Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Heil 3VII

Kirsten Wolf (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Heilagra manna drápa 3’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 875.

Anonymous PoemsHeilagra manna drápa

Hræra niðr í heilasárið
hodda vers með sverða oddum
hræðiliga og hreyttu síðan
hrygð vinnandi um musterið innan,
megandi sjá, hvar mátti laugaz
móðir skær í sonarins blóði;
tíguligr með tvieföldum sigri
Tómas skínn í drottins blóma.

Hræðiliga hræra með sverða oddum niðr í heilasárið {vers hodda} og hreyttu síðan vinnandi hrygð um musterið innan, megandi sjá hvar skær móðir mátti laugaz í blóði sonarins tíguligr Tómas skínn með tvieföldum sigri í blóma drottins.

Horribly [they] twist with swords’ points down into the brain-wound {of the man of treasures} [TREASURE GUARDIAN] and then threw [the cerebral substance] away, causing grief within the cathedral, being able to see where the bright mother could be bathed in the blood of the son; the magnificent Thomas shines with a two-fold victory in the glory of the Lord.

Mss: 720a VI(1r), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [1] Hræra: ‘[...]æra’ 720a VI, ‘h(ans f)æra’ 399a‑bˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 512, Skj BII, 563, Skald II, 308, NN §§1541, 2890; Kahle 1898, 91, 112.

Notes: [All]: The detail that Thomas’s brains were spilled on the cathedral floor is found in a number of the prose lives (Unger 1869, 262, 442; Eiríkur Magnússon 1875-83, I, 546). The rather macabre interest of this st. in Thomas’s wound finds a parallel in Þorgils saga skarða, where Þorgils, who asked to have Thómas saga read to him on the evening before he died (1258), is said to have suffered the same fatal wound as S. Thomas did (Stu 1906-11, II, 295, 298). — [2] vers hodda ‘of the man of treasures’: According to LP: verr, this kenning occurs only in this poem. Kock (NN §1541) thinks that it means ‘guardian of the treasury’, arguing that Thomas was the one to whom the care of Canterbury cathedral’s golden treasures were entrusted. — [5-6]: Presumably these ll. allude to the fear and sorrow of the cathedral monks (watching the killing from a safe distance), concerned that the altar, dedicated to the Virgin, where Becket prayed immediately before the attack, could be stained with his blood, as in fact happened (cf. Unger 1869, 260, 441; Eiríkur Magnússon 1875-83, I, 542). Megandi sjá hvar ‘being able to see where’ presumably assumes the cathedral monks as the unstated subject of the pres. part. megandi. — [7] með tvieföldum sigri ‘with a two-fold victory’: Perhaps a reference to his exemplary life and exemplary death.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  5. Stu 1906-11 = Kålund, Kristian, ed. 1906-11. Sturlunga saga efter membranen Króksfjarðarbók udfyldt efter Reykjarfjarðarbók. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  6. Unger, C. R., ed. 1869. Thomas Saga Erkibyskups. Fortælling om Thomas Becket Erkebiskop af Canterbury. To bearbeidelser samt fragmenter af en tredie. Christiania (Oslo): Bentzen.
  7. Kahle, Bernhard, ed. 1898. Isländische geistliche Dichtungen des ausgehenden Mittelalters. Heidelberg: Winter.
  8. Internal references
  9. Not published: do not cite (ÞorgIV)

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