Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ESk Geisl 47VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 47’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 45-6.

Einarr SkúlasonGeisli

Gyrðisk hála herðum
heldr síðarla á kveldi
glaumkennandi gunnar
glaðr véttrima* naðri.
Drengr réð dýrr á vangi
— dagr rofnaðisk — sofna
ítrs landreka undir
ógnfimr berum himni.

{Glaðr glaumkennandi gunnar} gyrðisk {hála herðum naðri véttrima*} heldr síðarla á kveldi. Dýrr ógnfimr drengr {ítrs landreka} réð sofna á vangi undir berum himni; dagr rofnaðisk.

{The happy noise-tester of battle} [WARRIOR] girded himself {with the well-hardened snake of sword-rings} [SWORD] rather late in the evening. The valuable, battle-deft soldier {of the splendid land-ruler} [= Byzantine emperor] decided to sleep in a field in the open air [lit. under the bare sky]; the day was waning.

Mss: Flat(2rb), Bb(118ra)

Readings: [1] Gyrðisk: so Bb, Gerðisk Flat    [2] síðarla (‘sidallá’): ‘naliga’ Bb;    á: at Bb    [3] ‑kennandi: vekjandr Bb;    gunnar: ‘grimo’ Bb    [4] véttrima*: ‘vetþryma’ Flat, vettrimar Bb    [5] réð: nam Bb    [8] ógn‑: so Bb, orm‑ Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 467, Skj BI, 438-9, Skald I, 216; Flat 1860-8, I, 5, Cederschiöld 1873, 7, Chase 2005, 97, 155.

Notes: [All]: Sts 47-50 conclude the narrative of Óláfr’s sword, Hneitir. A soldier in the army of the Greeks (44/7, 8) had the sword under his head one night, as he slept in the open air. When he woke, he found that the sword had moved and was lying on the ground some distance from him (st. 48). This miraculous happening took place on three successive nights (st. 49) and came to the attention of the Byzantine emperor, who bought it from the soldier and had it mounted over the altar of a church (st. 50). — [4] naðri véttrima* ‘snake of sword-rings’: The meaning of véttrim is obscure, but it is usually understood to refer to a metal ring either between the sword guard and the sword handle or between the pommel and the sword handle; see LP: véttrim; LT, 290. For possible etymologies see Sijmons and Gering 1903-31, III.2, 210. Naðr véttrima is clearly a kenning for ‘sword’, and Einarr’s choice of naðr ‘snake’ as the base-word may evoke the image of the sword creeping away from the man like a serpent. The emendation adopted here requires véttrima to be gen. pl., while Bb’s reading, adopted by both Skj and Skald, makes it sg. — [7] landreka ‘[of the] land-ruler’: According to Snorri Sturluson (Hkr, ÍF 28, 370), this man was the Byzantine emperor Kirjalax, who was identified by Metcalfe (1881, 76 n. 6) as Alexios I Komnenos, who reigned 1081-1118. More recently, however, Benedikz (1978, 122) has proposed an identity with Alexios’s son John II Komnenos. — [8] ógnfimr ‘battle-deft’: The reading of Bb. Flat’s ormfimr can only make sense in context if orm- ‘snake-’ is construed as meaning ‘sword’, in connection with sword-kennings with ormr as the base-word. See Chase 2005, 155 n.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Cederschiöld, Gustaf J. Chr., ed. 1873b. ‘Bandamanna saga’. Acta Universitatis Lundensis 10.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  5. Benedikz, Benedikt S. 1978. The Varangians of Byzantium: An Aspect of Byzantine Military History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rev. and rewritten version of Sigfús Blöndal. 1954. Væringjasaga. Reykjavík: Ísafoldarprentsmiðja.
  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. Sijmons, B. and H. Gering. 1903-31. Die Lieder der Edda. 3 vols. Germanistische Handbibliothek 7/1-5. Halle: Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses.
  9. 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.
  10. LT = La Farge, Beatrice and John Tucker. 1992. Glossary to the Poetic Edda, based on Hans Kuhn’s Kurzes Wörterbuch. Skandinavistische Arbeiten 15. Heidelberg: Winter.
  11. Metcalfe, Frederick, ed. 1881. Passio et Miracula Beati Olaui. Oxford: Clarendon.
  12. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  13. Internal references
  14. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].

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