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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Líknarbraut, 41 [Vol. 7, 276-7]

[3] hneigistólpi ... hjálpar ‘inclining pillar ... of salvation [CROSS]’: Stólpi ‘pillar, column’, is used in Veraldar saga to translate the pillar of light that guided the Israelites in Exod. XIII (Jakob Benediktsson 1944, 26 and 83). The Cross as column or pillar is a rare image (cf. sigrstóð ‘victory-post’ 42/2). Rabanus Maurus (C9th) calls the Cross columna et firmamentum veritatis ‘the column and mainstay of truth’ (De laudibus sanctae crucis, col. 169; Perrin 1997, 59). Possibly influenced by Líkn, the image occurs in Mgr 13/2-3 where Mary tells how she watched as Christ bore on his shoulders the hjálpar stólpa til píslar ‘pillar of salvation [CROSS] to the torment’. (Mary herself is called hjálpar stólpi in Mdr 41/5 and Pét 5/7). ‘Inclining’ (hneigi-, from hneigja ‘incline, bow down’, as in 3/1-4 hneig heyrn þína ‘incline your hearing’) may, as LP (1860) and LP propose, suggest the idea of leaning forward as if proffering a gift; cf. the kenning in Kálf Kátr 45/6-7 hneigiþollr öglis túna ‘giving tree of hawk’s home fields [ARM > GENEROUS MAN]’. But here the image is more likely based upon st. 9 of Fortunatus’ Pange lingua, in which the poet tenderly entreats the Cross to bend in order to ease Christ’s suffering: Flecte ramos, arbor alta, tensa laxa viscera / et rigor lentescat ille, quem dedit nativitas ‘Bend your branches, noble tree; relax your tense fibres, and let the firmness nature gave you become pliant’ (Bulst 1957, 128).

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