Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Heilags anda drápa, 11 [Vol. 7, 460-1]

[5-8]: This helmingr corresponds loosely to ll. 3-4 of the first st. of the Lat. hymn: imple superna gratia, / quae tu creasti, pectora ‘fill the breasts, which you created, with celestial grace’. It is difficult to make sense of B’s text here, and considerable emendation has been necessary. B’s ‘spaktir’ (l. 8) is clearly a scribal error, and 399a-bˣ’s skaptir is undoubtedly correct. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends to himneskum krapt* ‘with heavenly power’ (dat.) (ll. 5, 8), which he takes with fremr, 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of fremja ‘to promote, further’, translated as styrker ‘[he] strengthens’. Finnur construes the helmingr: unnin hjálp miskunnar guðs fremr himneskum krapt, þeims þú skaptir, gumna brjóst í grimmum háska ‘the accomplished help of the mercy of God strengthens with heavenly power, which you created, men’s hearts (lit. ‘breasts’) in cruel danger’. Rydberg (1907, 47) retains B’s kraptr ‘power’ (nom.) (l. 8), but emends to himneskra (gen. pl.). He treats the helmingr as an apostrophe to God, the ‘help of mercy’: Guðs unninn kraptr fremr brjóst himneskra gumna í grimmum háska, þeim er þú skaptir, hjálp miskunnar ‘God’s accomplished power strengthens the breast of heavenly men (i.e. good men, or angels?) in cruel danger, which you created, help of mercy (i.e. God)’. Kock’s arrangement (NN §1408) is essentially the same as Rydberg’s, apart from the periphrasis for the Holy Spirit, which Kock renders himneskrar miskunnar unnin hjálp ‘accomplished help of heavenly mercy’, in apposition to Guðs kraptr ‘God’s power’. Although each of these arrangements makes grammatical sense, none of them is acceptable, since the Lat. text makes it clear that the rel. cl. þau er þú skaptir ‘which you created’ (l. 8) must refer neither to the might of heaven (pace Finnur Jónsson) nor worldly danger (Rydberg, Kock) but to the breasts (or hearts) of men. The present reading retains brjóst ‘breast’ (l. 7), assuming sg. for pl. ‘breasts’, corresponding to Lat. pectora in a learned style where the rel. pron., here emended þau er, does not agree with its antecedent (see NS §§260, 264).


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