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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Líknarbraut, 34 [Vol. 7, 266-8]

[All]: The dominant image of the st., the Cross as ladder, is an exegetical commonplace deriving from commentary on Jacob’s vision of a ladder extending to heaven (Gen. XXVIII.12-13). E.g., in a sermon that circulated under Augustine’s authority in the Middle Ages, Caesarius of Arles (C6th) writes: Scala ipsa usque ad caelos attingens, crucis figuram habuit ‘The ladder itself extending to the heavens held the figure of the Cross’ (Sermo 87 in Morin 1953, 360; cf. Classis prima, auctor incertus [Augustinus Hipponensis?], col. 1761). The connection of Jacob’s ladder with the Cross also occurs in the late medieval Icel. Gimsteinn 102/5-03/4 (ÍM I.2, 327). Medieval commentators often gloss the parts of the ladder – e.g., the side-poles or stiles (latera) as Christ’s two natures, the two Testaments, etc. The probable source for kinnum tvennrar ástar ‘side-poles of twofold love’ (ll. 3-4), i.e. love of God and neighbour (Matt. XXII.37-9), is Honorius Augustodunensis (C12th), who was known in Iceland mainly through his Eluc and Gemma animae, both of which were translated into ON. In his sermon on Quinquagesima Sunday in Speculum ecclesiae, and again in Scala coeli minor, Honorius allegorises the parts of a ladder of love which is clearly the Cross. Of the side-poles he writes: Hujus scalae vero latera sunt geminae dilectionis, Dei scilicet et proximi dilectio ‘The side-poles of this ladder are indeed twofold love, i.e. love of God and neighbour’ (cols 869 and 1239). An analogue (noted by Paasche 1914a, 130) is in the Icel. homily on the Cross, which allegorises the arms of the Cross as óst viþ goþ oc meɴ ‘love for God and men’ (HómÍsl 1993, 17v; HómÍsl 1872, 38; cf. HómNo, 104). Árni Jónsson later borrows several details from Líkn for his GdIV, including the ‘ladder of twofold love’ elsku tvennrar stigi (72/6-7); see Tate 1978-9.

references

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