Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Líkn 32VII/8 — helgra ‘of relics’

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)].


[8] helgra: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘he[...]’ B


[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’.



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