Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anonymous Poems (Anon)

VII. Lilja (Lil) - 100

not in Skj

Lilja (‘Lily’) — Anon LilVII

Martin Chase 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Lilja’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 544-677.

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Skj: Eysteinn Ásgrímsson: Lilja (AII, 363-95, BII, 390-416)

SkP info: VII, 544-677

notes: Only a few stanzas in: AM714-4 AM720a2-4 AM720a1R8-4; AM706-4 is not of much value

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


The authorship of Lilja ‘Lily’ (Anon Lil) is uncertain. On the poem’s name, see Note to 98/8. The text in AM 622 4°, from the middle of the C16th, is accompanied by the marginal heading Hier hefur Liliu brodur Eysteins ‘Here begins Brother Eysteinn’s Lilja’. This is the earliest known mention of an author. Oddaverja Annáll, compiled in the second half of the C16th, tells that ‘Brother Eysteinn’ composed Lilja as a penance for slandering Bishop Gyrður (Storm 1888, 489). Jón Egilsson’s Biskupa-Annálar, composed in 1605, has a more detailed version of the anecdote and adds that Eysteinn was a brother from the monastery at Þykkvabær (Jón Sigurðsson 1856, 33), although other mss of the annals, AM 408 a 4°ˣ (c. 1700) and AM 695 a 4°ˣ (c. 1650-1700) identify the man as ‘Eysteinn Þorsteinsson, Franciscan monk from Niðaróss’ (Storm 1888, 489). The attribution to ‘Brother Eysteinn’ was not universally known (or at least not universally accepted) at the time: some C17th and C18th mss (AM 104 8°ˣ, OsloUB 547 4°ˣ, DKNVSB 41 8°ˣ, BLAdd 4892) ascribe the poem to ‘Eysteinn’ (without patronym), but the version of Lil ed. by Arngrímur Jónsson and printed in Guðbrandur Þorláksson’s Vísnabók (1612), identifies the poem simply as Þad gamla Liliu Kuœd ‘The Ancient Poem Lilja’. The 1656 Icel./Dan./Lat. edn of Lilja by Páll Hallsson likewise presents it as Eet Gammelt Isslandske Rim ‘An Old Icelandic Poem’, without attribution of authorship, and many younger mss follow suit. The earliest surviving text of the poem, in the C14th-15th ms. Holm perg 1 fol, Bergsbók (Bb), originally had no title, and a later annotator added the noncommittal heading Dette Er Itt Merckeligt Rim, och kaldis denn Lilliæ ‘This is a noteworthy poem, and it is called Lilja’.

A 1357 letter from the see of Niðaróss (Stefán Karlsson 1963, 30-4; DI III, 85 and 116) and Flateyjarannál (Storm 1888, 406) supply Eysteinn, a monk of Elgeseter in Norway sent as an episcopal visitor to Iceland in the 1350s, with the patronym Ásgrímsson. This man is elsewhere referred to as ‘Brother Eysteinn’ (Storm 1888, 354-61 = Oddaverja annáll s.a. 1349, 1353, 1355, 1358, 1359, 1360, 1361; 225 = ‘Annalbrudstykke fra Skálholt’ s.a. 1358; and 277 = Lögmanns-annáll s.a. 1358), and Bishop Finnur Jónsson’s 1772-8 Historia Ecclesiastica Islandiae creatively conflates the refractory monk and the visitor from Norway as the author of Lilja (Finnur Jónsson 1772-8, I, 586-8, 453; II, 104-5, 365-6; III, 587). Modern scholars agree that this identification is next to impossible and refer simply to ‘Eysteinn’ or ‘the Lilja poet’ (see e.g. Jón Helgason 1953, 161; Jakob Benediktsson 1965; Schottmann 1973, 189-91; Vésteinn Ólason 1993, 286-8; and Jónas Kristjánsson 1997, 387), but most eds and translators of the text since 1772 have bowed to tradition and named Eysteinn Ásgrímsson as the author of the poem (the exceptions are Boucher 1985 and Guðbrandur Jónsson 1992). On the vexed question of the skald’s identity see also Meissner 1922, 37-41, Guðbrandur Jónsson 1949-53, Guðbrandur Jónsson 1951, 13-28, and Gunnar Finnbogason 1951.

