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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anonymous Lausavísur (Anon)

III. 2. Stanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise (FoGT) - 47

not in Skj

2.3: Stanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise — Anon (FoGT)III

Margaret Clunies Ross 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Stanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 570.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47 

Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII]: D. 3. Vers af den 4. grt. afhandling (AII, 214-19, BII, 231-6); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

in texts: FoGT, Gramm, LaufE, LaufE

SkP info: III, 570

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


There are forty-seven anonymous stanzas or parts of stanzas (Anon FoGT) in the Fourth Grammatical Treatise (FoGT), cited by the author to exemplify various rhetorical figures. They are not attributed to any specific poem or poet. In addition, at least two stanzas, and quite probably a third, belong to an anonymous poem named as NikulásdrápaDrápa of Nicholas’ by the author of the treatise (see Introduction to Anon Nikdr). There are sixty-two stanzas in FoGT overall, making the anonymous stanzas by far the major proportion of the poetry cited (50/62 stanzas or just over 80%). Björn Magnússon Ólsen (FoGT 1884, lxxvi) considered that the forty-seven anonymous stanzas unattributed to either poet or poem were most likely to be the work of the author of the treatise, and more recent opinion has tended to agree with this view, although Finnur Jónsson (LH II, 924-5) doubted that all were the author’s work, as did Jón Helgason (1970). Until recently, very little work had been done on the majority of these stanzas, either with regard to their technique, subject-matter and approach, or with reference to the function they have in the treatise as a whole. There are some exceptions to this generalisation, and these more detailed studies will be mentioned in the Notes to individual stanzas.

In his edition (Skj) Finnur Jónsson divided the anonymous stanzas into two groups, depending on whether they were, in his judgement, ‘religious and moralising stanzas’ (religiøse og moraliserende vers) or more secular poetry. This somewhat questionable division (retained by Kock in Skald) has not been followed in the present edition; instead, the anonymous stanzas are edited together in the order in which they appear in FoGT, and the place of the non-anonymous stanzas in the whole sequence is indicated below, on the ground that this may be important in understanding the cohesion of the whole treatise, both prose and poetry.

The full sequence is as follows: Þjsk Hákdr 2I; Eviðs Lv 7V; Anon (FoGT) 1-3; Anon Nikdr 1; Anon (FoGT) 4-14; SnSt Lv 6; Ólhv Thómdr 1-2; Anon (FoGT) 15-16; Bragi Rdr 3; Anon Nikdr 2-3; Anon (FoGT) 17; Þskúm Lv 1I; Ekúl Frag; Anon (FoGT) 18-20; Arn Hryn 3II; Anon (FoGT) 21-2; SnSt Ht 14 and 12; Anon (FoGT) 23-41; ESk Lv 13; Anon (FoGT) 42-7.

FoGT is extant only in W, where it is found on pp. 111-19 of the ms.’s seventh gathering, immediately following the end of TGT. Johansson (1997) provides a close codicological analysis of the ms. and its components, including FoGT  (ibid., 56-9, 207-8). He shows that the compilation, of which FoGT is a part, is unlikely to have been written for the first time in W, suggesting that W is a copy of an earlier compilation, and that the scribe of W and the redactor of the ms. were two different men. An analysis of the poetry of FoGT certainly supports this view, and indicates that the scribe sometimes made mistakes in his copying which an author or compiler would be unlikely to make.

Ms. W contains not only all four parts of SnE, although Ht is separated from the other three parts, but also all four major grammatical treatises, together with a unique Prologue to them, and various other texts (see Table 1 in Johansson 1997, 29). Both the character of the SnE text in W, being more expansive and learned than the other medieval exemplars, and the completeness of W’s record of the grammatical literature, which is clearly presented as a package introduced by a Prologue that many consider the work of the author of FoGT, who may also have been the compiler of W (Sverrir Tómasson 1993), indicate that W was the product of a scholarly environment in which both foreign and indigenous learning was cultivated. Clearly also, those who produced W were particularly interested in both the practice of poetry and its analysis.

The author of FoGT is unknown, as is the provenance of W. However, beginning with Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SnE 1848-87, II, 190-1 n. 1; cf. FoGT 1884, lxxvii-lxxx), the suggestion has been made that the author of FoGT and the redactor of W may have been Bergr Sokkason, who became a monk in the Benedictine monastery of Þingeyrar in Húnavatnssýsla (established 1133) in 1316 or 1317 (Sverrir Tómasson 1982, 26, 162). He also studied at the only other Benedictine monastery in Iceland, Munka-Þverá, and was appointed abbot there in 1325. The date of Bergr’s death is not known for certain (Foote 1959b, 24-5 and nn. 57-9). Þingeyrar is known to have been a centre of literary activity and textual production in the fourteenth century, and Bergr himself is known to have composed a Nikulás saga erkibiskups and other works (Sverrir Tómasson 1982). FoGT cites three helmingar from a drápa about S. Nicholas (Anon Nikdr), thus showing a parallel interest in this popular saint. There are other possible authors of FoGT, however, also associated with the two northern Benedictine monasteries, of whom the most likely candidate is Árni Lárentíusson, born c. 1304 (cf. Johansson 1997, 10-18). Although the evidence for W’s being compiled at Þingeyrar is almost entirely circumstantial, it is persuasive; the evidence supporting the authorship of Bergr Sokkason is somewhat less persuasive.

