at frýja ‘one did not have to taunt’: Frýja normally means ‘reproach’. Here it should be interpreted as ‘to taunt, to provoke’ (see LP: frýja). — [1-2] ofbyrjar ǫrva né drífu vífs odda ‘the strong wind of arrows [BATTLE] nor the snow-storm of the woman of weapon-points [VALKYRIE > BATTLE]’: Finnur Jónsson (in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B) switches the determinants: ofbyrjar vífs odda í drífu ǫrva ‘the strong wind of the woman of weapon-points [VALKYRIE > BATTLE] in the snow-storm of arrows [BATTLE]’. There is no apparent reason for this (NN §394). — [2] ‘nor’: The mss of Hkr give adv. here, whereas those of ÓT have prep. í ‘in, into’. Both are possible. Changing the text from to í would seem simpler, so the lectio difficilior has been chosen here (likewise in ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991). — [5, 6]: In LaufE these lines are written as if they are part of Anon (LaufE) 6III (see Note). — [6] óþyrmir varga ‘the crusher of outlaws [RULER]’: Óþyrmir is lit. ‘not-sparer’ (cf. þyrma ‘to spare, respect’). Varga here refers not to wolves but to criminals and robbers living outlawed in the forest like animals. This produces a kenning that refers to the ruler’s duty to ensure law and order in his realm. Cf. also ÞSjár Þórdr 2/1 myrðir varga ‘the killer of outlaws’. It is unnecessary to emend to ofþyrmir varga ‘the excessive sparer of wolves (i.e. their feeder) [WARRIOR]’ (so Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B). — [7] segli ‘the sail’: Although dat. sg. segli only appears in ms. 61 in place of dat. pl. seglum attested elsewhere, the sg. is chosen here, following most eds except CPB II, 44 and Vell 1865, 13, since it has to be assumed that a warrior carries only one shield.

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