The language of Lilja reflects changes that were complete by 1300: the metre sometimes confirms the presence of the syllabic svarabhakti vowel (e.g. býður ‘proclaims’ 14/4, ykkur ‘you’ 16/3, heldur ‘rather’ 17/7, mætur ‘dear’ 43/2), <d> preceded by <l>, <m>, or <n> becomes <ð>, <œ> falls together with <æ>, <> with <á>, and <r> becomes <rr> in forms like þeirri ‘that’ 24/6 (see Vésteinn Ólason 1993, 288). Rhymes such as eigi ‘not’ : nægjaz ‘content himself’ 7/5; deyja ‘die’ : eigi ‘not’ 14/7, 17/5; and perhaps bjúgi ‘recoiling’ : beygiz ‘recoiled’ 66/7-8 also suggest that the poem was composed after 1300. The greatest aid to dating Lil is its close relationship to Abbot Arngrímur Brandsson’s Guðmundardrápa (‘Drápa about Bishop Guðmundr’, Arngr GdIV), which dates itself (st. 49) to 1345. There are many instances of borrowing between the two poems, and they are thought to be nearly contemporaneous. While it cannot be determined definitively which is the older, the common material sits more comfortably in Lil, suggesting that Arngrímur was the borrower (see Schottmann 1973, 247-8, for examples, and Vésteinn Ólason 1993, 288-9). If Lil cannot have been composed after 1345, it cannot have been composed long before, either. Not only its language, but likewise its content situates it squarely in the C14th. The allusion to the Anima Christi prayer (st. 81), the image of the Virgin of the Mantle (st. 86), and the theme of double intercession (st. 87) would all have been quite fresh in 1345 and demonstrate just how familiar the poet was with the most current trends of his time.

The complete text of Lil survives in just one medieval ms., the monumental Bb. The genesis of this ms. is uncertain. It acquired its name at the end of the C16th based on a supposed association with Bergr Sokkason, abbot of Munkaþverá (d. after 1345), but Jón Helgason and Gustaf Lindblad have more recently suggested that it postdates Bergr and was not produced before 1400 (Lindblad 1963, 12). The language of Bb is Icel. (Lindblad 1963, 10), although it is primarily a collection of texts related to the Norw. kings Óláfr Tryggvason and S. Óláfr Haraldsson. The bulk of the volume is taken up by ÓT (ÓT 1958-61) and ÓH, but interposed between the two sagas are four drápur: HSt RstI, Anon ÓldrI, Lil, and ESk Geisl. At a later time the poem known as Óláfsvísur II (ÍM II, 436-7) was added on the originally blank first fol. (Lindblad 1963, 10). Lil, as a poem dealing with general theological themes and having no association with either King Óláfr, stands out among the other contents of the ms.

Jón Helgason distinguished the hands of six different scribes in Bb (ÓH 1941, 1009), and the long drápur Geisl and Lil each have their own scribes. The hand of the Lil scribe resembles that of a scribe who wrote two passages in ÓT (fols 69rb 3-20 and 72ra 18-38). He writes in a charter-hand, and Lindblad suggests that the Lil scribe ‘was in fact more familiar with the cursive style than with the old book-hand, but that in writing Lilja he tried to approximate as closely as he could to the latter’ (Lindblad 1963, 11). Lindblad observes that the language of the Bb version of Lil has linguistic features characteristic of later OIcel. (<ei> for <e> before <ng>, <vo> for <vá>, <d> for the phoneme [ð], <th> for final <t>, and <i> and <u> rather than <e> and <o> in endings), and comments that the relatively rare use of abbreviations should probably be regarded as another late characteristic (Lindblad 1963, 12).

