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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamli kanóki (Gamlkan)

12th century; volume 7; ed. Katrina Attwood;

1. Harmsól (Has) - 65

Skj info: Gamli kanóki, Islandsk gejstlig og skjald, 12. årh. (AI, 561-72, BI, 547-65).

Skj poems:
1. Jóansdrápa
2. Harmsól

Gamli kanóki ‘canon Gamli’ (where the name Gamli, ‘the old one’ may itself be a nickname) is best known as the author of the poem Harmsól ‘Sun of Sorrow’, which is explicitly ascribed to him in a marginal note at the beginning of the poem on fol. 12r, l. 42 of the sole surviving ms., AM 757 a 4° (B): Harmsol er gamle orti kanokeHarmsól, which canon Gamli composed’. Gamli is also mentioned by name in Jóns saga postula (Jón4), where the author of the prose text prefaces the quotation of four sts from Gamli’s Jónsdrápa with the information: Annan mann til óðgirðar signaðum Johanni nefnum vér Gamla kanunk austr í Þykkvabœ, hann orti drápu dyrligum Johanni ‘As the second man to have composed a poem to blessed John we [I] name canon Gamli in the east at Þykkvabœr, he composed a drápa to S. John’ (Jón4 1874, 510). In a remark before the fourth st. Gamli is referred to as bróðir Gamli ‘Brother Gamli’ (Jón4 1874, 511). Þykkvabœr was an Augustinian monastery in south-eastern Iceland founded in 1168; Gamli was thus an Augustinian canon (or canon regular) of this community. His floruit can be inferred from the date of the foundation of Þykkvabœr as being in the mid- to late C12th.

file 2006-12-15 - Gamli kanoki w. MCR corrections

Harmsól (‘Sun of Sorrow’) — Gamlkan HasVII

Katrina Attwood 2007, ‘ Gamli kanóki, Harmsól’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 70-132. <> (accessed 19 January 2022)

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Skj: Gamli kanóki: 2. Harmsól, „er gamle orti kanoke“ (AI, 562-72, BI, 548-65)

SkP info: VII, 73-4

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Gamlkan Has 1VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 1’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 73-4.

Hár stillir, lúk heilli
hreggtjalda, mér, aldar,
upp, þús allar skaptir,
óðborgar hlið góðu,
mjúk svát mættik auka
môl gnýlundum stála
miska bót af mætu
mín fulltingi þínu.

{Hár stillir {hreggtjalda}}, þús skaptir allar aldar, lúk mér upp {hlið {óðborgar}} góðu heilli, svát mættik auka mjúk môl mín, bót miska, {{stála gný}lundum} af mætu fulltingi þínu.

{High ruler {of the storm-tents}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God], you who created all humans, open up for me {the gate {of the fortress of poetry}} [BREAST > MOUTH] with good grace, so that I might augment my soft words, the remedy for misdeeds, for {trees {of the din of swords}} [(lit. ‘din-trees of swords’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] with your excellent help.

Mss: B(12r), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [1] Hár: ‘[...]rr’ B, ‘[...]arr’ 399a‑bˣ    [4] óð‑: so all others, ‘[...]’ B    [5] svát (‘suo at’): so 399a‑bˣ, BFJ, ‘suo [...]t’ B, ‘suo (a)t’(?) BRydberg;    auka: so 399a‑bˣ, BFJ, ‘au[...]a’ B, ‘au(k)a’(?) BRydberg    [6] gnýlundum: ‘gný[...]unndum’ B, ‘gnýunndum’ 399a‑bˣ, ‘gnýiunndum’ BRydberg, BFJ    [8] mín fulltingi: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘mi[...]lltinge’ B

Editions: Skj: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 1: AI, 562, BI, 548, Skald I, 266, NN §2926; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 13, Kempff 1867, 1, Rydberg 1907, 20, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 252, Black 1971, 134, Attwood 1996a, 222.

