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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 May 2022)

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, 292

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Eskál Vell 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 8’ 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. 292.

Mart varð él, áðr, Ála,
austr lǫnd at mun banda
randar lauks af ríki,
rœkilundr of tœki.

{Mart él Ála} varð, áðr {rœkilundr {lauks randar}} of tœki lǫnd austr af ríki at mun banda.

{Many a storm of Áli <sea-king>} [BATTLE] came about before {the tending-tree {of the leek of the shield}} [SWORD > WARRIOR] took the lands in the east by force at the will of the gods.

Mss: (112v-113r), 39(3vb), F(19vb), J1ˣ(67v), J2ˣ(65r) (Hkr); 61(7rb), 325IX 1 a(3ra), Bb(9va) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] él: ek 325IX 1 a, Bb    [2] banda: branda J1ˣ, J2ˣ    [3] randar: rauðar Bb    [4] ‑lundr: corrected from ‑sundr J2ˣ;    of: ef Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 9: AI, 124, BI, 118, Skald I, 66, NN §§318, 396, 1827; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 237, IV, 68, ÍF 26, 210, Hkr 1991, I, 139 (HGráf ch. 6), F 1871, 90; Fms 1, 56, Fms 12, 32, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 56 (ch. 35).

Context: See st. 6.

Notes: [1]: (a) Almost all interpreters, including the present ed., have accepted the division of the line Mart varð él, áðr, Ála ‘many a storm came about, before, of Áli’; cf. Reichardt (1928, 154-5). (b) Kock (NN §396, followed by Ohlmarks 1958, 366) suggests a simpler solution in which él ‘storm’ is translated as ‘battle’ and Ála collocates with austrlǫnd ‘the eastern lands’ in the following line as a kenning for Norway. But Ála must be the determinant of the battle-kenning, because él alone is not known to signify ‘battle’; see LP: él. The kenning austrlǫnd Ála is also unlikely (see Reichardt 1928, 154-5; Reichardt 1930, 241). (c) Kuhn (1929b, 201), also seeking to avoid a tripartite line, attaches Ála to lauks randar ‘leek of the shield’, the determinant of rœkilundr ‘tending tree’, but that similarly creates an overdetermined kenning while leaving él ‘battle’ without a determinant. — [2] at mun banda ‘at the will of the gods’: Here the skald represents the conquering of Norway as in line with the will of the gods (n. pl. bǫnd). Other instances in skaldic poetry (see Marold 1992, 705-7) indicate that these gods protect the land from evil or entrust it to rulers of whom they approve, cf. Tindr Hákdr 8/5-8, where the gods want Hákon to surpass all other rulers. It may be that the bǫnd are especially linked to the jarls of Hlaðir (Lade), cf. also st. 14/4 below and the stef ‘refrain’ of Bandadrápa, composed for Hákon jarl’s son Eiríkr, which confirms that Eiríkr rules the land at mun banda (Edáð Banddr 9/1). — [3] af ríki ‘by force’: The phrase could be construed with the main clause, but placing it in the subordinate clause, as here, gives good sense and the simplest word order (so also Vell 1865, 18; NN §396; ÍF 26; Hkr 1991).

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated