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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ESk Geisl 12VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 12’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 17.

Einarr SkúlasonGeisli

Sigvatr, frák, at segði
sóknbráðs konungs dáðir;
spurt hefr ǫld, at orti
Óttarr um gram dróttar.
Þeir hafa þengils Mœra
— þvís sýst — frama lýstan,
(helgum lýtk) es hétu
hǫfuðskǫld (fira jǫfri).

Frák, at Sigvatr segði dáðir sóknbráðs konungs; ǫld hefr spurt, at Óttarr orti um gram dróttar. Þeir, es hétu hǫfuðskǫld, hafa lýstan frama {þengils Mœra}; þvís sýst; lýtk {helgum jǫfri fira}.

I heard that Sigvatr told the deeds of the battle-quick king; men have learnt that Óttarr composed [poetry] about the king of the court. They who were called the chief skalds have proclaimed the courage {of the lord of the Mœrir} [= Óláfr]; that has been done; I do homage {to the holy king of men} [= Óláfr].

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

Readings: [2] sóknbráðs: so Bb, sóknbráðr Flat;    konungs: jǫfurs Bb    [4] um: of Bb    [5] þengils: so Bb, þengil Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 461, Skj BI, 430, Skald I, 212; Flat 1860-8, I, 2, Cederschiöld 1873, 2, Chase 2005, 62, 135.

Notes: [1] Sigvatr: Sigvatr (or Sighvatr) Þórðarson was one of Óláfr Haraldsson’s favourite and most prolific court poets, composing sts about Óláfr’s battles and journeys, acting as his ambassador on several occasions, and composing an erfidrápa ‘memorial lay’ in honour of the king. He was born c. 1000 in the west of Iceland, the son of a poet, Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld, and the maternal uncle of another, Óttarr svarti (see Note to l. 4 below). Sigvatr also composed poetry for several other Scandinavian rulers. He died c. 1043 (see further Poole 1993a). Sigvatr’s poetry is edited in Volume I of this edn. — [2] sóknbráðs (m. gen. sg.) ‘battle-quick’: The reading of Bb; if Flat’s sóknbráðr were adopted, the only possible referents for it would be Sigvatr and Óttarr. ‘Vehement in battle’ is an unlikely epithet for a skald, and it would be a breach of protocol for the only epithet in the helmingr to refer to a poet rather than to the king. — [4] Óttarr: Óttarr svarti ‘the black’ was the son of Sigvatr Þórðarson’s sister, and was another of S. Óláfr’s favourite poets. He is cited as a skaldic authority in FGT (c. 1150) and is also quoted frequently by Snorri Sturluson in Skm. See further Guðrún Nordal 2001, 28; Poole 1993b. Óttarr’s poetry is also edited in Volume I. — [5-8]: Hétu must be understood in its passive sense ‘were called’, and jǫfurr fira ‘king of men’ as an epithet for Óláfr parallel with gram dróttar ‘the king of the court’ (l. 4). For other readings see Finnur Jónsson in Skj B, Kock in Skald, where, following a suggestion of Konráð Gíslason, fira (l. 8) is emended to firar, giving þeir es firar hétu hǫfuðskǫld ‘they whom men called chief poets’.


  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. Guðrún Nordal. 2001. Tools of Literacy: The Role of Skaldic Verse in Icelandic Textual Culture of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.
  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, ed. 2005. Einarr Skúlason’s Geisli. A Critical Edition. Toronto Old Norse and Icelandic Studies 1. Toronto, Buffalo and London: Toronto University Press.
  8. 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.
  9. Poole, Russell. 1993a. ‘Variants and Variability in the Text of Egill’s Hǫfuðlausn’. In Frank 1993, 65-105.
  10. Internal references
  11. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  12. Matthew Townend 2017, ‘(Biography of) Óttarr svarti’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 335.
  13. Judith Jesch 2017, ‘(Biography of) Sigvatr Þórðarson’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 347.

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