Bb is the base ms. for this edn, and variant readings are supplied from the defective text found in AM 720 a VIII 4° (720a VIII), seven younger mss, and the text printed in Vísnabók in 1612. The selection of Bb as the primary text, as well as the ten other versions of the text, is based on Jón Helgason’s plan for an edn of Lil, which he intended to be the first fascicle of the first volume of ÍM. The edn was never completed, but his notes for it were made available for the preparation of the present edn through the kindness of Professor Jonna Louis-Jensen and Den arnamagnæanske samling, Nordisk Forskningsinstitut, University of Copenhagen. Where Jón Helgason’s unpublished work is quoted directly, it is noted with the initials JH.

It has been impossible to construct a stemma of Lil mss. The two mss closest to the time of composition, Bb and 720a VIII, do not appear to be closely related, and none of the younger mss cited here shows a consistent relationship to either of these two or to any of the others. Lil’s popularity may have led to the wearing-out and disappearance of the earliest mss, and the making of many copies through several hundred years has left the ed. with a hopeless morass of horizontal contamination.

The following witnesses are cited in this edn:

AM 720 a VIII 4° (720a VIII, Kålund 1889-94, 2,146; Jensen 1983, lxix-lxiii). The codex consists of fragments of eleven different mss bound together. Fragment VIII is two leaves that were once part of the same ms. Kålund dates the fragment to c. 1400; Helle Jensen’s conclusion after a thorough study is that it is somewhat later, most likely from the first half of the C15th. The first leaf contains the conclusion of a Marian legend (ed. in Jensen 1967) followed by the beginning of Eiríks saga víðförla, and the second leaf contains sts 10/8-32/4 of Lil.

AM 99 a 8° (99a, Kålund 1889-94, 2, 390; ÍM I, 189), a C16th ms. containing Lil and Píslargrátur.

AM 622 4° (622, Kålund 1889-94, 2, 34-7; Jón Helgason 1953, 162; Vésteinn Ólason 1993, 306) was written before 1549 in Selárdalur í Arnarfirði, by (or for) Gísli Jónsson (died 1587), who later became Bishop of Skálholt. The ms. is an anthology of late medieval religious poetry.

AM 713 4° (713, Kålund 1889-94, 2, 128-31; ÍM I.2, 35-7; Jón Helgason 1953, 162) was written c. 1540 or later. Like 622 it is a collection of late religious verse.

AM 720 b 4° (720b, Kålund 1889-94, 2, 147-8) is from c. 1600. This anthology of religious poetry begins with Anon Heildr, followed by sts 1-6 of Lil. Then come several other late religious poems.

Ein ny wiisna bok med mörgum andlegum viisum og kuædum, Psalmum / lof sønguum og rijmum / teknum wr Heilagre Ritningu, ed. by Bishop Guðbrandur Þorláksson and printed at Hólar in 1612. Vísnabók (Vb), Bishop Guðbrandur’s collection of devotional poetry, was one of the first books to be printed in Iceland. Guðbrandur hoped to promote the Protestant Reformation by providing a Protestant equivalent of the devotional verses that were so popular in the C13th. The hymns used by the earliest reformers in Iceland were hastily and poorly translated from Dan. and German, and had been received with contempt. Vb was an attempt to restore the devotional use of artful verse by native poets. Besides newly-commissioned poems by the best Icel. poets of his day, Guðbrandur included earlier works: Lil (somewhat edited by Arngrímur Jónsson to correct what might be perceived as anti-Reformation spirituality), the Davíðsdiktur and Píslargrátur of the martyred Catholic Bishop Jón Arason (d. 1550), Jón Hallsson’s (d. 1538) Ellikvæði, and Um syndir og ósóma þessa heims by Skáld-Sveinn. Sts 82/1-4, 91, 99/5-8, and 100 are omitted.

