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Runic Dictionary

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Gamli kanóki (Gamlkan)

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

1. Harmsól (Has) - 65

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 6 December 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   56   57   58   59   60   61   62   63   64   65 

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

SkP info: VII, 108-9

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

41 — Gamlkan Has 41VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 41’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 108-9.

Kosti hverr við harra
— hætts ella mjǫk — sættask
byrjar láðs — hvat bíðum?
blikvaldr þrimu tjalda.
Opt verðr Ægis leiptra
ein stund viðum grundar
nauðr erumk ǫll at eyða
andar mein — at seinum.

{{{Hverr blik}valdr} tjalda þrimu} kosti sættask við {harra {láðs byrjar}}; ella [e]s mjǫk hætt; hvat bíðum? Opt verðr ein stund at seinum {viðum {leiptra {grundar Ægis}}}; nauðr erumk at eyða ǫll mein andar.

Let {every wielder {of the gleam {of the tents of battle}}} [(lit. ‘gleam-wielder of the tents of battle’) SHIELDS > SWORD > WARRIOR] try to reconcile himself with {the lord {of the land of the fair wind}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]; otherwise, there is great danger; what are we waiting for? Often one hour will be too late {for the trees {of the lightnings {of the plain of Ægir <sea-king>}}} [SEA > GOLD > MEN]; it is a necessity for me to blot out all injuries of the spirit.

Mss: B(13r), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [3] láðs: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘la[...]’ B    [4] blikvaldr: blakkvaldr B;    tjalda: ‘tiallde’ B    [7] nauðr: ‘[...]a[...]dr’ B, ‘[...]auðr’ 399a‑bˣ, BRydberg, BFJ;    eyða: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘y[...]’ B

Editions: Skj: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 41: AI, 568, BI, 558-9, Skald I, 271, NN §§2926, 2933; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 26, Kempff 1867, 12, Rydberg 1907, 27, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 258-9, Black 1971, 241, Attwood 1996a, 232.

Notes: [1-4]: The ms. reads blakkvaldr þrimu tjaldi (l. 4) and it is clear from the context that this is a man-kenning. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) assumes the man-kenning here to be blakkvaldr láðs byrjar ‘horse-steerer of the land of the wind [SEA > SHIP > SEAFARER]’. He then emends B’s þrimu to þrumu gen. sg. of þruma ‘thunder’, to form the God-kenning harri þrumu tjalda ‘king of the thunder-tents’. This makes for a rather cumbersome cl.-arrangement in the helmingr. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 258) dismisses Finnur’s interpretation of láðs byrjar ‘[of the] land of the wind’ as a sea-kenning as rather unlikely. Instead, he indicates that one would expect it to mean ‘heaven’, like, for example, byrjar vegr ‘path of the wind’, éla vangr ‘field of the storm’. If this interpretation is correct, láðs byrjar must be construed with harra acc. sg. of harri ‘lord’ (l. 1) to give a straightforward God-kenning in the acc. case. The w.o. is thus simplified considerably. Finnur’s emendation to þruma is unnecessary, since þrimu can be taken as gen. sing. of þrima ‘thunder’, which by a transfer of meaning is often used for ‘battle’ (see LP: þrima). Emendation to tjalda, gen. pl. would give blakkvaldr þrimu tjalda ‘horse-steerer of the tents of battle [SHIELDS > SHIP > SEAFARER]’. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 258) suggests that this kenning’s lack of regularity might be alleviated by a minor emendation to blikvaldr ‘gleam-wielder’. Blikvaldr þrimu tjalds (or tjalda) would provide a straightforward warrior-kenning, ‘wielder of the gleam of the tent(s) of battle [SHIELD(S) > SWORD > WARRIOR]’. Kock (NN §2933) concurs with Jón’s arrangement, and with his interpretation of láðs byrjar. However, he argues that emendation may be unnecessary, since the connection between ships and shields in poetry is so close that a kenning ‘shield’s steed’ for ‘ship’ is not impossible (cf. Black 1971, 243). Although, as Kock suggests, there are a small number of kennings for ‘shield’ which have ‘ship’ as their determinant (see Meissner, 166-9; LP: skip), this is scarcely grounds for arguing that the two entities were interchangeable, or that the poem’s original hearers would have understood blakkr tjalda þrimu ‘horse of the tents of battle’ to mean ‘ship’. There is no comparable kenning in which a shield-heiti is used as the determinant of a ship-kenning. Sword-kennings like blik þrimu tjalda on the ‘light, flame of the shield’ model are extremely common (see Meissner, 150-1; LP: blik), and blik here anticipates the man-kenning viðir leiptra grundar Ægis ‘the trees of the lightnings of the plain of Ægir’ in the second helmingr. Jón Helgason’s emendation has been adopted here. — [2-3]: Kempff, Finnur Jónsson and Kock follow Sveinbjörn Egilsson in taking hvat bíðum (l. 3) as part of the same sentence as hætts ella mjök (l. 2). Finnur translates ellers er det meget uvist hvad vi opnår ‘otherwise what we will receive is most uncertain’ (Skj B). Jón Helgason (1935-6, 259) claims that there is no reason to believe that the two clauses are connected, and suggests that hætts ella mjök should be taken to mean ‘otherwise, there is [or will be] great danger’ while hvat bíðum is construed as a straightforward question ‘what are we waiting for?’ This makes for a more straightforward w.o. than does Sveinbjörn’s arrangement, and makes a strong connection between the helmingar. Besides, as st. 39 makes clear, the poet is unlikely to imply that the fate of those who fail to reconcile themselves with God is in any way uncertain! — [5-6] viðum leiptra grundar Ægis ‘for trees of the lightnings of the plain of Ægir [SEA > GOLD > MEN]’: Cf. 53/5-8, where God is characterised as láðvaldr glóða hróts leiptra ‘land-king of the fires of the roof of lightnings’. — [7] nauðr: B is badly damaged at this point and only ‘…a…dr’ can be read. None of the previous readers of the ms. were able to supply the beginning of the word, though the scribe of the 399a-bˣ transcript read the remainder of the word with confidence as ‘…auðr’. Sveinbjörn Egilsson suggested in a note to Jón Sigurðsson’s copy (444ˣ) that the word might be trauðir m. nom. pl. of trauðr ‘reluctant’, and used the form trauðr in his 1844 edn and in his prose arrangement (preserved in 444ˣ). Kempff and Finnur Jónsson adopted this reconstruction. It is unlikely, however, that the space for the initial letter at the beginning of fol. 13r, l. 21 is sufficient to account for the loss of tr here, and Rydberg (1907, lxxii) and Jón Helgason (1935-6, 259) are agreed that there is space for only one letter before a. Furthermore, as Rydberg (1907, 27 n. 7) notes, in the following l. (fol. 13r, l. 22), the ‘a’ in trauð is abbreviated with the ω-like sign. Rydberg is in no doubt that the traces of the original letter seen by him suggest that nauðr f. ‘need, necessity’ is the correct reading here. He compares the parallel construction in Leið 15/3-4, which reads nauðr er þegnum þýðask þann veg ‘there is a need for men to receive that glory’. Kock adopts this reading (Skald) and it is also adopted here.

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