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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ESk Geisl 1VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 1’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 7.

Einarr SkúlasonGeisli

Eins má óð ok bœnir
— alls ráðanda ins snjalla
vels fróðr, sás getr góða —
guðs þrenning mér kenna.
Gǫfugt ljós boðar geisli
gunnǫflugr miskunnar
— ágætan býðk ítrum
Óláfi brag — sólar,

Þrenning eins guðs má kenna mér óð ok bœnir; vels fróðr, sás getr góða {ins snjalla ráðanda alls}. {Gunnǫflugr geisli {sólar miskunnar}} boðar gǫfugt ljós — býðk ágætan brag ítrum Óláfi

The Trinity of one God can teach me poetry and prayers; he is indeed wise who gets the goodwill {of the eloquent ruler of all} [= God]. {The battle-strong beam {of the sun of mercy}} [= God > = Christ/Óláfr] proclaims a splendid light — I offer the excellent poem to glorious Óláfr —,

Mss: Flat(2ra), Bb(117ra); A(7v), W(110) (TGT, ll. 1-4)

Readings: [1] óð: so Bb, A, orð Flat, W    [2] ráðanda: valdanda Bb, kjósanda A, W;    snjalla: ljósa A, W    [3] vels (‘vel er’): mjǫk er Bb, A, ‘mi[...]’ W;    góða: greiða Bb

Editions: Skj AI, 459, Skj BI, 427, Skald I, 211, NN §924; Flat 1860-8, I, 1, Cederschiöld 1873, 1, Chase 2005, 51, 123-5; TGT 1884-6, I, 112-13, TGT 1998, 228-9.

Context: Lines 1-4 of st. 1 are cited by Óláfr Þórðarson in TGT (c. 1250) in illustration of the rhetorical figure of parenthesis, which Óláfr defines as ‘the interruption of a sentence by an interpolated clause’ and (referring to Einarr’s st.) ‘here a second clause is interpolated and brought to a conclusion, before the first clause is ended’. He says that this figure always occurs in the verse-type that ‘we’ call stælt ‘inlaid’ or álagsháttr ‘extension form’, both terms Snorri Sturluson employs in Ht (SnE 1999, 10 and 16).

Notes: [All]: In the reading of sts 1-2 offered here, st. 2 is syntactically in apposition to sólar (gen. sg.) ‘of the sun’ of 1/8, and the two sts (to 2/4) thus constitute a single complex sentence interspersed with intercalary clauses. — [1] óð ‘poetry’: From the point of view of meaning, orð ‘words’ is as good a reading as óð ‘poetry’, but óð assonates nicely with the syllables containing vowel + <ð> in ll. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7. — [2] ráðanda ‘ruler’: Is preferable to valdanda ‘having the power to control’ and kjósanda ‘choosing, deciding’, which has fatalistic overtones, inappropriate in a Christian context (cf. Vsp 20/10). Ráðanda makes it clear that God is ruling, rather than merely asserting that God is all-powerful, and it is commonly used of God in theological texts. — [4] þrenning ‘Trinity’: An appropriate opening, given that the Trondheim cathedral, in which Einarr delivered his drápa, was dedicated to the Holy Trinity (see Louis-Jensen 1977, 148). — [5, 6, 8] gunnǫflugr geisli sólar miskunnar ‘the battle-strong beam of the sun of mercy’: This kenning has as its referent both Christ and Óláfr. God is the sun and Christ its sunbeam, but the poet also identifies Óláfr with Christ through a process of typology developed in sts 1-6 (see further Chase 2003 and 2005, 21-7 and 124).


  1. Bibliography
  2. TGT 1884 = Björn Magnússon Ólsen, ed. 1884. Den tredje og fjærde grammatiske afhandling i Snorres Edda tilligemed de grammatiske afhandlingers prolog og to andre tillæg. SUGNL 12. Copenhagen: Knudtzon.
  3. Cederschiöld, Gustaf J. Chr., ed. 1873b. ‘Bandamanna saga’. Acta Universitatis Lundensis 10.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. Cederschiöld, Gustaf J. Chr., ed. 1873a. Geisli eða Óláfs Drápa ens Helga er Einarr orti Skúlason: efter ‘Bergsboken’ utgifven. Acta Universitatis Lundensis 10. Lund: Berling.
  7. Chase, Martin. 2003. ‘Framir kynnask vátta mál: The Christian Background of Einarr Skúlason’s Geisli’. In Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir et al. 2003, 11-32.
  8. Chase, Martin, ed. 2005. Einarr Skúlason’s Geisli. A Critical Edition. Toronto Old Norse and Icelandic Studies 1. Toronto, Buffalo and London: Toronto University Press.
  9. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  10. Louis-Jensen, Jonna. 1977. Kongesagastudier: Kompilationen Hulda-Hrokkinskinna. BA 32. Copenhagen: Reitzel.
  11. TGT 1998 = Krömmelbein, Thomas, ed. and trans. 1998. Dritte grammatische Abhandlung. Studia nordica 3. Oslo: Novus.
  12. Internal references
  13. Tarrin Wills 2017, ‘The Third Grammatical Treatise’ 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].
  14. Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘Háttatal’ 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].
  15. Not published: do not cite ()

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