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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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ESk Geisl 9VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 9’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 14-15.

Einarr SkúlasonGeisli

Yfirmanni býðk — unnin
upps mærð borin — lærðra
— Jóan kǫllum svá — allrar
alþýðu brag hlýða.
Hefjum hendr, en leyfa
hyggk vin rǫðuls tyggja
— stóls vex hæð, þars hvílir
heilagr konungr — fagran.

Býðk {yfirmanni {allrar alþýðu lærðra}} — svá kǫllum Jóan — hlýða brag; unnin mærð [e]s borin upp. Hefjum hendr, en hyggk leyfa {fagran vin {tyggja rǫðuls}}; hæð stóls vex, þars heilagr konungr hvílir.

I ask {the superior {of the whole multitude of learned men}} [CLERICS > BISHOP] — thus we [I] call Jón — to listen to the poetry; the finished poem is offered up. We lift up our hands, and I intend to praise {the beautiful friend {of the king of the sun}} [= God > = Óláfr]; the eminence of the [bishop’s] seat increases, where the holy king rests.

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

Readings: [2] borin: kominn Bb;    lærðra: lærðrar Bb    [3] kǫllum: kalla Bb;    svá: ek Bb    [5] Hefjum: hófum Bb;    hendr: hróðr Bb    [7] vex: vegs Bb    [8] heilagr: corrected from ‘heilag’ Flat

Editions: Skj AI, 460, Skj BI, 429, Skald I, 212; Flat 1860-8, I, 2, Cederschiöld 1873, 2, Chase 2005, 59, 133.

Notes: [3] svá kǫllum Jóan ‘thus we [I] call Jón’: The svá refers back to the elaborate kenning for bishop in ll. 1, 2, 3, 4, a compliment to the listening and recently consecrated first archbishop of Trondheim, Jón Birgisson. — [5] hefjum hendr ‘we lift up hands’: The gesture was associated with prayer and would have been familiar from Scripture (Ps. XXVII.2, LXII.5, CXXXIII.3; Lam. III.41; 1 Tim. II.8). The psalmist’s formula appears in a l. from the widely-used matins hymn Rerum creator optime (AH 51, 28; Ordo Nidr., 185, 195, 198): Mentes manusque tollimus ‘We lift up our minds and our hands’. Liturgical books commonly use the rubric manus elevans. The Bb reading hróðr is adopted in Skj B and Skald, hence hefjum hróðr ... fagran ‘I begin my fine poem’ (ll. 5, 8) — [6] vin tyggja rǫðuls ‘friend of the king of the sun [= God > = Óláfr]’: The kenning for Óláfr has associations with both the skaldic and Lat. traditions. The Scriptural amicus Dei ‘friend of God’ (Judith VIII.22; Wisd. VII.27; Jas. II.23), translated as guðs vinr ‘God’s friend’ in ON, became a commonplace in hagiography. In skaldic poetry it was customary to praise a jarl or lesser chieftain by calling him the close friend or confidant of a more powerful man (see Meissner, 362); here Einarr emphasises Óláfr’s closeness to God. Cf. spjalli lausnara ‘confidant of the Saviour’ (30/2) and vinr lausnara ‘friend of the Saviour’ (62/5, 7). The God-kenning tyggi rǫðuls ‘king of the sun’ echoes the sun-imagery of the preceding sts.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Cederschiöld, Gustaf J. Chr., ed. 1873b. ‘Bandamanna saga’. Acta Universitatis Lundensis 10.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  6. AH = Dreves, G. M., C. Blume and H. M. Bannister, eds. 1886-1922. Analecta hymnica medii aeui. 55 vols. Leipzig: Reisland. Rpt. 1961. New York: Johnson.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  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.

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