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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Anon Líkn 43VII

[All]: The address of Christ from the Cross is a topos of medieval poetry on the Passion, though this is the only instance in skaldic poetry. The address usually takes the form of a complaint; Christ calls attention to his suffering and reproaches his people (or an individual) for being ungrateful, often exhorting to repentance (see Woolf 1968, 36-44). An example is a C13th lyric by Philip the Chancellor, Homo vide, quae pro te patior ‘O man, see what things I suffer for you’ (AH 21, 10) in which Christ calls upon the listener, for whom he is dying, to behold his sufferings, the nails with which he is pierced, and to consider that however great his physical torment may be, his inward anguish is yet greater because of ingratitude. An influential early instance in which Christ evokes the torments of the Cross while accusing man of ingratitude is Caesarius of Arles’ (C6th) Sermo 57 (Morin 1953, 253-4). Ultimately the topos derives from Old Testament sentences which were interpreted as the speech of Christ: Popule meus, quid feci tibi? ‘O my people, what have I done to you’ (Mic. VI.3), O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus ‘O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see whether there be any sorrow like to my sorrow’ (Lam. I.12), and Quid est quod debui ultra facere? ‘What is there that I ought to do more? (Isa. V.4). The first of these, Popule meus (cf. þjóð mín ‘my people’ 45/1), recurs throughout the Reproaches (improperia) which accompany the Adoration of the Cross in Good Friday liturgy, and the third occurs in the same context. The second is found in the Hours of the Passion, attr. Bonaventure (C13th), attested in Iceland in the early C14th AM 241 a fol (Gjerløw 1980, I, 217). On the liturgy for Good Friday more generally see Notes to st. 30.


  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. Woolf, Rosemary. 1968. The English Religious Lyric in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Clarendon.
  4. Gjerløw, Lilli. 1980. Liturgica Islandica. 2 vols. BA 35-6. Copenhagen: Reitzel.
  5. Morin, Germain, ed. 1953. [Caesarius Arelatensis] Sermones. CCSL 103.


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