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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson (Eyv)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Russell Poole;

1. Hákonarmál (Hák) - 21

Skj info: Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir, Norsk skjald, 10. årh. (d. omkr. 990). (AI, 64-74, BI, 57-65).

Skj poems:
1. Hákonarmál
2. Háleygjatal
3. Lausavísur

Eyvindr (Eyv, c. 915-990) has been called the last important Norwegian skald (Genzmer 1920, 159; also Boyer 1990a, 201). He is listed in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 256, 261, 265-6) among the poets of Hákon góði ‘the Good’ Haraldsson and Hákon jarl Sigurðarson. His maternal grandmother was a daughter of Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’, and he seems to have been close to Haraldr’s son Hákon góði from early on, serving at his court as one of a group of brilliant skalds. After Hákon’s death he resided at the court of Haraldr gráfeldr ‘Grey-cloak’, but relations with Haraldr seem to have soured quickly, as evidenced by his lausavísur. Eyvindr spent the last part of his life with the powerful Hákon jarl Sigurðarson of Hlaðir (Lade), whose family had supported Hákon góði against the sons of Eiríkr blóðøx ‘Blood-axe’. According to Hkr (ÍF 26, 221), in addition to Háleygjatal (Hál), Hákonarmál (Hák) and the lausavísur, Eyvindr composed a poem Íslendingadrápa, but this has not come down to us. The epithet skáldaspillir is usually interpreted to mean ‘Plagiarist’, literally ‘Destroyer (or Despoiler?) of Poets’ in reference to his habit of drawing inspiration from and alluding to earlier compositions, specifically Ynglingatal (Þjóð Yt) for Hál and Eiríksmál (Anon Eirm), along with several eddic poems, for Hák (see Introductions to Hál and Hák). The alternative interpretation ‘Poem-reciter’ proposed by Wadstein (1895a, 88) is unconvincing; see further Olsen (1962a, 28), and Beck (1994a). For further biographical information, see LH I, 447-9, Holm-Olsen (1953) and Marold (1993a).

Hákonarmál (‘Words about Hákon’) — Eyv HákI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Hákonarmál’ 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. 171.

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Skj: Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir: 1. Hákonarmál, 961 (AI, 64-8, BI, 57-60)

SkP info: I, 183

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Eyv Hák 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, Hákonarmál 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. 183.

Blendusk við roðnar         und randar himni;
Skǫglar veðr léku         við ský* of bauga.
Umðu oddláar         í Óðins veðri;
hné mart manna         fyr mækis straumi.

Roðnar blendusk við und {himni randar}; {veðr Skǫglar} léku við {ský* of bauga}. {Oddláar} umðu í {veðri Óðins}; mart manna hné fyr {straumi mækis}.

Red colours mingled beneath {the sky of the shield-rim} [SHIELD]; {the storms of Skǫgul <valkyrie>} [BATTLE] played against {the clouds of shield-rings} [SHIELDS]. {Point-waves} [BLOOD] roared in {the storm of Óðinn} [BATTLE]; many people sank down before {the tide of the sword} [BLOOD].

Mss: (105v) (Hkr); 761bˣ(97v-98v)

Readings: [4] ský*: skýs Kˣ, 761bˣ

Editions: Skj: Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir, 1. Hákonarmál 8: AI, 66, BI, 58, Skald I, 36, NN §§1054, 1903A, 3097B; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 220, IV, 59-60, ÍF 26, 194, Hkr 1991, I, 126 (HákGóð ch. 31/32); Möbius 1860, 233, Jón Helgason 1968, 26, Krause 1990, 80-3.

Context: As for st. 1.

Notes: [All]: J1ˣ and J2ˣ cite only the first word of this stanza; F omits it altogether.  — [1-2]: The lines, and particularly the form roðnar, are problematic. (a) Roðnar is here taken as a noun: an archaic pl. to *roði, a nomen agentis to rjóða ‘redden’ (Noreen 1921, 55), or possibly the pl. of a word roði, roðmi or roðni meaning ‘red sheen’ (so NN §1054). The image could be of the red of the men’s blood and of the shields blending with each other (so Lindquist 1929, 14-15), or of a red effect in the sky, as in en er orrostan tokzst þa laust roda a himininn ok a solina ‘and when the battle began, a red colour appeared in the sky and against the sun’ (Flat 1860-8, II, 354, describing the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad, 1030)). Construed thus, ll. 2 and 4 are elegantly patterned, with a prep. and similar shield-kenning occupying each one. (b) Finnur Jónsson in Hkr 1893-1901 and Skj B emends to p. p. roðnum ‘reddened’, taken to qualify himni ‘sky’ with veðr ‘storms, winds’ as the subject of both blendusk ‘had dealings’ and léku ‘played’. (c) CPB I, 266 emends við roðnar to vígroðar ‘halos of war’, which Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 156) approves, though he would give the form as vígroðnar. (d) Wimmer (1903, 129) would emend randar to randa. (e) Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 65-8) would reverse the position of randar with that of bauga in l. 4, on the basis of comparison to the alliteration in st. 9/1-2. — [4] ský* ‘clouds’: Most eds agree on the necessity of the emendation. It is possible to retain ms. ‘scys’ by assuming a kenning veðr Skǫglar skýs ‘storm of Skǫgul’s cloud [SHIELD > BATTLE]’ (so Cederström 1860, 9, 20; Åkerblom 1899b, 30), but the word order is thereby rendered excessively complex. — [4] of: Of (ms. ‘vm’) is here taken to be the expletive particle. Kuhn (1929a, 14) regards it as a prep. ‘over’, but this interpretation is rejected by Finnur Jónsson (LP: ský). Jón Helgason (1968) suggests that ms. ‘scys vm’ may be a corruption of skýjum, though he points out that the acc. rather than the dat. should be expected after við. — [4] bauga ‘of shield-rings’: Cf. st. 6/2 and Note. — [5, 7, 8] oddláar umðu; hné fyr straumi mækis ‘point-waves [BLOOD] roared’; ‘sank down before the tide of the sword [BLOOD]’: (a) If oddláar ‘point-waves’ and straumi mækis ‘sword’s tide’ are indeed kennings for ‘blood’, the literal sense of their base-words, ‘waves’ and ‘tide, current’, is exploited in the poetic context, cf. st. 7/5 and Note; also ÚlfrU Lv 1/4V and Note. The most usual sense of prep. fyr, ‘before’, produces the statement, exaggerated even by skaldic standards, that warriors sank down ‘before’ a tide or current of blood. It could alternatively be understood in the sense ‘because’, i.e. the combatants ‘sank down on account of (loss of) blood’ (so NN §1903A, followed by ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991, but rejected by Lie 1957, 85). (b) There has, however, been doubt about these as blood-kennings. Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 69-74) and Lie (loc. cit.) propose ‘shower of darts’ for oddláar, and LP: straumr interprets straumr mækis as ‘sword’s movement’, not a kenning for ‘battle’ (though cf. Skj B; Meissner 199-200; Sahlgren 1927-8, I, 69; Lie 1957, 85; Krause 1990, 81). — [7] hné ‘sank down’: Ms. ‘hneig’; the inf. is hníga.

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