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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, 33-4

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

33 — ESk Geisl 33VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 33’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 33-4.

Ǫld hefr opt inn mildi
unnar bliks frá miklum
— Krists mærik lim — leysta
litrauðs konungr nauðum.
Greitt má gumnum létta
guðs ríðari stríðum;
rǫskr þiggr allt, sem œskir,
Óláfr af gram sólar.

Konungr inn mildi {litrauðs bliks unnar} hefr opt leysta ǫld frá miklum nauðum; mærik {lim Krists}. {Guðs ríðari} má greitt létta stríðum gumnum; rǫskr Óláfr þiggr allt, sem œskir, af {gram sólar}.

The king, generous {with the red-coloured light of the wave} [GOLD], has often rescued men from great need; I praise {the limb of Christ} [SAINT = Óláfr]. {God’s knight} [SAINT = Óláfr] can easily alleviate afflictions for men; brave Óláfr gets all he desires from {the king of the sun} [= God].

Mss: Bb(117vb)

Readings: [2] unnar: ‘aunnar’ Bb;    miklum: miklu Bb    [3] Krists: krist Bb;    lim: ‘lin’ Bb    [5-8] abbrev. as ‘Greitt m. g. l.’ Bb

Editions: Skj: Einarr Skúlason, 6. Geisli 33: AI, 465, BI, 435, Skald I, 215; Cederschiöld 1873, 5, Chase 2005, 83, 148-9.

Notes: [1, 2, 4] konungr inn mildi litrauðs bliks unnar ‘the king, generous with the red-coloured light of the wave [GOLD]’: The kenning may be understood on several levels. It clearly refers to Óláfr, but the light imagery also recalls Christ, ‘the king of the sun’, whose radiance is associated with the saint. The ‘king’ in this multivalent metaphor can be the mortal Óláfr, generous with gold; the heavenly Óláfr, generous with miracles; or Christ, generous with the grace of his saints. Cederschiöld proposed emending Bb’s ‘aunnar’ (l. 2) to unnar, and this has been followed by all eds. — [2] miklum ‘great’: The ms. reads ‘miklu’, the n. dat. sg. form, which is grammatically impossible (there is no corresponding noun in the helmingr). — [3] mærik lim Krists ‘I praise the limb of Christ’: Previous eds (Cederschiöld, Skj B and Skald) have emended ms ‘lin’ to lim and ‘Krist’ to Krists, creating a kenning, ‘limb of Christ’, for Óláfr (cf. lim konungs himna sals ‘limb of the king of the hall of heaven’, 66/6). A recent suggestion in Chase 2005, 83 and 149 has been to emend to linan and construe Krist mærik linan ‘I praise merciful Christ’. However, the l. then becomes unmetrical, as the word in question must be monosyllabic (there is no resolution on a word in position 4 in an XE l. until C14th; for the terminology see Gade 1995). — [3] leysta ‘rescued’: The form is acc. sg. f., in agreement with ǫld ‘men’ (l. 1) rather than the usual sg. n. inflection. This was an accepted means of forming the perf. (ANG §541), and Einarr used it here to provide the requisite trochee at the end of the l.

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