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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Lilja, 55 [Vol. 7, 624-6]

[6] leiddr á krossinn, faðminn breiddi ‘led onto the cross, he opened his embrace’: The reading of Bb, which conforms to the rhetorical pattern of the rest of the st. and refocuses attention on the Crucifixion after the flashback to Jesus’ infancy in ll. 1-5; other mss have af móður ‘by the mother’ instead of á krossin, and this unlikely reading has been followed by Skj B and Skald. There is no tradition of Jesus being led from his mother, and the phrase makes little sense in context, whereas the concept of him being ‘led’ to the Cross is familiar from the gospels (Matt. XXVII.31, Mark XV.20, Luke XXIII.26, John XVIII.28), where it echoes the Old Testament image of the lamb led to the slaughter (Isa. LIII.7 and Jer. XI.19, quoted in Acts VIII.32). The image of the crucified Christ’s arms opened to embrace is a common topos in medieval devotional literature. Cf. the Icel. homily for the Feast of the Holy Cross: Rétte haɴ fra ſér báþar hendr a croſſenom. þuiat haɴ býþr faþm miſcvɴar ſiɴar. ꜵʟ þeim er haɴ elſca ‘He stretches both his arms on the cross, because he offers the embrace of his mercy to all those whom he loves’ (HómÍsl 1993, 17v) and the C13th penitential hymn Memorans novissima: Caput habet pendulum / ad te deosculandum / et extenta brachia / te ad amplexandum ‘He holds his head pendulously in order to kiss you, and extends his arms to embrace you’ (AH 46, 342). This idiom also appears with a different sense in 16/3 as well as in several ON prose works. See Kommentar 2000, III, 570-2. In Stjórn it is used in a discussion of how to catch a unicorn: þa setia menn eina skæra ok uskadda iungfru moti þi dyri, huer er sinn fadm skal breida moti þi ‘then men place a pure and untarnished virgin before the animal, who shall open her embrace to it’ (Unger 1860, 70).


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