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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ESk Geisl 19VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 19’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 22-3.

Einarr SkúlasonGeisli

Náðit bjartr, þás beiðir
baugskjalda lauk aldri
— sýndi salvǫrðr grundar
sín tôkn — rǫðull skína.
Fyrr vas hitt, at harra
hauðrtjalda brá dauða
happ- (nýtask mér) -mætu
(máltól) skini sólar.

Bjartr rǫðull náðit skína, þás {beiðir baugskjalda} lauk aldri; {{grundar sal}vǫrðr} sýndi sín tôkn. Hitt vas fyrr, at happmætu skini sólar brá dauða {harra {hauðrtjalda}}; {máltól} nýtask mér.

The bright sun was unable to shine when {the desirer of ring-shields} [WARRIOR] ended his life; {the guardian {of the hall of earth}} [(lit. ‘hall-guardian of earth’) SKY/HEAVEN > = God] showed his signs. It happened previously that the excellently fortunate shining of the sun ceased through the death {of the lord {of earth-tents}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)]; {speech-tools} [ORGANS OF SPEECH] are of use to me.

Mss: Flat(2ra), Bb(117rb-va)

Readings: [1] Náðit: so Bb, ‘Nꜳdiz’ Flat    [2] baugskjalda: baugs skjaldar Bb    [5] at: er Bb    [6] brá: so Bb, bar Flat;    dauða: aldri Bb    [7] happ: hept Bb    [8] skini: so Bb, ‘skinu’ Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 462, Skj BI, 431-2, Skald I, 213, NN §933; Flat 1860-8, I, 3, Cederschiöld 1873, 3, Chase 2005, 69, 139-41.

Notes: [1-4]: The first helmingr is reminiscent of the Legendary Saga of St. Óláfr (ÓHLeg 1982, 196): Nu let Olafr konongr þar lif sitt. Þar varð sva mikil ogn, at solen fal gæisla sinn oc gerði myrct, – en aðr var fagrt veðr – æftir þui sem þa var, er sialfr skaparenn for af verolldenne. Syndi Guð þa mikla ogn ‘Now king Óláfr gave up his life there. There was such great terror there that the sun concealed its rays and it grew dark – but it had been fine weather before – just as it did when the Creator himself departed from the world. God showed great terror then.’ — [3] salvǫrðr grundar ‘hall-guardian of earth’: The image of God as guardian occurs frequently in OE poetry, and after Arnórr Þórðarson introduced it in Arn Magndr 10/6II and Arn Hardr 17/3II it became popular with Christian skalds (see Meissner, 376). — [5-8]: These ll. seem to be corrupt in both mss and there have been various suggested readings, all of which involve some emendation. The general sense of the passage is clear: it is a reference to the eclipse of the sun that is said to have occurred at Christ’s Crucifixion. In an aside the poet also mentions his ‘speech-tools’. In the cl. beginning at harra hauðrtjalda, the verb brá (3rd pers. sg. pret.) must be used impersonally, as skini ‘shining’ (taking Bb’s reading) is dat. But it is difficult then to understand the case of dauða (harra hauðrtjalda) unless it is dat. instr., viz. ‘through or by the death of the lord of earth-tents’. Thus the sense of this part of the helmingr must be ‘that the shining of the sun ceased through the death of the lord of earth-tents [SKY/HEAVEN > = Christ]’. This then leaves unexplained the first and last words of l. 7. Skj B construes these two elements as part of a cpd adj. happmætr ‘bringing good fortune’, qualifying skini, whose two elements are separated by tmesis, as does Chase 2005, 69 and 141. Kock (Skald and NN §933) adopts Bb’s reading hept and construes it with the intercalary hept máltól nýtask mér, translating tungans band jag nu kan lossa ‘I can now undo the tongue’s binding’, properly ‘fettered speech-tools are [now] of use to me’. — [8] máltól ‘speech-tools [ORGANS OF SPEECH]’: Kennings for the voice, tongue, and lips as the tools of the poet’s trade are common in skaldic poetry; cf. Meissner, 132-4. Cf. st. 50/4.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  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. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  7. 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.
  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. ÓHLeg 1982 = Heinrichs, Anne et al., eds and trans. 1982. Olafs saga hins helga: Die ‘Legendarische Saga’ über Olaf den Heiligen (Hs. Delagard. saml. nr. 8II). Heidelberg: Winter.
  11. Internal references
  12. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Haraldsdrápa 17’ 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. 279-80.
  13. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2009, ‘Arnórr jarlaskáld Þórðarson, Magnússdrápa 10’ 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. 219-20.

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