DKNVSB 41 8°ˣ (41 8°ˣ, Jónas Kristjánsson 1967; Midbøe 1960, 1, 232; Jón Helgason 1975, 343-9, 373-6). An inscription on the flyleaf of this paper ms. tells that it was written at Gíslabær (Breiðavíkur hreppur, Snæfellsnessýsla) in 1671. The entire ms. is in the same clear and legible hand. Pages 1-73 are a calendar, followed by a large collection of devotional poetry (pp. 74-443). The complete text of Lil occurs on pp. 103-36. Many of the same poems are found in Vb, and it is almost certain that Vb was the exemplar for this ms., but there are variants in the text of Lil that suggest that the scribe knew other, earlier, versions as well. In addition to the full text of Lil, sts 90/6-8, 89, and 91-6 appear on pp. 420-2 in a strange context: Krossvísur I breaks off in mid-line at 28/2 and Lil 90 begins in the middle of l. 6. In the C17th, sts 86-96 circulated apart from the entire poem as a series of Maríúvísur úr Lilju: they are found under that title in AM 717 h 4°ˣ (Kålund 1889-94, 142), Holm papp 64 folˣ (Gödel 1897-1900, 178-90), and Lbs 512 4°ˣ (Páll Eggert Ólason 1918-37, 261). The version of these sts of Lil is quite different from that of Vb and probably reflects an earlier tradition: it appears to have affinity to 622. The second part of the ms. is a collection of prose works.

AM 705 4°ˣ (705ˣ, Kålund 1889-94, 2, 121, 148-9; ÍM I.2, 189). The first p. of this paper ms. of Lil, from the beginning of the C18th, has a notation by Árni Magnússon that it is a transcription of a younger vellum ms. (‘membrana recentior’), which Árni had obtained from Magnúss Markússon (then schoolmaster at Skálholt, priest at Grenjarðarstaðir by 1708) and presumably discarded. It may have been transcribed by Jón Torfason from Flatey (d. 1711): he is known to have copied AM 715 d 4°ˣ (Píslargrátur) from the same exemplar. AM 716 m-p 4°ˣ, a collection of devotional poems, was also copied from this ms. In each case, ÁM compared the transcription with the original and made corrections in his own hand.

BLAdd 4892 (4892, Eiríkur Magnússon 1870, xxii-xxvii; Jón Þorkelsson 1896, 205-6; ÍM I.2, 112; British Library 1977, 269) is a vellum ms. from the first quarter of the C18th. The ms. was obtained for the British Museum in 1777 from stiftamtmaður Ólafur Stephensen (1731-1812). Sir Joseph Banks had asked Ólafur to ‘collect as many antiquities, and have copied as many histories, as could be found in the country’ (letter quoted in Eiríkur Magnússon 1870, xxiii). Eager to please, Ólafur sent three large shipments of mss. This ms. came in the last shipment, along with a C15th ms. of Jónsbók (BLAdd 4873). It is written in an ornamental archaising hand, but the script also has typical C18th characteristics: is it possible that the ms. was produced for the occasion? Ólafur’s letter to Banks describes it as ‘a Papal hymn-book ... very rare, interesting, and curious, on account of its contents’ (quoted in Eiríkur Magnússon 1870, xxiii). It begins with a series of common Lat. prayers, followed by an anonymous hymn to the Cross and five Marian hymns (one by Loptr Guttormsson). Then come a hymn to S. Nicholas, a hymn to S. Óláfr by Gunni Jónsson hólaskáld or his son Þorsteinn, and Jón Arason’s Ljómur. Lil is the centrepiece of the ms. (fols 25-40b out of 60). It begins with st. 3 and concludes at st. 99/4. After Lil come hymns to S. Agnes and S. Barbara, and finally, six more Marian hymns.

While it has not been possible to construct a stemma, Jón Helgason (ÍM) suggests ways in which some of these mss are related. His stemma for Píslargrátur (ÍM I.2, 192) shows that 99a, 622, 720b, and Vb are descended from a common ancestor, and that 99a represents an earlier tradition than the other three, which are more closely related.

The relationship between 622 and 713 is less certain. In his edition of Milska, Jón Helgason proposes two possible stemmata, only one of which can be right (ÍM I.2, 36): in the first, 713 descends from a sister ms. to 622 from a common ancestor; in the second, the situation is reversed and 622 descends from a sister ms. to 713 from a common ancestor. Jón’s stemma for Krossvísur I suggests that the second of these possibilities is the more likely (ÍM I.2, 251). He also suggests (ÍM I.2, 250) that 4892 belongs to the same line of descent as 713 and 622 through a lost intermediary.

