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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Einarr skálaglamm Helgason (Eskál)

10th century; volume 1; ed. Edith Marold;

3. Lausavísur (Lv) - 3

Skj info: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm, Islandsk skjald, d. o. 995. (AI, 122-132, BI, 116-125).

Skj poems:
1. Drape om Hakon jarl
2. Et digt om Harald blåtand(?)
3. Vellekla
4. Lausavísur
4. Lausavísur

Little is certain about the life of Einarr skálaglamm ‘Tinkle-scales’ Helgason (Eskál), except that he came from a noble family from western Iceland. They were descendants of Bjǫrn austrœni ‘the Easterner’, i.e. ‘the Norwegian’, son of Ketill flatnefr ‘Flat-nose’. According to Ldn (ÍF 1, 123), Einarr’s mother was Niðbjǫrg, daughter of an Irish king. Einarr’s brother Ósvífr was the father of Guðrún Ósvífsdóttir, the heroine of Laxdœla saga. A few anecdotes link Einarr to Egill Skallagrímsson. Egils saga (Eg, ÍF 2, 268-73) tells of Einarr visiting Egill and the two talking at length about poetry. The meeting led to a long friendship, which is reflected in similarities between the two skalds’ poetry (de Vries 1964-7, I, 176). A valuable shield given to Egill by Einarr inspired Egill to compose a Skjaldardrápa or shield poem honouring the gift, of which only the first stanza has survived (Egill SkjalddrV).

Einarr must have lived c. 940-c. 990. He presumably spent much of his life at the court of Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in Norway, for whom he composed Vellekla (Eskál Vell) and another poem, Hákonardrápa (Eskál Hákdr). Two stanzas (Eskál HardrIII) that possibly stem from one or more Haraldsdrápur in honour of Haraldr blátǫnn ‘Blue-tooth’ Gormsson indicate that he might have spent time at the Danish court, perhaps as a companion of Hákon jarl. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266, 280) mentions Einarr only as one of Hákon jarl’s skalds. Besides these poems, three lausavísur are preserved in Jvs, Fsk, Flat and Eg. The first two are part of a typical skald anecdote about court poetry and its reward, and are preserved in versions that differ sufficiently for them to be printed in both SkP I (Eskál Lv 1a and Lv 2a) and SkP V (Eskál Lv 1bV (Eg 124) and Lv 2bV (Eg 125)). The third (Eskál Lv 3) concerns the death of Þorleifr skúma Þorkelsson (Þskúm), an Icelandic retainer of Hákon jarl, at the battle of Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen, c. 985).

According to Jvs (1969, 178-9), Einarr’s nickname skálaglamm ‘Tinkle-scales’ refers to a pair of precious and magically resounding scales (OIcel. skálar/skálir) with which Hákon jarl rewarded him for Vell (see Introduction to Eskál Lv 1-3). This explanation (apparently accepted in Finnur Jónsson 1907, 284) may, however, be a later etymological invention, and skálaglamm could instead derive from OIcel. skáli ‘hall, free-standing house’ either as part of a sky-, breast- or shield-kenning (Lie 1975, 643), or more likely as a ‘loud sound (glamm) in the hall’, in reference to his art of recitation. Jvs (1969, 178) also tells that Einarr earlier had the nickname Skjaldmeyjar-Einarr ‘Einarr of the shield-maiden’. Skjaldmeyjar are armed women who took part in battles (cf. Akv 16), but nothing is known about how Einarr got this nickname. According to Ldn and Jvs, Einarr drowned in Breiðafjörður on a voyage home (Ldn, ÍF 1, 123; Jvs 1969, 205); they add a legend according to which his scales (Jvs), or his shield and his coat (Ldn), wash ashore, inspiring the names of the islands Skáleyjar, Skjaldey and Feldarhólmr.

Lausavísur — Eskál LvI

Margaret Clunies Ross 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Lausavísur’ 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. 330.

 1a   2a   3 

Skj: Einarr Helgason skálaglamm: 4. Lausavísur (AI, 131-2, BI, 124-5); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2

SkP info: I, 333

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Eskál Lv 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2012, ‘Einarr skálaglamm Helgason, Lausavísur 3’ 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. 333.

Þat kvað jarl at æri
unnviggs fyr haf sunnan,
þás á seima
seima særi
sárelda spor
spor vôru:
‘Ǫllungis hefr illa,
eybaugs, ef
ef skalt deyja,
— víst hyggjum
hyggjum þat — viggja
valdr, þinn faðir haldit.’


