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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 May 2022)

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

SkP info: VII, 123-4

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

56 — Gamlkan Has 56VII

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 56’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 123-4.

Tregr emk ljót at láta
lastaverk til fasta
— mér bragar opt fyr augum —
æligs móðs fyr róða.
Þess ák mér at meira
margríkr jǫfurr, líknar,
fleygs ok foldar œgis,
friðar sjalfan þik biðja.


I am reluctant to abandon the ugly sins of a vile soul too completely; it [i.e. sin] often glimmers before my eyes. Therefore I must beg you the more for peace for myself, {very powerful king of mercy and {of the swirling helmet of the land}}. [SKY/HEAVEN > = God]

notes: [5-8]: Several interpretations of the second helmingr have been offered, none entirely satisfactory. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 261) suggests that at meiri should be emended to at meira, which he takes to be adverbial, amplifying ák biðja þik. He reads the God-kenning as having two determinants, jǫfurr líknar ok fleygs foldar ægis, and translates naadens og den rullende himmels konge ‘king of mercy and of the turbulent heaven’. Friðar (l. 8) is taken to be part of the main cl., and the helmingr is construed þess ák at meira biðja þik friðar sjalfan mér, margríkr jǫfurr líknar ok fleygs foldar ægis ‘therefore I must beg you the more for peace for myself, very powerful king of mercy and of the turbulent heaven’. This edn follows Jón’s interpretation. Kock (NN §2935) objects to this interpretation, claiming that God’s attributes of mercy (líkn) and heaven (fleygr foldar ægir) are too disparate to be governed by the same noun (jǫfurr). He (NN §1212) agrees with Finnur Jónsson that friðr ‘peace’, and líkn should be taken together as the object of biðja ‘to beg, pray’, but assumes that they are asyndetic. The conj. ok (l. 7) is thus freed, and Kock reads it in situ, linking fleygs and foldar. He then interprets ægir as a reference to the sea, and takes the complete God-kenning to be jǫfurr foldar ok fleygs ægis ‘king of the earth and the tumultuous sea’. A third interpretation is that of Sveinbjörn Egilsson, which is also followed by Finnur Jónsson and Kempff. Sveinbjörn (1844, 31 n. 70) concurs with Kock in taking both friðr and líkn as the object of biðja, but chooses to link them with the conj. ok. This separates ok from its syntactic environment and cannot be paralleled in the corpus of skaldic poetry.

editions: Skj Gamli kanóki: 2. Harmsól 56 (AI, 570; BI, 562-3); Skald I, 273, NN §§174, 1212, 2935, 3014; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 31, Kempff 1867, 17, Rydberg 1907, 30, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 260-1, Black 1971, 279, Attwood 1996a, 236.


AM 757 a 4° (B) 13r, 49 - 13r, 51  transcr.  image  image  image  image  
Lbs 444 4°x (444x) -  
JS 399 a-b 4°x (399a-bx) -  
AM 757 a 4° (BRydberg) -  
AM 757 a 4° (BFJ) -  
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