The many later mss containing Lil (or portions of it) include: Adv 21 8 10ˣ, AM 136 4°, AM 695 a 4°ˣ, AM 706 4°ˣ, AM 707 4°ˣ, AM 714 4°, AM 715 a 4°ˣ, AM 715 b 4°ˣ, AM 717 h 4°ˣ, AM 104 8°ˣ, Holm papp 23 folˣ, Holm papp 64 folˣ, ÍB 104 4°ˣ, ÍB 159 8°ˣ, ÍB 200 8°ˣ, ÍBR 16 8°ˣ, ÍBR 74 8°ˣ, JS 260 4°ˣ, JS 399 a-b 4°ˣ, JS 406 4°ˣ, JS 413 8°ˣ, Lbs 221 4°ˣ, Lbs 804 4°ˣ, Lbs 848 4°ˣ, Lbs 953 4°ˣ, Lbs 966 4°ˣ, Lbs 1745 4°ˣ, Lbs 2289 4°ˣ, Lbs 2293 8°ˣ, OsloUB R 547 4°ˣ.

The metre of Lil is hrynhent, with eight syllables per l. rather than the six of dróttkvætt (Gade 2002, 866; Lie 1952; Lie 1962a). The use of this metre in Lil marks a turning-point in the history of skaldic poetry: most skaldic poetry composed before Lil is in dróttkvætt; most composed after is in hrynhent. Some view this as a decadent development and see it as the succumbing of traditional Icel. forms to the influence of Lat. metres, while others regard it as a natural development of dróttkvætt and the beginning of a new stylistic phase in the evolution of Icel. verse. The poet of Lil was not the first skald to use hrynhent, but his ll. are more supple and often seem to accommodate extra syllables in a way that earlier hrynhent and dróttkvætt do not. The syntax is more natural, the vocabulary less exotic, and the use of kennings is kept to a minimum (see the skald’s remarks on his technique in sts 97-8).

Lil is an impeccably wrought drápa, a tour de force of poetic technique. It contains 100 sts, if we count the framing repetition of the first st. at the end of the poem. The number 100 was associated with perfection in the Middle Ages, and it was often used as a principle of literary composition (Curtius 1953, 501-9; Tschirch 1966, 226-44). Hincmar of Reims (d. 882) notes at the conclusion of a Lat. Marian poem of 100 ll., ‘I have made this book a composition of 100 verses, because the decalogue of ten commandments multiplied by itself yields 100’ (cited by Tschirch 1966, 226). Medieval authors were conscious of ten as the sum of the four basic numbers 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, and of 100 as the sum of the ten odd numbers between one and nineteen. Most significant for many was that the angelic salutation from Luke’s gospel had 100 characters in the form they knew and regularly prayed: Ave Maria, gracia plena, dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jhesus Cristus, Amen ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ.’

The upphaf and slœmr each comprise 25 sts, and within this frame the stefjabálkr is divided into two equal sections, each with its own stef. The sts containing a stef are lyrical, while the other sts of the stefjabálkr are narrative and move the poem forward. The section made up of sts 27-49 is framed by sts 26 and 50 (the first and last occurrences of the first stef), and sts 52-74 are likewise framed by sts 51 and 75, which bear the second stef. Within each of these sections are four stefjamél of five sts, each of which is in turn framed by two stef-bearing sts.

The subject of Lil is salvation: the salvation history of the human race and the personal salvation of the poet. The introductory section begins with a st. in praise of the Trinity followed by four sts in which the poet asks Christ and Mary for eloquence: a Christian version of the traditional self-conscious skaldic exordium. The remainder of the introduction deals with the history of the world from its creation to the eve of the Incarnation. Special attention is given to the fall of Lucifer (sts 7-9), the devil’s envious rage at the creation of Adam and Eve (st. 15), and his seduction of them leading to their own fall (sts 16-20). The section concludes with a reflection on God’s response to the Fall: he will send his son to make things right.