The jarl said that to {the messenger {of the wave-steed}} [SHIP > SEAFARER = Þorleifr skúma] south of the sea, when {tracks {of wound-fires}} [SWORDS > WOUNDS] were upon {the wounder of riches}: [GENEROUS MAN] ‘Your father has undergone extreme hardship if you must die, {ruler {of steeds {of the island-ring}}}; [SEA > SHIPS > SEAFARER] we [I] think so certainly.’

context: After the battle of Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen), many men on both sides are killed or wounded. The Icelandic skald Þorleifr skúma Þorkelsson has hit the Jómsvíkingr Vagn Ákason a blow with his club, and in return Vagn has wounded Þorleifr with a spear. Þorleifr is dying of this wound in a tent, where he is visited by Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (or, in Fsk, Hákon jarl), who exclaims that Þorleifr’s father would suffer a great loss if he died. Einarr skálaglamm hears these words and they move him to compose a verse (þá verðr honum Einari vísa á munni ‘then a verse is in Einarr’s mouth’). After he declaims it, Þorleifr falls down dead. In Fsk, the stanza is attributed to Þorleifr skúma himself, but this is unlikely to be correct, if the narrative of the majority mss is heeded. In LaufE, ll. 1-4 are cited in a section illustrating terms for wounds.

notes: For the sea-battle at Hjǫrungavágr (c. 985) and other skaldic poetry associated with it, see the entry on Hákon jarl Sigurðarson in ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. — [2] fyr sunnan haf ‘south of the sea’: Although Liavågen is south of Hákon jarl’s power-base at Lade (ON Hlaðir) in Trøndelag, the phrase is more likely to refer to Norway, across the sea from Iceland (Skj B adds the explanation i Norge ‘in Norway’). This is appropriate to the Icelandic origins of both Einarr and Þorleifr skúma, but does not sit well with the claim of the prose sources that the stanza was uttered at the battle itself. — [4] spor sárelda ‘tracks of wound-fires [SWORDS > WOUNDS]’: Adopting 7’s reading spor ‘tracks’ for the base-word of this tvíkent (‘doubly modified’) kenning allows one to construe it as referring to wounds (which are already in play in sárelda ‘of wound-fires’). This is evidently how it was understood by Magnús Óláfsson in LaufE, since ll. 1-4 are preceded there by a remark that wounds can be referred to as fet eda spór jarnana ‘feet or tracks of iron (weapons)’. Ólafur Halldórsson (Jvs 1969, 217) has argued that the other ms. variants perhaps suggest an original reading more like spôr ‘prophecies’. This could form a battle-kenning with sárelda, but ‘battle’ would fit the context less well, and spôr, as a noun consisting of a long syllable in metrical position 4 in the line, would be irregular. Ólafur suggests a punning connection (ofljóst) with a base-word for ‘wave’, from spô via boði ‘messenger, announcer’, a word that has another sense ‘breaker on hidden rocks’, hence ‘wave’. A kenning with the sense ‘wave of wound-fires’ could then have the referent ‘blood’, giving ll. 3-4 the sense ‘when blood flowed (lit. was) around him’.

texts: Flat 226, Fsk 96, Jvs 23, LaufE 162 (391) [1-4]

editions: Skj Einarr Helgason skálaglamm: 4. Lausavísur 3 (AI, 132; BI, 124-5); Skald I, 70, NN §§1888, 2240; Fms 11, 144-5, Jvs 1879, 89, Jvs 1882, 121, Jvs 1962, 39, Jvs 1969, 191, 217, Flat 1860-8, I, 195; Fsk 1902-3, 103 (ch. 20), ÍF 29, 137 (ch. 22); LaufE 1979, 391.


AM 291 4° (291) 37r, 14 - 37r, 16 (Jvs)  transcr.  image  
Holm perg 7 4° (7) 38r, 14 - 38r, 16 (Jvs)  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 26ra, 27 - 26ra, 29 (Jvs)  image  image  image  
AM 510 4° (510) 63v, 29 - 63v, 31 (Jvs)  image  
OsloUB 371 folx (FskBx) 31r, 10 - 31r, 17 (Fsk)  image  
AM 51 folx (51x) 27v, 20 - 28r, 4 (Fsk)  image  
AM 303 4°x (FskAx) 114, 10 - 114, 17 (Fsk)  image  
AM 301 4°x (301x) 42r, 22 - 42v, 3 (Fsk)  
AM 308 4°x (308x) 114, 10 - 114, 10  
GKS 2368 4°x (2368x) 128 - 128 (LaufE)  image  
AM 743 4°x (743x) 96r - 96r (LaufE)  image  image  
AM 57 folx (57x) 27v, 29 - 28r, 4  
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