Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Líkn 32VII

George S. Tate (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Líknarbraut 32’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 262-4.

Anonymous PoemsLíknarbraut

Heims, bart hvössum saumi,
hjálpsterkr, friðarmerki,
lýðr at lausn of næði,
limu Krists við þik nista.
Mátt af dreyra dróttins
dags reitar því heita
blíðs ok bitrum dauða
blómi helgra dóma.

Hjálpsterkr, {friðarmerki heims}, bart limu Krists nista við þik hvössum saumi at lýðr of næði lausn. Því mátt heita blómi helgra dóma af dreyra ok bitrum dauða {blíðs dróttins {dags reitar}}.

Help-strong one, {peace-sign of the world} [CROSS], you bore the limbs of Christ pinned to you with sharp nail-stitching, so that mankind might obtain liberation. Therefore you can be called the blossom of relics on account of the blood and bitter death {of the tender lord {of day’s furrow}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)].

Mss: B(11v-12r), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [1] hvössum: ‘huo᷎[...]um’ B, ‘huọ᷎⸜e᷎⸝[...]um’ 399a‑bˣ    [8] helgra: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘he[...]’ B

Editions: Skj AII, 156, Skj BII, 168, Skald II, 89, NN §1394; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 45, Rydberg 1907, 16-17, 51, Tate 1974, 77.

