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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 18 January 2022)

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

SkP info: VII, 109-10

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

42 — Gamlkan Has 42VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 42’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 109-10.

Ungr skyldi þat ǫldu
eyktemjandi fremja,
gífrs es gǫmlum hœfir
gunntjalds boða at halda.
Trauð verðr hǫnd, en hlýða
hrynvengis má engum
Gaut, nema gǫr verk bœti,
grundar mens, af venju.

{{Ungr eyk}temjandi ǫldu} skyldi fremja þat es hœfir {gǫmlum boða {gífrs {gunntjalds}}} at halda. Hǫnd verðr trauð, en {engum Gaut {hrynvengis {mens grundar}}} má hlýða, nema bœti verk gǫr af venju.

{A young tamer {of the horse of the wave}} [(lit. ‘horse-tamer of the wave’) SHIP > SEAFARER] should do what it befits {an old messenger {of the troll-wife {of the battle-tent}}} [SHIELD > AXE > WARRIOR] to keep doing. The hand becomes unwilling, but {no Gautr <= Óðinn> {of the ringing-land {of the necklace of the earth}}} [= Miðgarðsormr > GOLD > MAN] may be saved, unless he makes reparation for deeds done out of habit.

Mss: B(13r), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [6] hrynvengis: ‘hrǫn[...]engiss’ B, ‘hro᷎nvengiss’ 399a‑bˣ    [8] af: á B

Editions: Skj: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 42: AI, 568, BI, 559, Skald I, 271; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 26, Kempff 1867, 13, Rydberg 1907, 27, Black 1971, 244, Attwood 1996a, 232.

Notes: [All]: Gamli’s injunction to his younger hearers recalls his confession of his own early sins in st. 7. The tone is reminiscent of Solomon’s advice to his son in Eccl. XII.1 memento creatoris tui in diebis iuventutis tuae antequam veniat tempus adflictionis et adpropinquent anni de quibus dicas non mihi placent ‘remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the time of affliction come, and the years draw nigh of which thou shalt say: They please me not’. — [3] gífr ‘hag, troll-woman’: Commonly used as a heiti for a troll or, more often, a trollwife (see Vsp 52/6). By extension, gífr is often used, as here, to convey the notion of ‘enemy’, ‘danger’ or ‘bane’ and is frequently the base-word of kennings for the battle-axe (see LP: gífr). — [4] gunntjalds ‘of the battle-tent [SHIELD]’: Cf. 41/4. The cpd also occurs in Sturl Hrafn 20/4II. — [6] hrynvengis ‘of the ringing-land [GOLD]’: 399a-bˣ is certain that B’s reading (now worn) was ‘hro᷎nvengis’ ‘of the wave-land [SEA]’. It is difficult to make sense of this cpd here, and this edn follows all others in adopting Kempff’s emendation (1867, 49) to hrynvengis, giving the cpd hrynvengi ‘resounding, ringing land’, which, with a determinant denoting a serpent (here the Miðgarðsormr or World-Serpent) means ‘gold’. Such kennings refer to legendary dragons lying on gold to guard it; cf. RvHbreiðm Hl 36/4III hrynvengi sefþvengjar ‘ringing-land of the sedge-thong [SERPENT > GOLD]’. — [7-8] gǫr af venju ‘done out of habit’: Here this phrase is taken with the cl. nema bœti verk ‘unless he makes reparation’. Other eds (Skj B, Skald) take it with hǫnd verðr trauð ‘the hand becomes unwilling out of habit’ (l. 5), and this interpretation is also possible. It suggests that, because it is difficult to break a habit, one should begin to perform good deeds while young. — [8] mens grundar ‘of the necklace of the earth [= Miðgarðsormr]’: Finnur Jónsson offers two possible interpretations in LP. In the entry on grund, this phrase is listed among the kennings for ‘sea’, presumably based on the assumption of ON myth that the round earth was encircled by the sea. In this case it is difficult to understand what might be meant by the sea’s hrynvengi ‘ringing land’. In the entry on hrynvengi, the translation slangens klingende land ‘the serpent’s ringing-land’ is suggested. This is close to the kenning from RvHbreiðm HlIII cited above. In this case, men grundar may either be a kenning for a snake or, more likely in terms of the ON myth that placed the World Serpent in the ocean surrounding the earth, a specific allusion to Miðgarðsormr. It has been interpreted in the latter sense here. — [8] af: B is undamaged here, and ‘a’ is clear. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (1844, 27 n. 52) suggests af, which has been adopted by all subsequent eds.

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