Notes: [All]: The title and authorship of the poem are given in a marginal note, in the scribal hand, beside ll. 42 and 43 of fol. 12r: ‘harmsol er gam|le orte ka|noke’. On Gamli, see Skald Biography. — [1-2] hár stillir hreggtjalda ‘high ruler of the storm-tents [SKY/HEAVEN > = GOD]’: The first in a series of kennings for God whose determinants contain circumlocutions for heaven involving hregg ‘storm, rain’, often with the adj. hár ‘high, exalted’. Cf., e.g., 5/5-6, 45/1-4 and 57/6-7. These kennings may be influenced by similar constructions in other Christian drápur, most notably Geisl, the text of which in Flat has jǫfurr hreggsalar ‘king of the storm-hall’ at 64/5-6, and Leið, which has three God-kennings with hreggrann ‘storm-house’ as the determinant (2/1-3, 17/1-2 and 25/5-6), the first two of which also contain hár. The relative complexity of the variations on the patterns in Has might indicate that the poem is somewhat later than, and influenced by, Leið (see Skard 1953, 101, 108 and the discussion of Skard’s analysis in Attwood 1996b, 236-7). That hregg- compounds were a particular favourite of Gamli’s is perhaps suggested by the appearance of jǫfurr hreggskríns ‘lord of the storm-shrine’ (so also in Anon Mgr 49/6) in his Jóndr 2/4. — [1] hár ‘high’: The beginning of this word is lost in a hole in B. The scribe’s usual practice was to leave a space for a larger initial to mark the beginning of the poem, and the indentation of ll. 42 and 43 by some 11mm suggests that this was also the case here. 399a-bˣ is certain of the second letter. — [1-4] lúk mér upp hlið óðborgar ‘open up for me the gate of the fortress of poetry [BREAST > MOUTH]’: Paasche (1914a, 143) suggests that this striking image might be an echo of Col. IV.3 orantes simul et pro nobis ostium sermonis ad loquendum mysterium Christi ‘praying withal for us also, that God may open unto us a door of speech to speak the mystery of Christ’. The resemblance between the texts, however, is somewhat oblique, and Finnur Jónsson’s intimation (LH II, 114) that the phrase is original is doubtless correct. — [6] gnýlundum (dat. pl.): Lit. ‘din-trees’. B is badly worn at this point, and one cannot be certain of the fourth letter. Finnur Jónsson and Rydberg read ‘gnýiunndum’ with confidence, while the 399a-bˣ copyist is certain of ‘gnýunndum’. There have been several attempts to make sense of this reading. Neither Sveinbjörn Egilsson nor Kempff saw any need to emend, both taking gnýundum stála to be a man-kenning, Sveinbjörn (1860, 257a) relating gnýundum to gnúa ‘to rub’ and Kempff (1867, 22) assuming it to derive from gnýja ‘to sound’. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends to gnýviðum (dat. pl.) ‘din-trees’. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 252) rejects the interpretations of both Sveinbjörn and Kempff, and notes that, since the hole in B is over what previous eds read as an ‘i’, ‘there is nothing against our assuming that this letter was an “l”, the upper part of which is now missing’. Jón’s reconstruction, which is adopted here, is therefore in accord with the spirit of Finnur’s emendation but, as he says, ‘is closer to what survives than gnýviðum’. Although the cpd gnýlundum ‘din-trees’ is not otherwise attested, gnýlundum stála would be partially paralleled by the warrior-kenning lundr stála ‘tree of spears’, which occurs in a poorly-preserved lv. attributed to Bjhít Lv 15/6V (ÍF 3, 155). — [7] miska bót ‘the remedy for misdeeds’: Sveinbjörn Egilsson and Finnur Jónsson both take bót as acc. sg. of bót ‘cure, remedy’ and connect it with miska, gen. sg. or pl. of miski ‘misdeed, offence’, as the object of auka, the subject of which is mjúk mál mín. In this, they are followed by Kock and Black (1971, 134). The present edn follows Kempff (1867, 1) in taking miska bót with mjúk mál mín as parallel objects of auka. It is clear from the general tone of Has, as well as from the lengthy confession in sts 7-17, that the entire poem is an act of penance, principally for Gamli but also for his hearers.

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