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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, 8-9

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — ESk Geisl 2VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 2’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 8-9.

þeirars heims (í heimi)
(heims) myrkrum brá (þeima)
ok (ljós meðan) var vísi
veðr- (kallaðisk) -hallar.
Sá lét bjartr frá bjartri
berask maðr und skýjaðri
(frægr stóð af því) flœðar
(fǫrnuðr) rǫðull stjǫrnu.

þeirar [sólar], [e]s brá myrkrum heims, ok var {vísi {veðr-hallar}}, meðan kallaðisk ljós heims í þeima heimi. Sá maðr, bjartr rǫðull, lét berask frá bjartri stjǫrnu flœðar und {skýjaðri}; frægr fǫrnuðr stóð af því.

of that [sun] which destroyed the darkness of the world, and was {the prince {of the wind-hall}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)], while he called himself the light of the world in this world. That man, the bright sun, caused himself to be born from the bright star of the sea under {the cloud-rim} [SKY/HEAVEN]; renowned prosperity proceeded from that.

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

Readings: [5] bjartr: so Bb, bert Flat    [6] maðr: mann Bb;    skýjaðri: skýranni Bb    [8] stjǫrnu: stjǫrnur Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 2: AI, 459, BI, 427, Skald I, 211, NN §§925, 926, 2051; Flat 1860-8, I, 1, Cederschiöld 1873, 1, Chase 2005, 52, 125-7.

Notes: [All]: Sts 1-2 of Geisl are linked as the first l. of st. 2 is dependent on the final l. of st. 1 (cf. Kuhn 1983, 210-12). — [1-4]: The theologically sophisticated reading of these ll. offered here depends on elaborate word-play, tmesis and syntactic fragmentation. By emending veðr (l. 4) to veðrs, Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) produces the following sense: Þeirar [sólar], es brá heims myrkrum í þeima heimi ok kallaðisk ljós heims, meðan vas vísi veðrs hallar ‘Of that [sun], which made an end of the world’s darkness in this world and is called the world’s light, while he was king of the storm’s hall [SKY/HEAVEN]’. — [1] þeirar [sólar] ‘of that [sun]’: The gen. pron. refers back to sólar (1/8). — [1-2] heims ... heimi ... heims: In dróttkvætt metre aðalhending is not appropriate in an odd-numbered l., hence Kock’s emendation of l. 1 (Skald) to þeirar húms í heimi. But exceptions were tolerated, and the rhyming pattern here is iðurmælt, one of the special effects explained in Ht (SnE 1999, 22). The repetition of heims/heimi/heims is also an echo of the prologue to the Gospel of John: erat lux vera quae inluminat omnem hominem venientem in mundum / in mundo erat et mundus per ipsum factus est et mundus eum non cognovit ‘That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world: and the world was made by him: and the world knew him not’ (John I.9-10). The Bb reading bjartr frá bjartri (l. 5) follows a similar pattern and echoes the lumen de lumine ‘light from light’ of the Credo; it is probably a better reading than Flat’s bert ‘clearly’. See NN §2051 for a discussion of the use of identical rhyme in this st. and elsewhere in skaldic poetry. — [5, 8, 7] frá bjartri stjǫrnu flœðar ‘from the bright star of the sea’: A kenning-like circumloculation for the Virgin Mary, based on the Lat. phrase stella maris ‘star of the sea’, first appearing in the C9th hymn Ave maris stella (AH 51, 140). Although this epithet has the form of a kenning, such imitations of Lat. phrases have not been treated as kennings proper in this edn; for a discussion, see Introduction to this volume. — [6] und skýjaðri ‘under the cloud-rim’: Flat’s sky/heaven-kenning is the difficilior lectio but Bb’s und skýranni ‘beneath the cloud-hall [SKY/HEAVEN]’ together with the older nom. sg. form mannr (over Flat’s maðr, cf. ANG §§261 and 278.4b) provides aðalhending and is preferred by both Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Kock (Skald). Neither Skj B nor Skald explain how the nom. sg. can be found after lét berask (ll. 5, 6).

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