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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Einarr Skúlason (ESk)

12th century; volume 2; ed. Kari Ellen Gade;

VII. Geisli (Geisl) - 71

Skj info: Einarr Skúlason, Islandsk skjald, 12. årh. (AI, 455-85, BI, 423-57).

Skj poems:
1. Sigurðardrápa
2. Haraldsdrápa I
3. Haraldsdrápa II
4. Haraldssonakvæði(?)
5. Sigurðardrápa
6. Geisli
7. Runhenda
8. Eysteinsdrápa
9. Ingadrápa
10. Elfarvísur
11. Lausavísur
11. Lausavísur
11. Øxarflokkr(?)
12. Ubestemmelige vers, tilhørende forskellige fyrstedigte eller lausavísur

We know very little about the life of Einarr Skúlason (ESk). He is called prestr ‘priest’ and is mentioned in a catalogue (c. 1220) of priests of noble birth who were alive in western Iceland in 1143 (Stu 1878, II, 502). It is likely that he came from Borg, belonged to the Mýrar family and was a direct descendant of Þorsteinn Egilsson and a brother of Snorri Sturluson’s maternal grandfather (LH 1894-1901, II, 62-3; ÍF 3, 51 n. 3). He was probably born c. 1090. In 1153, he recited the poem Geisli ‘Light-beam’ (ESk GeislVII) in Kristkirken in Trondheim. He was marshal (stallari) at King Eysteinn Magnússon’s court, and he composed poetry in praise of the Norw. kings Sigurðr jórsalafari ‘Jerusalem-farer’ and Eysteinn Magnússon, Haraldr gilli(-kristr) ‘Servant (of Christ)’, Magnús inn blindi ‘the Blind’ Sigurðarson, Haraldr gilli’s sons, Ingi, Sigurðr munnr ‘Mouth’, and Eysteinn, and about the Norw. chieftain Grégóríus Dagsson (see SnE 1848-87, III, 254-5, 263-4, 269, 276-7, 286). According to Skáldatal, he also honoured the Norw. magnate Eindriði ungi ‘the Young’ Jónsson as well as Sørkvir Kolsson and Jón jarl Sørkvisson of Sweden and King Sveinn Eiríksson of Denmark (SnE 1848-87, III, 252, 258, 260, 268-9, 272, 283, 286). About the latter he recited a poem for which he received no reward (see ESk Lv 3; ÍF 35, 275). The extant portion of his poetic oeuvre consists of the following poems (excluding lvv.): Sigurðardrápa I (Sigdr I, five extant sts about Sigurðr jórsalafari); Haraldsdrápa I (Hardr I, two extant sts about Haraldr gilli); Haraldsdrápa II (Hardr II, five extant sts about Haraldr gilli); Haraldssonakvæði (Harsonkv, two extant sts about the sons of Haraldr gilli); Sigurðardrápa II (Sigdr II, one extant st. about Sigurðr munnr Haraldsson); Runhenda (Run, ten extant sts about Eysteinn Haraldsson); Eysteinsdrápa (Eystdr, two extant sts about Eysteinn Haraldsson); Ingadrápa (Ingdr, four extant sts about Ingi Haraldsson); Elfarvísur (Elfv, two extant sts about Grégóríus Dagsson); Geisli (GeislVII, seventy-one sts about S. Óláfr); Øxarflokkr (ØxflIII, ten extant sts about the gift of an axe).

It must be emphasised that, although the poetry included in the royal panegyrics below clearly belongs to poems of that genre, with two exceptions (Hardr II and Elfv), all the names of the poems are modern constructs (notably by Jón Sigurðsson and Finnur Jónsson). That also holds true for the assignment of sts to the individual poems. In some cases, sts were assigned to a particular poem for metrical reasons (so Run), in other cases because of the content or the named recipients of the praise. For the sake of convenience, the names of the poems and the sts assigned to them as found in Skj have been retained in the present edn. In addition to the royal encomia, a number of fragments and lvv. attributed to Einarr are preserved in SnE, TGT and LaufE (see ESk Frag 1-18III; ESk Lv 7-15III). These have been edited separately in SkP III. Six lvv. are transmitted in the kings’ sagas and edited below.

Geisli (‘Light beam’) — ESk GeislVII

Martin Chase 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Einarr Skúlason, Geisli’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 5-65.

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Skj: Einarr Skúlason: 6. Geisli, 1153 (AI, 459-73, BI, 427-45)

SkP info: VII, 7

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — ESk Geisl 1VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: 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.

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 > = God > = 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: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 1: AI, 459, 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).

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