The date of FoGT cannot be later than the date of W, determined by most scholars on palaeographical grounds to c. 1350, and it is likely to be at least a decade or so earlier than the date of production of the ms. The terminus post quem is likely provided by Anon (FoGT) 7, which probably refers to a fire at Skálholt cathedral in 1309 during the reign of a certain King Hákon, probably Hákon háleggr ‘Long-leg’ Magnússon (r. 1299-1319). On the date of the treatise, see most recently FoGT 2004, 26-8, where a date between 1332-40 is considered most plausible. The author of FoGT knows and refers to TGT (c. 1250) and the way in which the two treatises appear one after the other in W suggests that FoGT was conceived both by its author and the redactor of W (whether or not these were one and the same man) as a continuation and update of the earlier work. To the extent that many of the stanzas cited have a strongly religious dimension, the author of FoGT may have seen himself as consciously expanding the scope of poetic commentary in Icelandic beyond what was hinted at in TGT. Many of the anonymous stanzas, if they are the work of the author of the treatise or a colleague, are likely to date from the period c. 1330-45 and are thus more or less contemporary with such poems as Anon LilVII and Arngr GdIV (the latter securely dated to 1345).

The Latin sources of the prose parts of the text are mainly a section called ‘de figuris grammaticis’ appended to ch. 12 of Alexander of Villa Dei’s Doctrinale (c. 1199), including four figures, brachylogia, climax, sinacriamos and teretema, which were defined in chs 1-4 of the Graecismus of Évrard of Béthune (a little before 1212). Additional Latin sources and analogues are discussed in the Notes to individual stanzas. The Latin background to FoGT is discussed in detail in the Introduction and Commentary to FoGT 2014.

Although there is little evidence of FoGT’s influence after the Middle Ages, it was evidently known to and used by Magnús Ólafsson in the early seventeenth century. He reproduces five stanzas from FoGT in his Laufás Edda of 1609. Three of these were Anon (FoGT) 4, 6 and 30, and, of these, sts 4 and 6 were also used in Resen’s Edda Islandorum of 1665 in comparable prose environments. The other two stanzas used by Magnús, and also by Resen, were Þskúm Lv1I (FoGT 27) and ESk Lv 13 (FoGT 56). Magnús also reproduced parts of two passages of the prose text of FoGT, the excursus on þokumenn ‘fogmen’ after Anon (FoGT) 30 and parts of FoGT’s prose discussion of Bragi Rdr 3 (FoGT 23); see further LaufE 1979, 160-1, 179, 250-2, 358, 364, 380 and 386. Both LaufE and RE 1665 are copies of W and have no independent value. Hence neither compilation is included in the present edition.

To date there have been six editions of FoGT. The first was that of Rasmus Rask (1818a, 335-53) in his edition of SnE, the second that of Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SnE 1848, 200-12) and the third the Arnamagnæan Commission’s edition (SnE 1848-87, II, 190-249; III, 153-63), whose editor-in-chief was Jón Sigurðsson, but to which Sveinbjörn contributed the facing Latin translation and a number of Latin notes. The fourth edition (FoGT 1884) was by Björn Magnússon Ólsen, and this includes an Introduction, notes to the text and separate interpretations of some of the stanzas. The fifth is the doctoral dissertation of Michele Longo (FoGT 2004), which includes an Italian translation and commentary on the text, including that of the poetry.  Longo’s edition is not, however, based on a fresh transcript of W, but uses SnE 1848-87, II as its base text for the most part.  A new edition (FoGT 2014) by Margaret Clunies Ross and Jonas Wellendorf has been published recently. The stanzas have been edited separately by Finnur Jónsson (Skj AII, 163-7 and 214-19; Skj BII, 180-5 and 231-6) and by E. A. Kock (Skald II, 94-6 and 120-2). Only the third, fourth, fifth and sixth editions have been cited routinely here, alongside Skj and Skald. All citations of material from the prose parts of FoGT have been taken from the diplomatic text of FoGT 1884. All stanzas are normalised to fourteenth-century standards.

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