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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Anon Lil 93VII

[All]: Sts 93 and 94 form a single long sentence and continue the topos of inexpressibility: the schema ‘the whole earth sings his praise’ was a favourite form of this topos (Curtius 1953, 161). The vocabulary of these sts is reminiscent of a Marian verse attributed to Peter Comestor and recorded in a ms. of Mar (Holm1, printed in Mar 1871, 686; for another version see AH 32, 206 and PL 198:1045). Paasche and Schottmann find the correspondence so close that they assume that these sts are directly related to the Lat. poem (Paasche 1957, 535; Schottmann 1973, 198): Si fieri posset, quod arene, puluis et unde, / Sudorum gutte, rosa, gemme, lilia, flamme, / Ethera, celicole, nix, grando, sexus uterque, / Ventorum penne, volucrum, pecudum genus omne, / Siluarum rami frondes, avium quoque penne, / Ros, gramen, stelle, pisces, angues, et ariste, / Et lapides, montes, conualles, terra, dracones, / Lingue cuncta forent, minime depromere possent, / Que sis vel quanta uirgo regina Maria. / Que tua sit pietas, nec littera nec dabit etas. / Tanto compluit hanc diues natura decore, / Unde mirata fuit, nil superesse sibi. / Labem nec maculam natura reliquit in ista, / Ad caput a planta transuolat iste decor, / Colla, supercilia, coma, frons, oculi, gena, nasus, / Os, dens, labra, manus, pes sine labe nitent ‘If it could be possible that sand, dust, and wave, drops of moisture, rose, lily, flames, air, heavenly dwellings, snow, hail, both sexes, wings of the winds, flying creatures, every kind of cattle, leafy branches, birds, dew, grass, stars, fish, serpents, and ears of grain, and rocks, mountains, valleys, earth, dragons, all could be tongues, they would hardly be able to express what and how great you are, virgin queen Mary; there could be neither words nor time enough to tell the extent of your piety. The wealth of nature flows together to this end with such splendour, that it is amazed that it does not become superfluous in itself. Nature allows no blemish or stain to remain in that woman, splendour spreads over her from head to foot, neck, eyebrows, hair, forehead, eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, teeth, lips, hands, feet shine without blemish’ (Mar 1871, 686). There is an interesting analogue in the Egerer Fronleichnamsspiel, where the topos is placed in the mouth of the newly fallen Lucifer to emphasize the enormity of his loss (Milchsack 1881, 8-9).


  1. Bibliography
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Schottmann, Hans. 1973. Die isländische Mariendichtung. Untersuchungen zur volkssprachigen Mariendichtung des Mittelalters. Münchner germanistische Beiträge 9. Munich: Fink.
  5. Milchsack, Gustav, ed. 1881. Egerer Fronleichnamsspiel. Bibliothek des Litterarischen Vereins in Stuttgart 156. Tübingen: Des Litterarischer Verein in Stuttgart.
  6. Paasche, Fredrik. 1957. Norges og Islands litteratur indtil utgangen av middelalderen. 2nd, rev. edn by Anne Holtsmark. Oslo: Aschehoug.


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