Notes: [1, 4] nista ... hvössum saumi ‘pinned ... with sharp nail-stitching’: Restoration of <ss> suggested by Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 45, accepted by all subsequent eds. Hvössum is also used in 36/3 with reference to the Cross as scales. Besides ‘seam, stitching’ (from sauma ‘to sew, make a seam’), saumr by extension also means ‘nail’ in ship-making, with reference to seam-like rows of nails along the ship’s ribs and gunwales. The sg. is used of ship’s nails in Bragi Rdr 5/4III; cf. Þul Skipa 6/4III. With reference to the Crucifixion saumr occurs elsewhere only at 27/4; its use here adumbrates the next st. in which the Cross is described as a ship. On nista see Note to 16/1. — [2] hjálpsterkr ‘help, salvation-strong’: Skj B and Skald emend to hjálpsterkt for agreement with merki ‘sign’, but the adj. can function alone as substantive, in apposition to friðarmerki ‘peace-sign’, the m. referring back to kross ‘Cross’ (or even lykill ‘key’) in the previous st. — [2, 1] friðarmerki heims ‘peace-sign of the world [CROSS]’: NN §1394, objecting to Skj B’s construction hjálpsterkt merki heims friðar ‘help-strong sign of the world’s peace’ suggests the cpd friðarmerki, analogous to friðarmark and friðartákn (Fritzner); cf. signum pacis ‘sign of peace’ in a Cross hymn (AH 8, 30). — [6] dags reitar ‘of day’s furrow [SKY/HEAVEN]’: A somewhat unusual heaven-kenning; cf. dags land ‘day’s land’ Leið 24/8. Reitr (from ríta ‘to scratch, engrave, write’) ‘furrow’, by extension ‘cultivated land’, ‘a marked out space’. Alternatively the kenning can be read as ‘the space inscribed/marked out by the day’, or simply as ‘day’s land’. This is the first use of reitr as a base-word in a heaven-kenning (cf. Lil 11/4, 26/2). As ‘furrow’ or ‘cultivated land’ the noun accords well, however, with the agrarian imagery of the blómi ‘blossom’ (l. 8) watered (rained upon) by the dreyri ‘blood’ of Christ (cf. the use of such imagery as metaphor for inspiration in sts 4-5 and the recurrence of ár in the sense of ‘year’s abundance’; see Note to 5/5). — [8] blómi helgra dóma ‘the blossom of relics’: In the phrase helgir dómar, dómar has the sense ‘relics’; see Mark Eirdr 10/2II in which Eiríkr sótti Haralds ... helga dóma út frá Rómi ‘sought Haraldr’s relics from Rome’. As in this example, blóm or blómi ‘blossom, flower; flowering’ can be abstract, meaning simply ‘premier exemplar’. The Cross itself as blossom or flower is unusual, though Jón Arason uses the image later in a poem about the Cross at Réttarholt (1548): Má það einginn maðr skýra | mektar blóm hvert krossinn er ‘No man can describe what a flower of might the Cross is’ (Jón Sigurðsson and Guðbrandr Vigfússon 1858-78, II, 574). Floral imagery is, however, common in poems on the Cross or the Passion, in which the redness of Christ’s blood (or Christ himself) is likened to a flower, often a rose: e.g. Fortunatus’ Pange lingua, st. 8 Crux fidelis, inter omnes arbor una nobilis – / nulla talem silva profert flore fronde germine ‘Faithful Cross, tree alone notable among others – no forest produces such a one in flower, foliage, or seed’ (Bulst 1956, 128; Szövérffy 1976, 15 takes germine to mean ‘roots’ or ‘effects’); from another hymn O Crux, ave, frutex gratus / coeli flore fecundatus / Rubens agni sanguine ‘Hail, Cross, pleasing stalk, made fruitful with the flower of heaven, reddening with the blood of the Lamb’ (AH 9, 28). It is, however, typically Christ, rather than the Cross itself, that is the flower, based upon S. of S. II.1 flos campi ‘flower of the field’ and Isa. XI.1 where Mary (virgo) is interpreted as the ‘rod [virga] of Jesse’ and Christ as the flower that springs from the rod. Cf. (of Christ) the late medieval poems Blómarós 165/3, 187/2, 207/3 and Máríublóm 16/3, 18/1, 23/1 (ÍM I.2, 90 ff.; I.2, 176-7). Bonaventure (C13th) entitles ch. 17 of his tract Vitis mystica the ‘Rosa passionis’, in which he likens the Passion to a rose made red by the blood of Christ (Bonaventure 1882-1902, VIII, 182-3). The phrase blómi af dreyra ok bitrum dauða dróttins ‘blossom from the Lord’s blood and bitter death’ (ll. 8, 5, 7) is in this tradition. In the end, however, blómi helgra dóma (l. 8) may simply mean ‘the flower [i.e. the greatest] of holy relics’.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. AH = Dreves, G. M., C. Blume and H. M. Bannister, eds. 1886-1922. Analecta hymnica medii aeui. 55 vols. Leipzig: Reisland. Rpt. 1961. New York: Johnson.
  6. Bonaventure, S. 1882-1902. Opera omnia. 11 vols. Ad Claras Aquas (Quaracchi): Collegium S. Bonaventurae.
  7. Bulst, Walther, ed. 1956. Hymni latini antiquissimi LXXV, Psalmi III. Heidelberg: Kerle.
  8. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  9. Szövérffy, Joseph. 1976. Hymns of the Holy Cross. Medieval Classics: Texts and Studies 7. Brookline, Mass.: Classical Folia Editions.
  10. Tate, George S. 1974. ‘Líknarbraut: A Skaldic Drápa on the Cross’. Ph.D. thesis. Cornell University. DAI 35:6112A.
  11. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  12. ÍM = Jón Helgason, ed. 1936-8. Íslenzk miðaldarkvæði: Islandske digte fra senmiddelalderen. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  13. Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1844. Fjøgur gømul kvæði. Boðsrit til að hlusta á þá opinberu yfirheyrslu í Bessastaða Skóla þann 22-29 mai 1844. Viðeyar Klaustri: prentuð af Helga Helgasyni, á kostnað Bessastaða Skóla. Bessastaðir: Helgi Helgason.
  14. Internal references
  15. Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Leiðarvísan 24’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 162-3.
  16. Elena Gurevich (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Þulur, Skipa heiti 6’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 870.
  17. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 5’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 35.
  18. Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 11’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 573-5.
  19. Jayne Carroll (ed.) 2009, ‘Markús Skeggjason, Eiríksdrápa 10’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 442.

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