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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Eskál Vell 14I

Edith Marold (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Vellekla 14’ 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. 301.

Einarr skálaglamm HelgasonVellekla

text and translation

Ǫll lét senn inn svinni
sǫnn Einriða mǫnnum
herjum kunn of herjuð
hofs lǫnd ok vé banda,
áðr veg jǫtna vitni
valfalls of sæ allan
— þeim stýra goð — geira
garðs Hlórriði farði.

Inn svinni lét senn ǫll of herjuð lǫnd hofs Einriða ok vé banda, kunn herjum, sǫnn mǫnnum, áðr {Hlórriði {garðs geira}} farði {veg jǫtna} vitni valfalls of allan sæ; goð stýra þeim.
‘The wise one soon made all the harried lands of the temple of Einriði <= Þórr> and the sanctuaries of the gods, famous among the peoples, lawful for men, before the Hlórriði <= Þórr> of the fence of spears [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl] ferried evidence of slaughter to the path of the giants [MOUNTAINS = Norway?] across all the sea; the gods guide him.

notes and context

In Hkr and ÓT, Hákon jarl, after driving the Eiríkssynir (Gunnhildarsynir) from Norway, orders his subjects to maintain the temples and sacrifices. Hkr cites sts 14-16 in unbroken sequence, whereas ÓT cites only sts 14 and 16. Fsk cites only the first helmingr, also to illustrate Hákon’s restoration of sacrifices, but much later in the narrative, after Hákon’s return from Denmark.

The overall understanding of the stanza in this edn matches that of the medieval sources and most eds, and appears to be the best solution available, but given the difficulties, especially of ll. 5-8, it can only be tentative. — [5-8]: All eds regard Hlórriði garðs geira ‘Hlórriði <= Þórr> of the fence of spears [SHIELD > WARRIOR = Hákon jarl]’ as the subject of farði of allan sæ ‘ferried all across the sea (lit. across all the sea)’. The remainder of this difficult helmingr is subject to several interpretations. (a) The construal shown above follows Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) in taking together veg jǫtna ‘path of the giants [MOUNTAINS]’, which could refer to Norway, and taking valfall ‘slaughter’ to refer to the death of Haraldr gráfeldr in the battle in Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden, c. 970). Hence the helmingr appears to mean that Hákon, returning to Norway with this news, at the same time has a claim to authority there. In this edn, veg jǫtna is further taken as part of a construction ferja e-m e-t ‘to ferry/bring sby sth.’, parallel to similar constructions using færa ‘bring’ or senda ‘send’. Finnur Jónsson reads at ‘to’ rather than áðr ‘before’ in l. 5, and this forms a satisfactory prepositional phrase with veg jǫtna, but is problematic in other ways (see Note to l. 5). (b) Kock (NN §402, followed by ÍF 26 and Hkr 1991) interprets vitnir valfalls ‘wolf of death in battle’ as a kenning referring to a sword that Hákon jarl brought across the sea to the mountains (to Norway), but this is unsatisfactory because it would indicate an attack on Norway by Hákon. (c) Kuhn (1971b, 5), on the basis of (l. 5) in some mss, interprets vitni valfalls véjǫtna to mean ‘evidence of the death of the sanctuary-giants [DESECRATORS OF THE TEMPLE]’. Only one instance of jǫtunn in the sense of ‘harmful being’ is attested, however, in Egill Lv 25/4V (Eg 32) jǫtunn vandar ‘giant of the mast [WIND]’.



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 Helgason skálaglamm, 3. Vellekla 15: AI, 125-6, BI, 119, Skald I, 67, NN §§401, 402; Hkr 1893-1901, I, 280-1, IV, 73, ÍF 26, 241-2, Hkr 1991, I, 161 (ÓTHkr ch. 16), F 1871, 105; Fms 1, 91, Fms 12, 34, ÓT 1958-2000, I, 98 (ch. 55); Fsk 1902-3, 78 (ch. 15), ÍF 29, 120 (ch. 17).


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