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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, 84-5

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

12 — Gamlkan Has 12VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 12’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 84-5.

Bergðak brjósti saurgu,
byrjar hlunns, sem munni,
hreins, ok holdi þínu,
huggóðr jǫfurr, blóði.
Þó sék, þengill skýja
þrifskjótr, — meginljótir
hagir sýnask mér mínir
margir — þar til bjargar.

Bergðak blóði ok holdi þínu saurgu brjósti sem munni, {huggóðr jǫfurr {hlunns hreins byrjar}}. Þó sék þar til bjargar, {þrifskjótr þengill skýja}; margir hagir mínir sýnask mér meginljótir.

I tasted your blood and body with an unclean heart and mouth, {merciful prince {of the launching-roller of the fair [lit. pure] breeze}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)]. Nevertheless I look there [i.e. to the body and blood of Christ] for help, {prosperity-swift king of the clouds} [= God (= Christ)]; many of my actions seem to me extremely ugly.

Mss: B(12v), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [3] hreins: ‘hre[...]ns’ B, ‘hreịns’ 399a‑bˣ, hreins BFJ;    holdi: ‘h[...]’ B, ‘ḥọḷḷḍẹ’ 399a‑bˣ    [6] þrifskjótr: so 399a‑bˣ, BRydberg, BFJ, ‘þrif skí[...]tr’ B

Editions: Skj: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 12: AI, 564, BI, 551, Skald I, 267, NN §2804; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 17, Kempff 1867, 4, Rydberg 1907, 22, Black 1971, 169, Attwood 1996a, 224.

Notes: [1-4]: Gamli’s confession is presumably a response to S. Paul’s warning in 1 Cor. XI. 26-9: quotienscumque enim manducabitis panem hunc et calicem bibetis mortem Domini adnuntiatis donec veniat itaque quicumque manducaverit panem vel biberit calicem Domini indigne reus erit corporis et sanguinis Domini probet autem se ipsum homo et sic de pane illo edat et de calice bibat qui enim manducat et bibit indigne iudicium sibi manducat et bibit non diudicans corpus ‘for as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgement to himself not discerning the body [of the Lord]’. The same sentiment is found elsewhere in ON-Icel. religious literature. A Christmas day sermon in HómÍsl (HómÍsl 1872, 215), for example, warns its hearers that sa es criz licama etr. Oc hans blóþ drekcr ómaclega. Hann etr sér afallz dóm oc dreckr ‘whoever eats Christ’s body and drinks his blood unworthily eats and drinks a severe judgement for himself’. The Magister of Eluc (Eluc 1989, 83) is even more explicit in his condemnation of unworthy communicants: en þa er þeir hondla holld drottens vars syndvgvm hondom ok vhreinvm hvat gera þeir þa nema crossfesta kristr ‘and when they touch our Lord’s flesh with sinful and unclean hands, what are they doing then except crucifying Christ?’ — [5-6] þrifskjótr þengill skýja ‘prosperity-swift king of the clouds [= God (= Christ)]’: The identical Christ-kenning occurs in Líkn 43/1, where the alliterative pattern and qualifying adj. may suggest that Has is the inspiration. Although the adj. þrifskjótr appears to be hap. leg., it recalls the nouns þrifvaldr ‘promoter of well-being’ used of God in 22/2 (providing the hǫfuðstafr, as þrifskjótr does here), and þrifnuðr ‘well-being’, a quality imparted to men by God in Pl 5/3 and Geisl 3/5, and to his followers by Magnús inn góði in Arn Hryn 3/8II. — [8] margir – þar til bjargar ‘many there for help’: Cf. Leið 20/8 margri þjóð til bjargar.

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