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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ESk Geisl 58VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 58’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 54-5.

Einarr SkúlasonGeisli

text and translation

Angrfyldrar varð aldar
(illr gerisk hugr af villu)
mildings þjónn fyr manna
(margfaldr) ǫfund kaldri.
Lygi hefr bragna brugðit
(brýtr stundum frið) nýtra
(hermðar kraptr) til heiptar
hjaldrstríð skapi blíðu.

{Þjónn {mildings angrfyldrar aldar}} varð fyr kaldri ǫfund manna; margfaldr hugr gerisk illr af villu. Hjaldrstríð lygi hefr brugðit blíðu skapi nýtra bragna til heiptar; kraptr hermðar brýtr stundum frið.
‘The servant of the king of sinful humankind [= God > PRIEST = Ríkarðr] was up against the cold hatred of men; the many-sided mind becomes evil from delusion. Battle-hard lying has turned the happy mind of able men to hatred; the power of anger sometimes breaks the peace.

notes and context

Sts 58-61, like sts 37-9, mention a miracle of S. Óláfr that must have been a little delicate for Einarr to treat, as it again involved the mother of King Sigurðr munnr, Þóra Gutthormsdóttir, and her brothers Einarr and Andréas. It concerned an English priest named Ríkarðr who, Einarr and Andreas believed, was having an affair with Þóra. In order to punish him for this supposed insult to the family honour, they persuaded him to undertake a short journey and, on the way, they, with a servant, attacked him with an axe, breaking a leg, knocking out his eyes from their sockets, and cutting out his tongue. He did not die, but took refuge with a peasant household where he prayed to S. Óláfr. The saint appeared to him in a dream and cured his injuries. This narrative is found in all prose versions of the legend of S. Óláfr (Chase 2005, 43 and n. 132). The rather oblique and general statements of st. 58 are presumably Einarr Skúlason’s way of deflecting absolute blame for the attack on a priest from Sigurðr’s mother’s brothers onto generalised rumour-mongering, while at the same time implying the priest Ríkarðr’s innocence. — [5-8]: There are at least three ways of reading this helmingr. The one adopted here depends on reading Flat’s adj. hjaldrstríð ‘battle-hard’ (l. 8, f. nom. sg.) as agreeing with lygi ‘lying’ (l. 5). Both Skj B and Skald prefer Bb’s slightly emended reading hjaldrstríðr (m. nom. sg.) agreeing with kraptr hermðar ‘the power of anger’ (l. 7). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) construes lygi hefr brugðit blíðu skapi nýtra bragna til heiptar; hjaldrstríðr kraptr hermðar brýtr stundum frið ‘lying has transformed the happy mind of able men to indignation; the battle-strong power of anger sometimes breaks the peace’. Kock (Skald and NN §948) prefers lygi hefr brugðit blíðu skapi bragnastundum brýtr hjaldrstríðr kraptr hermðar frið nýtra til heipta ‘lying has transformed the happy mind of men – sometimes the battle-strong power of anger forces the peace of good [men] to feuds’.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 58: AI, 470, BI, 441-2, Skald I, 217, NN §§948, 2271; Flat 1860-8, I, 6, Cederschiöld 1873, 8-9, Chase 2005, 108, 160.


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