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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 20 May 2022)

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

SkP info: VII, 88-9

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

17 — Gamlkan Has 17VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 17’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 88-9.

Hverr es greppr, sás gerra,
grunnúðigr, þér unna,
— slíkr hǫfum synða auki
sótt — heimstǫðu dróttinn.
Þú biðr ǫlð, en aðrir,
almáttigr guð, sátta,
ýta ferð at yrði
aldýr, sǫkum valda.

Hverr greppr, sás gerra unna þér, es grunnúðigr, {dróttinn heimstǫðu}; slíkr auki synða hǫfum sótt. Almáttigr guð, þú biðr ǫlð sátta, at {ýta ferð} yrði aldýr, en aðrir valda sǫkum.

Every man who does not love you is simple-minded, {Lord of the world} [= God]; such an increase of sins has visited us [me]. Almighty God, you ask mankind for settlement, so that {the race of men} [MANKIND] might become blessed, but others cause offences.

Mss: B(12v), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [1] gerra: ‘geira’ B    [3] synða: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘synd[...]’ B    [8] aldýr: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘alldy[...]’ B

Editions: Skj: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 17: AI, 564, BI, 552, Skald I, 268, NN §2931; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 18, Kempff 1867, 5-6, Nj 1875-8, II, 253, Rydberg 1907, 23, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 256-7, Black 1971, 183, Attwood 1996a, 226.

Notes: [1] gerra ‘does not’: B’s ‘geira’ does not make sense in context. The emendation to gerra, 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of gera ‘to make, do, perform’ with suffixed negative –a was first proposed in Skj B. — [3] synða ‘of sins’: 399a-bˣ’s reading has been followed here. Both Skj B and Skald supply the gen. sg. synðar. — [7-8] ýta ferð at yrði aldýr ‘so that the race of men might become blessed’: There have been several attempts to interpret this cl. Finnur Jónsson construes þú biðr ǫlð sátta, almáttigr goð, en aðrir valda sǫkum, at ýta ferð yrði aldýr, translating du beder menneskeheden om forlig, almægtige gud, men andre volder, at menneskeheden blev meget dyr ‘you ask mankind for a settlement, almighty God, but others bring it about that mankind became very costly’. His implication is presumably that, as a result of sin, mankind became very costly for God to redeem (by the Crucifixion). The main problem with this, as Jón Helgason explains (1935-6, 256; see also Black 1971, 184) is in the interpretation of aldýr. Konráð Gíslason (and Eiríkur Jónsson 1875-89, II, 253) objects to the use of aldýr here to refer to men, as it is used elsewhere in Has (as at 29/6, for example) only to refer to God. As Black (1971, 184) points out, the distinction seems to be between alldýrr, in which the prefix all- is an intensifier, meaning ‘very’, and aldýrr, where al- (cognate with OE eall) means ‘wholly’. The B scribe retains this distinction, writing almáttigr and aldýrr, and al- is required here for aðalhending with valda. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 256-7) follows Sveinbjörn Egilsson in construing the at-clause with sátta, but objects to his translation of aldýr as præstantissimus, egregrius ‘most excellent’ (LP (1860): aldýr). Instead, Jón quotes the expressions eilíf dýrð ‘eternal glory’ and at fara til dýrðarlífs ‘to go to the life of glory’ (Unger 1877, I, 289; see Fritzner: dýrð), and the angel-kenning drótt dýrðar ‘company of glory’ in Has 36/1-2 in support of his interpretation of aldýr as meaning ‘members of the company of the blessed’.

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