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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Lil 93VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 93’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 667-9.

Anonymous PoemsLilja

Hrærð af list þó að hvers manns verði
hold og bein að tungum einum,
vindur, leiftur, grænar grundir,
grös ilmandi, duft og sandar,
hagl og drif sem fjaðrir fugla,
fiskar, dýr sem holt og mýrar,
hár og korn sem heiðar stjörnur,
hreistur, ull, sem dropar og gneistar,

Þó að hold og bein hvers manns, hrærð af list, verði að einum tungum, vindur, leiftur, grænar grundir, ilmandi grös, duft og sandar, hagl og drif sem fjaðrir fugla, fiskar, dýr sem holt og mýrar, hár og korn sem heiðar stjörnur, hreistur, ull sem dropar og gneistar,

Even if every man’s flesh and bones, moved by artistry, might become nothing but tongues, [and so also] wind, lightning, green fields, sweet-smelling grass, dust and sands, hail and driven snow, along with feathers of birds, fish, animals, and woods and moors, hair and corn, as well as bright stars, scales, wool, and drops and sparks,

Mss: Bb(116va), 99a(18v), 622(40), 713(14), Vb(255), 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(421), 705ˣ(22v), 4892(40r)

Readings: [1] Hrærð af: Hrærðar 713;    list: listum 622;    að: om. 99a, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(421), 705ˣ, 4892;    verði: prýði 622, yrði 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(421), 705ˣ, 4892    [2] að: af 622;    tungum: taungum Vb    [3] vindur (‘vindr’): vindur og 713;    leiftur: so 99a, 622, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 705ˣ, 4892, ‘leptri’ Bb, om. 713    [4] grös: ‘grorr’ 622;    og: so 99a, 622, 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 705ˣ, 4892, om. Bb    [5] drif: drift 41 8°ˣ(134), ‘drypt’ 41 8°ˣ(421);    fjaðrir: fiðr og Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(421);    fugla: fuglar 622, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134)    [7] korn: so 99a, 622, 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(421), 705ˣ, 4892, kyn Bb;    sem: eðr 622    [8] hreistur: hreistur og 99a, 622, 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 705ˣ, 4892;    gneistar: ‘neistar’ 99a, 622, 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(421), 705ˣ, 4892

Editions: Skj AII, 393, Skj BII, 414-5, Skald II, 227, NN §§1532, 3317, 3318.

Notes: [All]: Sts 93 and 94 form a single long sentence and continue the topos of inexpressibility: the schema ‘the whole earth sings his praise’ was a favourite form of this topos (Curtius 1953, 161). The vocabulary of these sts is reminiscent of a Marian verse attributed to Peter Comestor and recorded in a ms. of Mar (Holm1, printed in Mar 1871, 686; for another version see AH 32, 206 and PL 198:1045). Paasche and Schottmann find the correspondence so close that they assume that these sts are directly related to the Lat. poem (Paasche 1957, 535; Schottmann 1973, 198): Si fieri posset, quod arene, puluis et unde, / Sudorum gutte, rosa, gemme, lilia, flamme, / Ethera, celicole, nix, grando, sexus uterque, / Ventorum penne, volucrum, pecudum genus omne, / Siluarum rami frondes, avium quoque penne, / Ros, gramen, stelle, pisces, angues, et ariste, / Et lapides, montes, conualles, terra, dracones, / Lingue cuncta forent, minime depromere possent, / Que sis vel quanta uirgo regina Maria. / Que tua sit pietas, nec littera nec dabit etas. / Tanto compluit hanc diues natura decore, / Unde mirata fuit, nil superesse sibi. / Labem nec maculam natura reliquit in ista, / Ad caput a planta transuolat iste decor, / Colla, supercilia, coma, frons, oculi, gena, nasus, / Os, dens, labra, manus, pes sine labe nitent ‘If it could be possible that sand, dust, and wave, drops of moisture, rose, lily, flames, air, heavenly dwellings, snow, hail, both sexes, wings of the winds, flying creatures, every kind of cattle, leafy branches, birds, dew, grass, stars, fish, serpents, and ears of grain, and rocks, mountains, valleys, earth, dragons, all could be tongues, they would hardly be able to express what and how great you are, virgin queen Mary; there could be neither words nor time enough to tell the extent of your piety. The wealth of nature flows together to this end with such splendour, that it is amazed that it does not become superfluous in itself. Nature allows no blemish or stain to remain in that woman, splendour spreads over her from head to foot, neck, eyebrows, hair, forehead, eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, teeth, lips, hands, feet shine without blemish’ (Mar 1871, 686). There is an interesting analogue in the Egerer Fronleichnamsspiel, where the topos is placed in the mouth of the newly fallen Lucifer to emphasize the enormity of his loss (Milchsack 1881, 8-9). — [1] hrærð af list ‘moved by artistry’: Cf. 2/5 listum and Note, as well as yfirmeistarinn allra lista ‘supreme master of all arts’ 51/1. — [1] þó að … verði ‘even if … could become’: Cf. Peter Comestor: Si fieri posset ‘If it were possible’. — [1-2] hold og bein hvers manns ‘every man’s flesh and bones’: i.e. the entirety of every man. — [2] einum tungum ‘nothing but tongues’: Lit. ‘tongues alone’, ‘just tongues’. Cf. Peter Comestor: Lingue cuncta forent ‘all could become tongues’. — [5] drif ‘driven snow’: The word can mean ‘driving precipitation’, ‘ocean spray’ and ‘driven snow’ (ONP). — [5] fjaðrir fugla ‘feathers of birds’: Skj B emends to fjaðrir, fuglar ‘feathers, birds’. Kock (NN §§3317, 3318) points out that the ll. of st. 93 end with an alternating abab pattern of noun + attribute (grænar grundir ‘green fields’, fjaðrir fugla ‘feathers of birds’, heiðar stjörnur ‘bright stars’) and nouns joined by a coordinating conj. (duft og sandar ‘dust and sands’, holt og mýrar ‘woods and moors’, hár og korn ‘hair and corn’, dropar og gneistar ‘drops and sparks’). The unnecessary emendation interrupts this pattern. — [8] hreistur ‘scales’: Of fish.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. 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.
  6. Curtius, Ernst R. 1953. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Bollingen Ser. 36. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Originally published 1948. Europäische literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter. Bern: Francke.
  7. Schottmann, Hans. 1973. Die isländische Mariendichtung. Untersuchungen zur volkssprachigen Mariendichtung des Mittelalters. Münchner germanistische Beiträge 9. Munich: Fink.
  8. ONP = Degnbol, Helle et al., eds. 1989-. A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose / Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog. 1-. Copenhagen: The Arnamagnæan Commission.
  9. Milchsack, Gustav, ed. 1881. Egerer Fronleichnamsspiel. Bibliothek des Litterarischen Vereins in Stuttgart 156. Tübingen: Des Litterarischer Verein in Stuttgart.
  10. Paasche, Fredrik. 1957. Norges og Islands litteratur indtil utgangen av middelalderen. 2nd, rev. edn by Anne Holtsmark. Oslo: Aschehoug.

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