Cite as: Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 98’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 673-5.
|Sá, er óðinn skal vandan velja,
velr svá mörg í kvæði að selja
hulin fornyrðin; trautt má telja;
tel eg þenna svá skilning dvelja.
|Vel því að hier má skýr orð skilja,|
skili þjóðir minn ljósan vilja;
tal óbreytiligt veitt að vilja;
vil eg, að kvæðið heiti Lilja.
Sá, er skal velja vandan óðinn, velr að selja í kvæði svá mörg hulin fornyrðin; trautt má telja; tel eg, þenna dvelja skilning svá. Því að hier má vel skilja skýr orð, skili þjóðir ljósan vilja minn, óbreytiligt tal veitt að vilja; eg vil, að kvæðið heiti Lilja.
He who must execute the elaborate poem chooses to put into the verse so many obscure archaisms one can hardly count them; I say that he thus impedes understanding. Because one here can understand clear words well, let people understand my transparent intent, this ordinary speech given freely; I desire that the poem be called ‘Lilja’.
Mss: Bb(116vb), 99a(19v), 622(41), 713(15), Vb(256), 41 8°ˣ(136), 705ˣ(23v-24r), 4892(40v)
Readings:  vandan: vanda og 622, 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 705ˣ, 4892  velr: verðr 622, 713; svá: om. 4892; mörg: margt 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892; selja: so 713, telja 99a, skorða 622, Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892, felja 705ˣ  eg: eg að 705ˣ; þenna svá: það má 99a, 705ˣ, þenna 622, þau megi Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892; svá: om. 705ˣ  að: om. 99a, Vb, 705ˣ, 4892  þjóðir: þjóðr 4892  óbreytiligt: óbreytt og 99a, 705ˣ, óbreytt er Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892; veitt: vil ek 713; að: af Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 705ˣ, 4892  eg: om. Vb, 4892; að: so 99a, 622, 713, 705ˣ, ‘et’ Bb, om. Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892; kvæðið: so 99a, 713, 705ˣ, om. Bb, drápan 622, Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892
Editions: Skj: Eysteinn Ásgrímsson, Lilja 98: AII, 394-5, BII, 416, Skald II, 228, NN §2629 G.
Notes: [All]: The skald cannot completely free himself of the aesthetic that elegant poetry (vandan óðinn) requires hulin fornyrðin ‘obscure archaisms’, which hinder understanding (dvelja skilning), but he firmly states his own intent to strive for light and clarity (Lie 1952, 78). This st. has sometimes been regarded as a rejection of the use of kennings, but as Meissner (1922, 48-9) points out, the kennings of the poetry of post-conversion Iceland were simple and presented no obstacle to understanding. The impediments to clarity were rather kennings that presented images irrelevant to or in disharmony with the theme of the poetry, and the unnatural w. o. that the use of kennings often necessitated. Foote comments (1982, 123): ‘We may pause to note how this condemnatory st. is dunhent (i.e. with anadiplosis); has end-rhymes aaaa bbbb, where a and b are themselves half-rhymes; has the usual obligatory internal rhymes in each line; has an internal rhyme sequence and a semantic repeat in lines 4 and 5 ... so that in spite of the regular syntactic break between them the two helmingar are intimately linked; and has more music in the last couplet, which has an extra half-rhyme and full rhyme (-breyt-, veit-, heit-) as well as the expected ones (tal, vil-, Lil-). This is a tour de force by which Eysteinn demonstrates how artful poetry can be without recourse to esoteric language’. —  selja ‘put into, insert’: All the eds of Lil except Eiríkur Magnússon (1870, 98) have chosen 713’s reading, selja ‘sell, give’. Selja maintains the end rhyme of the st., but the resulting sense is awkward. LP notes that it is necessary here to understand the meaning ‘to insert’, a meaning otherwise unattested. Bb’s fela ‘to hide, conceal, bury’ makes better sense but is unmetrical, as the final foot must consist of a long + short syllable. The variant telja ‘to count, number, tell’ preserves the rhyme and makes more sense that selja, but the repetition of the word in l. 3 makes it an unlikely option. The end rhymes anticipate the revelation of the poem’s title in the last l. of the st. —  Lilja ‘Lily’: The habit of naming a poem in its penultimate st. is exemplified in other long Christian poems that preceded Lil, including Has, Leið, Líkn and Sól, as well as in Icel. devotional poems that came after (Rósa, Milska, Ljómur, Gimsteinn, Boðunarvísur and Hugarraun, all published in ÍM). In a few cases, the procedure is varied; Kálf Kátr names itself in the penultimate and final sts, Mdr in the final st. The Lil poet, who clearly was both concerned with form and familiar with the earlier poetry, may here be signalling that st. 98 is in a sense penultimate. See further Note to st. 99. The image of the lily has many associations although, oddly, the Lil poet does not use them. The famous passage from the S. of S, ego flos campi et lilium convallium sicut lilium inter spinas sic amica mea inter filias ‘I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters’ (S. of S. II.1-2), has been interpreted as a reference to both Christ and Mary. Two texts by Peter Damian illustrate the flexibility of the symbol. In the conventional imagery of his Oratio ad Deum Filium ‘Prayer to God the Son’, the lily represents Christ. The repentant sinner addresses Mary with the words: Benedicta inter mulieres; redolet ager sacratissimi uteri tui naribus cordis mei; ex quo, videlicet agro, dum unicum illud ac singulare lilium prodiit, omne cum eo virtutum spiritualium germen erupit. Tu enim es coelestis illa terra, quae dedit fructum suum ‘You are blessed among women; the field of your most sacred womb diffuses the nostrils of my heart with a sweet smell. From that field the one unique lily sprang up, and the seed of all spiritual virtues with it. You are that heavenly land, which brought forth its fruit’ (Petrus Damianus, col. 920). In his homily for the birthday of Mary, the lily symbolizes both son and mother (Lucchesi 1983, 282). The lily symbolizes Christ in the messianic prophecies of Isa. XXXV.1-4 and Hos. XIV.4-5. In medieval visual art, the lily appears in representations of the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel often holds a lily as a sign of the Incarnation. It is also a common motif in representations of the Last Judgement, familiar from the many wall paintings in medieval churches in which Christ is depicted with a ‘lily of mercy’ coming from the right side of his mouth and a ‘sword of justice’ from the left as he separates the saved and the damned. Iconography of S. Joseph often shows him holding a lily, an allusion to Isa. XI.1 (et egredietur virga de radice Iesse et flos de radice eius ascendet ‘And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root’). Nevertheless, the lily is above all Mary’s attribute (Kirschbaum 1968-76, 100-1).