Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.



Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

Menu Search

Note to Anon Lil 33VII

[All]: It is significant that the birth of Jesus is reported in st. 33: thirty-three was believed to be the age of Jesus when he died and was regarded as a sacred number (Curtius 1953, 505; Tschirch 1966, 167-87). It is likewise significant that the section on the life of Jesus concludes thirty-three sts later in st. 66 (Hill 1970, 564). The image of the Incarnation as a sunbeam shining through glass is a commonplace in medieval homiletic and liturgical literature. It occurs in both the Icel. and Norw. homily books (HómÍsl 1993, 3r-v; HómNo, 133), as well as in the ON poem Rósa (ÍM I.2, 20, st. 64) where the simile emphasizes the Divinity shining through and pervading Mary’s transparent humanity. There is a closer parallel to Lil in Mar 1871, 28: Dróttinn kom at vera með móþur sinni at luktum kviði ok óbrugðnum liðum ... sem þá er hugr líðr or briósti mannz at samanhölldnum ok luktum munni ok óbrugðnum vörrum, eða sólar geisli skínn í gegnum rauflaust gler. ‘the Lord came to be with his mother in her closed womb and with her virginity intact ... as when a thought goes forth from a man’s breast, though his mouth is closed and his lips are not used, or as when a ray of sunlight shines through glass that remains intact’. In the first book of S. Birgitta’s Revelations (c. 1340). Jesus says to Birgitta: Ego sum creator celi et terre, unus in deitate cum Patre et Spiritu sancto, ego, qui prophetis et patriarchis loquebar et quem ipsi expectabant. Ob quorum desiderium et iuxta promissionem meam assumpsi carnem sine peccato et concupiscencia ingrediens viscera virginea tamquam sol splendens per lapidem mundissimum. Quia sicut sol vitrum ingrediendo non ledit, sic nec virginitas Virginis in assumpcione humanitatis mee corrupta est ‘I am the Creator of heaven and earth, one in divinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, I, who the prophets and patriarchs proclaimed and who they awaited. Because of their longing and according to my promise, I took on flesh without sin or concupiscence and entered the virgin womb like the sun shining through pure crystal. Because just as sun passes through glass and does not harm it, the virginity of the Virgin was not destroyed by her assumption of my humanity’ (Undhagen and Jönsson 1977-2001, I.1, 241) Splendor Patris et Figura, a sequence attributed to Adam of S.-Victor, contains the verse: Si crystallus sit humecta / Atque soli sit objecta, / Scintillat igniculum: / Nec crystallus rumpitur, / Nec in partu solvitur / Pudoris signaculum ‘If crystal should be moist and placed in the sun, a spark flashes. But the crystal is not shattered, and neither is the seal of chastity [or the chaste one] broken in giving birth’ (Gautier 1894, 10; AH 54,154). Cf. also the hymn by Peter Pictor: Lumen lucens Patris de lumine / Christus homo prodit de Virgine, / Sic ingressus et egressus per aulam uirgineam / Vt sol splendens nec incendens per fenestram uitream, / Cum nec uitrum splendor solis / Neque matrem causa prolis / Violet ingrediens / Nec corrumpat exiens ‘Light illuminating with the light of the Father, Christ the man was born of the Virgin, his entry and his going out of the virginal hall was as sunlight shining through a glass window, but not disturbing it. For just as the splendor of the sun neither violates glass as it enters, nor breaks it as it leaves, so it is with the offspring and the mother’ (van Acker 1972, 119; AH 20, 121). The hymn Sol, crystallus by Hildebert of Lavardin (Scott 2001, 54-5) develops this theme extensively, and John Bromyard discusses it in his widely circulated Summa Praedicantium (Bromyard 1518, 199v-200r).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Acker, L. van, ed. 1972. Petri Pictoris Carmina. CCCM 25.
  3. AH = Dreves, G. M., C. Blume and H. M. Bannister, eds. 1886-1922. Analecta hymnica medii aeui. 55 vols. Leipzig: Reisland. Rpt. 1961. New York: Johnson.
  4. Bromyard, John. 1518. Summa Praedicantium. Nuremburg: Joh. Stuchs.
  5. Curtius, Ernst R. 1953. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Bollingen Ser. 36. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Originally published 1948. Europäische literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter. Bern: Francke.
  6. Scott, Brian, ed. 2001. [Hildebert of Lavardin] Hildebertus Cenomannensis Episcopus Carmina Minora. Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana. 2nd edn. Munich: Saur.
  7. Tschirch, Fritz. 1966. Spiegelungen: Untersuchungen vom Grenzrain zwischen Germanistik und Theologie. Berlin: Schmidt.
  8. Undhagen, Carl-Gustaf and Ann-Mari Jönsson, eds. 1977-2001. Sancta Birgitta Revelaciones. 3 vols. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien. Samlingar utgivna av Svenska fornskriftsällskapet. Serie 2. Latinska skrifter 7:1-3. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.
  9. Gautier, Léon, ed. 1894. Œuvres Poétiques d’Adam de Saint-Victor. 3rd edn. Paris: Picard.
  10. Hill, Thomas D. 1970. ‘Number and patterns in Lilja’. JEGP 69, 516-7.
  11. HómÍsl 1993 = de Leeuw van Weenen, Andrea, ed. 1993. The Icelandic Homily Book: Perg. 15 4° in the Royal Library, Stockholm. Íslensk handrit/Icelandic Manuscripts Series in quarto 3. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi.
  12. HómNo = Indrebø, Gustav. 1931. Gamal norsk homiliebok, Cod. AM 619, 4°. Det norske historiske Kjeldeskrift Fond, Skrifter 54. Oslo: Dybwad. Rpt. 1966. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
  13. ÍM = Jón Helgason, ed. 1936-8. Íslenzk miðaldarkvæði: Islandske digte fra senmiddelalderen. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  14. Internal references
  15. Martin Chase 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Lilja’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 544-677.


Log in

This service is only available to members of the relevant projects, and to purchasers of the skaldic volumes published by Brepols.
This service uses cookies. By logging in you agree to the use of cookies on your browser.