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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eiríksdrápa — Mark EirdrII

Markús Skeggjason

Jayne Carroll 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Markús Skeggjason, Eiríksdrápa’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 432-60.


All thirty-two hrynhent sts attributed to Markús Skeggjason are considered to belong to EiríksdrápaDrápa about Eiríkr’ (Mark Eirdr), a praise poem about King Eiríkr Sveinsson of Denmark composed after his death in 1103 and possibly delivered in the presence of his brother and successor, Nikulás (see dedication in st. 1; for Eiríkr, see ‘Royal Biographies’ in Introduction to this vol.). The deaths of Eiríkr and Markús place the poem’s composition in 1103-7.

It has been suggested that Eirdr was composed around the time of Archbishop Ǫzurr’s consecration in Lund in 1105 of Jón Ǫgmundarson, first bishop of Hólar (d. 1121), and that Jón brought the poem with him to Lund in written form (Olsen 1921, 166; see also Bjarni Guðnason in ÍF 35, cxxxvii and Jesch 2003, 273). This hypothesis may be supported by the commemoration of Eiríkr’s role in founding the seat of the Scandinavian archbishopric at Lund, with Ǫzurr as its archbishop (st. 25), together with Markús’s well-established links with the Icel. Church (see Biography above, and Gísli Sigurðsson 2004, 69-70). Furthermore, Saxo clearly knew the poem, and it was one of the sources for his description of Eiríkr’s reign in Gesta danorum (see Bjarni Guðnason in ÍF 35, cxxxvii and n. 7; Bjarni Guðnason 1976). On the other hand, a date of composition predating Jón’s consecration in 1105 is somewhat difficult to reconcile with the time when the news of Eiríkr’s death reached Denmark (in 1104 according to Knýtl, ÍF 35, 240; in 1105 according to Saxo, 2005, II, 12, 8, 1, pp. 82-3; see also Storm 1888, 19, 59, 111, 319).

The poem is noteworthy not only for its value as a historical source (it provides the sole independent evidence of several events in Eiríkr’s life (Christiansen 1980, I, 261-2; see further Notes to individual sts)), but also for its dual focus on the traditional—in skaldic terms—attributes of the Dan. king, as well as on new, Christian aspects of kingship on a European model (Paasche 1914, 54; Fidjestøl, 1982, 245; Jesch 2003; Clunies Ross 2005, 129-30).

Eighteen full- and ten half-sts (sts 3-30) are preserved in Knýtl’s account of Eiríkr’s reign (chs 70-81), which draws heavily on the information provided by the skaldic sts. The order of sts 3-30 (as given in Knýtl) is unproblematic and has been preserved in the present edn. The title of the poem is given with the first st. quoted in Knýtl, ch. 70 (Svá segir Markús Skeggjason í Eiríksdrápu ‘So says Markús Skeggjason in Eiríksdrápa’), and the saga-author introduces all the subsequent sts with the poet’s name, usually in the form, Svá segir Markús ‘So says Markús’. Stanzas 1-2 and 31-2 are preserved in SnE (Skm), where they are attributed to Markús. Stanza 1 is clearly the poet’s traditional opening bid for a hearing, and st. 2 is very similar (Fidjestøl 1982, 153 suggests that it may be the poem’s refrain). Stanza 32, which is given as st. 3 in Skj, appears to draw the poem to a close (Fidjestøl 1982, 153). The placing of st. 31 is problematic, because neither the context (SnE (Skm)) nor the content (generalised praise of Eiríkr) of the couplet suggest its original position. The major previous eds of the poem (Skj; Skald; Finnur Jónsson 1929, 55-9) place the couplet between our sts 4 and 5; CPB I, 235-9 places it last.

Ms. R is the main ms. for the sts preserved in SnE (sts 1-2, 31-2). In addition, some or all of those sts are transmitted in the following mss of SnE: , W, U, A, B, C. Because B is damaged and difficult to read, 744ˣ, an early C18th copy made of B when it was more legible, has also been used selectively. The text of the Knýtl sts (sts 3-30) is based on the edn of Jón Ólafsson 1741 (JÓ). In addition, the sts are preserved in the following mss of Knýtl: 873ˣ, 20b I and 1005ˣ.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. Fidjestøl, Bjarne. 1982. Det norrøne fyrstediktet. Universitet i Bergen Nordisk institutts skriftserie 11. Øvre Ervik: Alvheim & Eide.
  4. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  5. Storm, Gustav, ed. 1888. Islandske annaler indtil 1578. Christiania (Oslo): Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond. Rpt. 1977. Oslo: Norsk-historisk kjeldeskrift-institutt.
  6. ÍF 35 = Danakonunga sǫgur. Ed. Bjarni Guðnason. 1982.
  7. Clunies Ross, Margaret. 2005a. A History of Old Norse Poetry and Poetics. Cambridge: Brewer.
  8. Bjarni Guðnason. 1976. ‘Saxo och Eiríksdrápa’. In Svensson et al. 1976, 127-37.
  9. Christiansen, Eric, ed. and trans. 1980. Saxo Grammaticus: Danorum regum heroumque historia. Books X-XVI. 3 vols. BAR International Ser. 84. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
  10. Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1929a. Carmina scaldica: Udvalg af norske og islandske skjaldekvad. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Gad.
  11. Gísli Sigurðsson. 2004. The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition: A Discourse on Method. Trans. Nicholas Jones. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press. First published as Túlkun íslendingasagna í ljósi munnlegrar hefðar: Tilgáta um aðferð. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi, 2002.
  12. Jesch, Judith. 2003. ‘Old and New in Markús Skeggjason’s Eiríksdrápa’. In Simek et al. 2003, 268-74.
  13. Olsen, Magnus. 1921. ‘Lovsigemanden Markus Skeggesøns arvekvæde over kong Erik Eiegod’. Edda 15, 161-9.
  14. Paasche, Fredrik. 1914. Kristendom og kvad: En studie i norrøn middelalder. Christiania (Oslo): Aschehoug. Rpt. in Paasche 1948, 29-212.
  15. Internal references
  16. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  17. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  18. Jayne Carroll 2017, ‘(Biography of) Markús Skeggjason’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 292.

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