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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Allra postula minnisvísur, 4 [Vol. 7, 857-8]

[7] hann drakk eitr hjá ýtum ‘he drank poison among men’: The poet alludes to the tradition that John was challenged by Aristodemus, priest of Diana, to drink a cup of poison. After making the sign of the cross on the cup, Satan flew from the poison chalice in the shape of a dragon, after which John drank without ill effect. The story is recalled in one of the traditional symbols of John the Apostle, a chalice with a winged serpent emerging from it (see Braun 1943, 374-6; Kilström 1956, 174-5; Roeder 1956, 20), the same emblem for S. John which appears on fol. 12r of the Icel. Teiknibók (c. 1420-40; Björn Th. Björnsson 1954, 92). The story circulated widely, in brief accounts such as IO 71, 1, and in more detailed treatments such as Pseudo-Mellitus, Passio Iohannis (Mombr. II, 59; incorporated into Ælfric of Eynsham’s homily on the Assumption of S. John, see Clemoes 1997, 213-14); cf. Jón1x 431; JJ SÁM 1 657-9; Jón3 463. The same legend is commemorated in the tradition of ‘drinking to the love of S. John’ (bibere amorem S. Johannis) at Johannes Minne, the German celebration of the Feast Day of John the Apostle (27 Dec., see Meissner 1930, 239-40; Grimm 1854-1954: Minne f. 5, Johannes, Johannessegen; Benecke, Müller and Zarncke 1854-66: Minne stf. [strong f.] 1a).


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