The first stefjabálkr narrates the story of Christ from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion. The first stefjamél tells of Gabriel’s visit to Mary and the Incarnation, the second of the birth of Jesus and his baptism at age thirty (traditionally linked to the Nativity in liturgy). Lucifer comes again to the fore in the fourth stefjamél. In a bizarre soliloquy, he expresses his perplexity at the origin of Jesus and states his intention to bring him low as he did Adam and Eve. The final stefjamél of the first stefjabálkr deals with the struggle between Lucifer and Jesus: Lucifer attacks Jesus with ineffective darts, while Jesus counterattacks by driving demons out of suffering humans. In the end, Lucifer seems to win as he leads Judas to betray Jesus and the possessed mob nails Jesus to the Cross. There is a pause in the narration as st. 50 concludes the stefjabálkr with repetition of the first stef, and st. 51 opens the second stefjabálkr and introduces a new stef.

While the first stef is a general doxology (‘Let there be sung to you ... from all tongues’), the second is personal. Once again, ‘all creation’ is exhorted to adore God, but God is addressed as skapari minnmy Creator’ (51/8). The poet acknowledges and praises God as creator of all things, but is most acutely aware of God as his own creator. In each of the five stef-bearing sts of the second stefjabálkr, the first helmingr contains a petition in the 1st pers.: veittu mier að stilla og stýra ‘grant me to compose and arrange’ (51/3), lát mig þinnar lausnar njóta ‘let me experience your salvation’ (57/3), dragðu mig frá djöfla bygðum ‘draw me from devils’ dwellings’ (63/3), kennztu við, svá að mín þú minniz ‘acknowledge [your human nature and your true body] so that you are mindful of me’ (69/3), and bið eg óttandi, ‘Hjálp mier, drottinn!’ ‘I pray fearfully, “Help me, Lord!”’ (75/4). Note that in each example but the last, the petition occurs in the third l. of the st.

The second stefjabálkr begins where the first concluded: with a meditation on the passion and death of Christ. In the style of texts like the Meditaciones Vite Christi of Johannes de Caulibus, the poet begins by announcing that he is presenting matter for contemplation: Er æ minnilig eptirdæmi ‘The example is forever memorable’ (52/2). The first two sts of the stefjamél framed by sts 51 and 57 recapitulate the account of Christ’s passion, and sts 54-6 describe Mary’s suffering as she regards her son on the cross. After a pause for a stef-bearing st. (57) comes a stefjamél dealing with Christ’s death. Sts 58-9 describe nature’s response and remind us that ours should be the same, st. 60 tells how Lucifer has been deluded into believing he could bring down Christ as he has other humans, and the stefjamél concludes with the victorious Christ’s Harrowing of Hell. The narration of the Harrowing of Hell continues in the next stefjamél (framed by sts 63 and 69). St. 64 deals with Adam’s joy at his rescue, and sts 65-6 are a direct address to Lucifer, mocking his downfall. The summarising apostrophe occurs in almost exactly the same position here in the second stefjabálkr (the fifteenth st.) as Lucifer’s analogous monologue does in the first (the second helmingr of st. 39, the fourteenth st. of the first stefjabálkr). Sts 67-8 give rather short shrift to the Resurrection, the Ascension, and Pentecost, allotting just four ll. to each. The final stefjamél, framed by sts 69 and 75, deals with the Second Coming, the Last Judgement, the punishment of the damned, and the rewards of the just.

The final 25 sts form a concluding section or slœmr which corresponds to and balances the opening section — Alexander Baumgartner (1884, 30-1) sees in the form of Lil an analogy to the triptychs of medieval visual art. Just as the overarching theme of sts 1-25 is the universal fall of humanity (represented by the fall of Adam and Eve) which made necessary salvation by Christ, the subject of the two stefjabálkar at the heart of the poem, the theme of the slœmr is the poet’s personal sin and need for redemption. The poet contemplates his own experience in the mirror of universal human experience represented in sts 1-25, and sees that his life reproduces it in microcosm. The introduction and the slœmr form a typological frame for the story of Christ in the stefjabálkar: Adam is a type of Christ, whose experience points to and is fulfilled by Christ’s victory on the Cross at the centre of the poem, and the poet is an antitype, whose experience likewise points back to and is fulfilled by the same central event. The poet begins with a deeply personal expression of his compunction in sts 76-8, and then addresses God the Father (st. 79), Jesus (sts 80-5), and Mary (sts 86-95), in prayers for pardon and intercession. Lil reflects both the piety and the theology of the C14th in its regard of Mary’s intercession as an integral aspect of Christ’s redemption of fallen humanity (see e.g. Lane 1973, Williamson 2000, and the Notes to st. 86). Sts 86-96, a highly lyrical prayer to Mary leading up to a concluding prayer to Christ, were understandably highly esteemed and circulated separately as Máríúvísur úr Lilju in many later mss. Fritz Tschirch regards the last four sts as pleonastic and suggests that the drápa could well conclude with st. 96, with its dedication to Christ and prayer for mercy, if the poet were not concerned with filling out the st.-count to 100 (Tschirch 1966, 240). If this is so, we can be thankful that the poet felt this constraint, because otherwise we would be deprived of his reflection on his poetic theory in sts 97-8. But this somewhat cumbersome and protracted winding-down or leave-taking from the poem is typical of many earlier drápur and corresponds to the equally protracted warm-up or lead-in at the beginning. The repetition of the first st. as the last closes the circle and underscores the theme of eternity and perfection that is the subject of the st. and the poem. Within the 100-st. form lies another structural principle which divides the poem into three equal sections (Hill 1970). The two points of demarcation are the Incarnation in st. 33 and the Atonement in st. 66. This divides history into three parts: from creation to Incarnation, the life of Christ on earth, and the new age instituted by Christ’s victory over sin and death. In this view, too, Christ is at the centre and the two wings of the triptych mirror one another in a typological relationship.

While it has been impossible to identify many direct sources for Lil, literary analogues abound and situate the poet at the centre of European literature and theology. The poet shows familiarity not only with standard liturgical, theological, and rhetorical texts that were known and used throughout the Middle Ages, but also with such C14th trends as the Meditaciones Vite Christi, the Anima Christi prayer, the cult of the blood of Christ, and the image of the Madonna misericordiae, which demonstrate his awareness of the most recent developments in European devotion. Each subsequent ed. or commentator, building on the work of predecessors, has increased our knowledge of the context of Lil and, correspondingly, our ability to understand and appreciate the poem. The more closely Lil is read, the more apparent it becomes how learned, how talented, and how inspired was this skald who lived at the very edge of the known world. Few people who know the poem can mention Lil without repeating the adage cited by Bishop Finnur Jónsson in 1774: Öll ſkálld villdu Liliu kuedit hafa ‘All poets wish they had composed Lilja’ (Finnur Jónsson 1772-8, II, 398).

Lil has been edited many times (in addition to Skj and Skald, see Guðbrandur Þorláksson 1612; Páll Hallsson 1773; Finnur Jónsson [Finnus Johannaeus] 1772-8; Eysteinn Ásgrímsson 1858; Eiríkur Magnússon 1870; de Riviꜵre 1883; Wisén 1886-9, I; Finnur Jónsson 1893, 1913a [rpt. 1929], 1913b; Guðbrandur Jónsson 1933, 1951, 1992; Sigurður Nordal 1937; Einar Bragi 1961; Gunnar Finnbogason 1974, 1988; Taillé 1989; Jón Torfason and Kristján Eiríksson 2000), and translated into Lat. (Páll Hallsson 1656, 1773; Finnur Jónsson [Finnus Johannaeus] 1772-8; Eysteinn Ásgrímsson 1858, 1859; Eiríkur Magnússon 1870; de Riviꜵre 1883); Dan. (Páll Hallsson 1656; Finn Magnusen 1820; von Holstein-Rathlou 1937), Norw. (Paasche 1915; Orgland 1977; Ødegård 1980), Swedish (Åkerblom 1916), German (Studach 1826; Baumgartner 1884; Meissner 1922; Lange 1958b), English (Eiríkur Magnússon 1870; Pilcher 1950; Boucher 1985), French (de Riviꜵre 1883; Taillé 1989), and Czech (Walter 1924).

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