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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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7. Anonymous Poems, Lilja, 60 [Vol. 7, 629-31]

[All]: Niðrstigningar saga (Niðrst), the ON translation of the Gospel of Nicodemus, contains two relevant interpolations not found in the Lat. text: Sá inn ríksti allvaldr leit þá til Jórsalaborgar ok mælti: ‘Gilddra sú, er at Jórsalum er gör, verð Miðgarðsormi at skaða.’ Hann fal þá öngul, þann er horfinn var agni ok eigi sjá ma, því er i gildrina var lagit, ok svá vaðinn gat hann folginn, svá at eigi of mat sjá. Þá bauð hann nökkum dýrlingum sínum at fara fyrir sér ok göra vart við komu sina til helvítes... ‘That most powerful leader [Christ], then looked toward Jerusalem and said, “The trap which is ready at Jerusalem is destined to maim the world-serpent.” He hid the hook inside the bait so that it could not be seen; thus was it laid upon the trap. The fishing line he was also able to hide, so that it could not be seen. Then he requested several of his holy companions to go before him and make known His coming to hell...’ (Aho 1969, 153). And: Þá er Satan kom út, þá sá hann englalið mikit vera komit til helvítes, en gekk eigi til fundar við þá, ok sneidi hann þar hjá. Þá brá hann sér í dreka líki ok görðisk þá svá mikill, at hann þóttisk liggja mundu umb heiminn allan útan. Hann sá þau tíðindi at Jórsalum, at Jesus Kristr var þá í andláti, ok fór þangat þegar ok ætlaði at slíta öndina þegar frá honum. En þá er hann kom þar ok hugðisk gleypa mundu hann ok hafa með sér, þá beit öngullinn guðdómsins hann, en krossmerkit féll á hann ofan, ok varð hann þá svá veiddr sem fiskr á öngli eða mús undir tréketti, eða sem melrakki i gildru, eftir því sem fyrir var spáð. Þá fór til dominus noster ok batt hann, en kvað til engla sína at varðveita hann ‘Then when Satan came out, he saw that a large force of angels had come to hell, but he did not go to meet them. He turned aside. Then he changed himself into the shape of a dragon and made himself so huge that it seemed he would encircle the entire earth. He saw those events in Jerusalem and that Jesus Christ was near death and he went there immediately and intended to tear the soul from him. But when he came there and thought that he would swallow him and carry him away, then the hook of divinity snagged him and the cross fell down upon him and he was caught like a fish on a hook or a mouse in a trap or a fox in a snare, as had been foretold. Then our Lord came forward and bound him and told his angels to guard him’ (Aho 1969, 154). The idea of the Cross as a trap for the devil goes back to C2nd (Russell 1981, 193; Wee 1974, 4-5), and the image of the baited hook first appears in the Catechetical Oration of Gregory of Nyssa (Srawley 1956, §24; see also Aulén 1951, 52-3). Augustine frequently refers to the Cross as a mousetrap (muscipula), and at least once as a hook: Piscis si nihil vellet devorare, in hamo non caperetur. Mortis avidus diabolus fuit, mortis avarus diabolus fuit. Crux Christi muscipula fuit: mors christi, immo caro mortalis Christi tamquam esca in muscipula fuit... ‘If the fish had not wanted to devour him, it could not have been caught on the hook. The devil was avid and avaricious for death: the death of Christ was a trap; the mortal flesh of Christ was like bait for a trap...’ (Sermo 265D in Morin 1930, 662). S. Ambrose uses the image in his Easter hymn Hic est dies verus Dei (AH 50, 16), and it found its way into the Moralia in Job (Adriaen 1979, 143B:1687 [33.9]) and Homiliae in euangelia (Étaix 1999, 2:25) of Gregory the Great. The Hortus Deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg has a remarkable illustration of God the Father holding a fishing line while a monster gapes over the ‘baited’ Cross at the other end (Caratzas 1977, pl. 24; see also Zellinger 1928). Honorius of Autun uses the image in a homily on the Annunciation in his Speculum Ecclesiae (Honorius Augustodunensis, col. 906), and Peter Damian, commenting on Job XL.20 (an extrahere poteris Leviathan hamo ‘Canst thou draw out the leviathan with a hook?’) writes: Hunc ergo Pater omnipotens hamo cepit, quia ad mortem illius unigentium Filium incarnatum misit, in quo et caro passibilis uideri posset, et diuinitas inpassibilis uideri non posset. Cum que in eo serpens iste per manus persequentium escam corporis momordit, diuinitas illum aculeaus perforauit ... In hamo eius incarnationis captus est, quia dum in illo appetiit escam corporis, transfixus est aculeo diuinitatis ‘The almighty Father made a hook by sending his incarnate only-begotten Son to death. The flesh, which could suffer, was visible, but the divinity, which could not, was invisible. When the serpent, by means of the persecutors, bit on the baited hook, the sharp point of the divinity perforated him... He was caught on the hook of the Incarnation: lured by the bait of the body, he was transfixed by the sharp point of the divinity’ (Lucchesi 1983, 279). The Icel. homily for Easter, clearly familiar with this tradition, understands it in light of the Nordic myth of Þórr’s attempt to catch the Miðgarðsormr, told in SnE 1982, 44-5 and Hym 17-25: ... oc ſté haɴ þa yver eɴ forna fiánda eſ haɴ lét ofriþar meɴ beriaſc i gegn ſér. þat ſýnde drótten þa eſ haɴ mælte viþ eɴ ſǽla iób. Mon eige þu draga leviaþan [miþgarþarormr] a ǫngle eþa bora kiþr hanſ meþ báuge. Sia gléypande hvalr merker gróþgan aɴſkota þaɴ eſ ſvelga vill aʟt maɴkyn idauþa. agn eſ lagt a ǫngul en hvas broddr léyneſc. þeɴa orm tók almáttegr goþ a ǫngul. þa eſ haɴ ſende ſon ſiɴ til dáuþa ſýnelegan at líkam en oſýnelegan at goþdóme. Diaboluſ ſa agn likamſ hanſ þat eſ haɴ beit oc vilde fyrfara. en goþdomſ broddr ſtangaþe haɴ ſvaſem ǫngoʟ. a ǫngle varþ haɴ tekeɴ. ‘... and he rose up over the ancient enemy when he allowed enemies to fight against him. The Lord showed that when he spoke with blessed Job: ‘Can you not draw out Leviathan [miþgarþarormr is written above the line] with a hook or pierce his cheek with a gaff?’ That gaping whale represents the greedy devil who wants to swallow up all mankind in death. Bait is placed on the hook, but the sharp barb is concealed. Almighty God took that serpent on the hook when he sent his son to death, with his body visible but his divinity invisible. The devil saw the bait of the body and bit on it and wanted to destroy it. But the barb of divinity stung him like a hook: he was taken on a hook’ (HómÍsl 1993, 35v).


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