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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, 111-12

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

43 — Gamlkan Has 43VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 43’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 111-12.

Ræfrs esat lǫngu lífi
lungbeitǫndum heitit
— raun finna þess runnar
randéls — af gram landa.
Þvís hringstyrjar hverjum
hag sinn með trú fagri
yngra þoll ok ellra
einsætt at vel hreinsi.

{Lungbeitǫndum} esat heitit lǫngu lífi af {gram {ræfrs landa}}; {runnar {randéls}} finna raun þess. Þvís einsætt {hverjum þoll {hringstyrjar}}, yngra ok ellra, at hreinsi vel hag sinn með fagri trú.

{Ship-steerers} [MEN] are not promised long life by {the prince {of the roof of lands}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]; {bushes {of the shield-storm}} [BATTLE > WARRIORS] gain experience of that. Therefore it is evident {to each fir-tree {of the sword-din}} [BATTLE > WARRIOR], to young and old, that he should thoroughly purify his state with beautiful faith.

Mss: B(13r), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [2] lungbeitǫndum: ‘lunndbeitundum’ B    [3] raun: ‘rum’ B;    þess: þat B, 399a‑bˣ    [5] hringstyrjar: ‘hringstyr[...] a’ B, ‘hringstyri a’ 399a‑bˣ

Editions: Skj: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 43: AI, 568, BI, 559, Skald I, 271; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 27, Kempff 1867, 13, Nj 1875-8, II, 356, Rydberg 1907, 27, Jón Helgason 1935-36, 259, Black 1971, 247, Attwood 1996a, 232.

Notes: [1-4] gram ræfrs landa ‘prince of the roof of lands [SKY/HEAVEN = God]’: Cf. Leið 10/1-2, where God is characterised as vǫrðr vallræfrs ‘guardian of the plain-roof’. — [2] lungbeitǫndum ‘to ship-steerers [MEN]’: It is not possible to make sense of B’s reading ‘lunndbeitundum’. Sveinbjörn Egilsson (note to 444ˣ transcript and 1844, 27 n. 5) corrects to lungbeitǫndum, which has been adopted by all subsequent eds. — [4] randéls af gram landa: B’s reading of the first word is quite clear here, though Skj B and Kempff emend to randelds ‘of the shield-fire’. B’s reading is perhaps confirmed by the similar l. brandél á Girklandi in Geisl 51/2. — [5] þvís hringstyrjar hverjum: The ms. reading ‘því er hringstýr…a huerium’ is rather problematical. Konráð Gíslason suggested that the l. originally read ‘því er hrings fira hverjum’, but had been garbled in transmission. He postulated the arrangement því er fira hverjum, hrings yngra þoll ok ellra ‘therefore is to each man, the younger tree of the ring and the older’. Sveinbjörn Egilsson, followed by Kempff, adopted the 399a-bˣ reading ‘hringstyre’ (from hring stýri), overlooking the final ‘a’ in B. Finnur Jónsson, who read ‘hringstyre a’ (Skj A), emended to hringskúrar (‘of the ring [i.e. sword]-shower’), giving a battle- and (with þollr ‘fir-tree’) a warrior-kenning. Rydberg (1907, lxxiii) suggested a palaeographical solution to this difficulty. The scribe, he notes, uses <e> and <i> in word-final position without distinction. Rydberg suggests that the copyist interpreted the final <i> in ‘hringstýri’ as a final vowel, and altered it to an ‘e’ which is now lost in B. The <i> was in fact consonantal and was followed either by <a> (as the remains in B suggest) or by an ar abbreviation. The reading is then hringstýrjar (gen. sg.) ‘of sword-din’, which gives a man-kenning þollr hringstýrjar ‘tree of the sword-din’. Rydberg’s suggestion is perhaps confirmed by 399a-bˣ’s reading ‘hringstýri a’, which suggests that confusion over consonantal <i> (not, we note, normalised to <e>) originated with the B copyist. Rydberg’s elegant solution is adopted by Jón Helgason (1935-6, 259), Kock and Black, as well as here. — [5] hag ‘state’: This word, which is difficult to translate adequately, occurs several times in Has, always with reference to the effects of sin on a man’s spiritual condition. Its resonances appear to be at once specific (as in 49/2) and general (12/6-8), and it seems to refer to situations palpable (49/2) and psychological (23/7, 43/6). In his confession of sin in thought, word and deed (st. 12), Gamli admits that margir hagir mínir sýnask mér meginljótir ‘many of my actions seem to me extremely ugly’ (12/6-8). The penitent thief fears that, unless Christ listens to his pleas for mercy, ek á til hættan hag ‘I am in a rather too perilous situation’ (23/7). Similarly, in st. 49, King David is said to have decided to ask God for mercy eftir þungan hag ‘after his grevious (lit. ‘heavy’) sinfulness’ (49/2), hagr presumably being used to allude to David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the death of her husband, Uriah the Hittite (see Note to st. 48).

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