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Anonymous Poems (Anon)

VII. Stanzas Addressed to Fellow Ecclesiastics (Eccl) - 2

Stanzas Addressed to Fellow Ecclesiastics — Anon EcclVII

Jonathan Grove 2007, ‘ Anonymous, Stanzas Addressed to Fellow Ecclesiastics’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 471-5. <> (accessed 26 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2 

SkP info: VII, 471-5

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Two sts of special character and interest, Stanzas Addressed to Fellow Ecclesiastics 1 and 2 (Anon Eccl 1 and Anon Eccl 2) survive as additions on fol. 5 of a fragment of a C14th Icel. learned miscellany in AM 732 b 4° (732b). These sts comprise the only known examples of medieval Scandinavian Lat. poetry composed in skaldic metres. The rhythmical stress patterns of dróttkvætt and hrynhent exhibited in them contrast with the rigid quantitative metres derived from classical prosody, which were the predominant forms for medieval poets working in Lat. However, much Medieval Lat. versification depended on stress accent, resulting either from the rhythmical reading of classical Lat. metres or from the influence of secular and ecclesiastical musical settings, which produced an enormous range of new Lat. verse forms in the Middle Ages. Just as in skaldic poetry, such rhythmical Lat. verse was typically stanzaic. As a result, it is only the characteristic patterns of alliteration and internal rhyme in the two sts in 732b that allows them conclusively to be identified as skaldic.

Ms. 732b consists of nine leaves. Fol. 9 is written in a hand of c. 1400, but the main text of fols 1-8 was written c. 1300-25. The earlier leaves derive from a copy of an illustrated encyclopedic codex composed in the late C12th, other fragmentary versions of which are found in GKS 1812 4° and AM 736 I & III 4° ( II, ccvii-ix; Clunies Ross and Simek 1993, 166). The surviving pages contain an assortment of material in Lat. and the vernacular, including notes on computistics, cosmology, eschatology, geography and Lat. grammatical lore. The ms. also preserves numerous marginalia in several different C14th hands (cf. III, 63-7; Finnur Jónsson 1886), among which are included the two Lat. skaldic sts, together with two anonymous secular lvv., Anon 732b 1III and Anon 732b 2III.

Anon Eccl 1 is an ecclesiastical encomium, or possibly a poetic dedication originally attached to some other text. The st. is composed in hrynhent, representing all the essential features of the form: the octosyllabic ll., each pronounced with four rhythmical stresses, are linked in pairs by alliteration, with skothending in the odd ll. and aðalhending in the even ll. The date of composition and original context of the st. are unknown, but it appears to celebrate a member of an unidentified community of monks or canons in Iceland or Norway. The st. seems to have been dedicated to a certain ‘Audoenus’ (ON Auðunn). Kålund speculates that it was composed in praise of the Norw. Auðunn rauði Þorbergsson, a canon of the cathedral chapter at Niðaróss, chancellor to King Hákon Magnússon (1299-1319), and bishop of the Icel. see of Hólar from 1313-22 ( III, 64 n. 4; cf. Lehmann 1936-7, II, 79-80). In this case the st. might plausibly refer either to Auðunn’s election as a canon (as Kålund suggests), or his ordination to the Icel. episcopate, and may have originated in Norway rather than Iceland. There is no direct evidence for the association, however, and it is perhaps unlikely in view of the st.’s ms. context. It is unclear whether the st. originally comprised the introduction to a longer poem, or whether it is complete as it stands. The poet’s apostrophe and call for a hearing in the first helmingr, and the prayer for the bestowal of divine grace in the second, are all typical features of Christian skaldic panegyric. The evidence of textual corruption in Anon Eccl 1/7 indicates that the C14th text of the st. is a scribal copy.

Anon Eccl 2 is a hortatory st. apparently addressed by a monk or priest to a fellow ecclesiastic, Thomas, urging him to dedicate himself zealously to the religious life. Once again, the precise origins of the poem cannot now be identified. The st. is in regular dróttkvætt, satisfying the demands of stress, syllable count, alliteration and internal rhyme. The text is written in the same hand as Anon 732b 1III. Finnur Jónsson 1886, 188 dates this script to c. 1300, i.e. roughly contemporary with the main text of fols 1-8 according to his initial estimation. Neither Lat. st. appears in Skj, but Finnur dates the hand of Anon 732b 1III more circumspectly to the early C14th in Skj AII, 463 n. The probable Icel. origins of the ms. and the presumed lateness of the poem underlie his assertion that Anon Eccl 2 is uden tvivl af en islænder ‘without doubt by an Icelander’ (1886, 193).

It is possible that the same poet composed both Anon Eccl 1 and 2, as the two sts. display similarites in style (with the first rhyming element in each l. regularly falling on the opening syllable) and diction (the use of vocative sg. ave in Anon Eccl 1/1 and Anon Eccl 2/4; cf. also Anon Eccl 1/3, 4 factus esto ... decus and Anon Eccl 2/1, 2 esto ... mente purus). It is notable, however, that the two sts are not written in the same scribal hand, and the script of Anon Eccl 1 at least is almost certainly not that of the original poet.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated