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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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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

SkP info: VII, 82-4

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — Gamlkan Has 11VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 11’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 82-4.

Ókynnin gatk annan
optsinnis þar vinna
víga* ljóss, es vissak,
veðr-Þrótt, á mik dróttinn.
Lítt bark ǫnn ok ótta,
undgjalfrs, fyr mér sjǫlfum,
grálinns geymirunna
glaðr þás dœmðak aðra.

Gatk optsinnis {annan {{ljóss víga*} veðr}-Þrótt} vinna ókynnin þar, es vissak á mik, dróttinn. Bark lítt ǫnn ok ótta fyr mér sjǫlfum, þás dœmðak glaðr {aðra geymirunna {grálinns {undgjalfrs}}}.

I declared oftentimes [that] {another Þróttr <= Óðinn> {of the storm {of the flame of battles}}} [(lit. ‘storm-Þróttr of the flame of battles’) SWORD > BATTLE > WARRIOR] was committing the sins there which I knew myself to be guilty of [lit. (were) in myself], Lord. I had little worry and fear for myself, when I gladly [lit. glad] judged {other protecting bushes {of the grey serpent {of the wound-surge}}} [BLOOD > SWORD > WARRIORS].

Mss: B(12v), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [3] víga*: vígar B    [6] undgjalfrs: so all others, ‘vnn[...]gialfrs’ B    [7] geymirunna: geymirunnum B    [8] glaðr þás: ‘gla[...]’ B, ‘gla(dr þa)’(?) 399a‑bˣ, BFJ, ‘gla(d)[...]’(?) BRydberg

Editions: Skj: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 11: AI, 563, BI, 551, Skald I, 267, NN §2110; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 16-17, Kempff 1867, 4, Nj 1875-8, II, 271, Rydberg 1907, 22, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 195, Black 1971, 166, Attwood 1996a, 86-7, 224.

Notes: [1-4]: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) construes this helmingr as follows: Gatk optsinnis vinna ókynni á mik þar, es vissak annan vigrar veðr-Þrótt, dróttinn ljóss, and translates ofte gjorde jeg mig skyldig i unoder, hvor jeg vidste, at andre mænd gjorde det, lysets herre ‘I was often guilty of bad habits where I knew that other men were doing it, lord of light’. Kock (NN §2110) objects to Finnur’s interpretation as ‘modern’, substituting his own prose arrangement: Gatk optsinnis vinna þar ókynni, er ek vissa annan víga ljóss veðr-Þrótt á mik, dróttinn which Black (1971, 167) paraphrases ‘I have often behaved ignobly when I knew that another man was treating me in that manner, Lord’. Whether consciously or not, this largely accords with Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s understanding in 444ˣ, which reads: Ek gat optsinnis vinna ókynnin, þar er ek vissa annan Þrótt á mik, dróttinn ljóss veðrvegar ‘I have often behaved badly when I knew another man (lit. Þrótt = Óðinn) to be doing so towards me, Lord of the bright weather-way [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]’. This interpretation (and the emendation to vegar in l. 3) is adopted by Kempff (1867, 28). In the context of Gamli’s confession of former sins, Kock’s suggestion that Gamli is confessing to behaving badly seems more plausible than Finnur’s, in which he tries to shift the blame for his misdeeds. As Jón Helgason (1935-6, 195) explains, there are some difficulties with Kock’s interpretation. The main problem is that the construction vinna á e-n is otherwise unattested: Fritzner: vinna gives examples of the phrase only with dat. or gen. objects. Furthermore, as Jón says, it is difficult to justify the separation of the acc. annan in l. 1 from the immediately adjacent verb geta. Jón’s suggestion, which is adopted by Black (1971, 166) and here, depends on the assumption that the phrasal verb vita á sik ‘to know oneself, to be guilty of’ with objects meaning ‘fault’, ‘blame’ or, as here, ‘sin’ existed in C12th usage. This use is common in MIcel, and Fritzner: vita has several examples of the similar phrase at vita e-t eptir e-m with this meaning in medieval religious prose, though Fritzner lists no examples of vita in conjunction with either á or sik. Even so, Jón’s interpretation makes for a much simpler and smoother prose arrangement than does either Kock’s or Finnur’s, and fits better with the tone of both the second helmingr and Gamli’s self-accusatory confession in sts 7-16. — [6-7] geymirunna grálinns undgjalfrs ‘protecting bushes of the grey serpent of the wound-surge [BLOOD > SWORD > WARRIORS]’: Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson (Nj 1875-8, II, 271) suggested emendation of B’s geymirunnum (dat. pl.) to geymirunna (acc. pl), which has been adopted by all subsequent eds. Geymirunnr ‘protecting bush’ occurs elsewhere only in poetry dated to C12th: it is used twice in HSt Rst 25/3 and 32/5I in the identical man-kennings geymirunnr gunnelds ‘protecting bush of the fire of battle’ and also in a poorly-preserved st. from RvHbreiðm Hl 5III, where it seems to provide the base-word of a man-kenning. It is interesting to note that the HSt Rst examples share the basic conceit of Gamli’s more elaborate kenning here. Undgjalfr ‘wound-surge’ is not attested elsewhere, but is conceptually related to undbára ‘wound-wave’ in Geisl 54/6.

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