Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Drápa af Máríugrát — Anon MgrVII

Anonymous Poems

Kari Ellen Gade 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Drápa af Máríugrát’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 758-95.


Drápa af MáríugrátDrápa about the Lament of Mary’ (Anon Mgr) consists of 52 sts and is transmitted on pp. 123-9 of AM 713 4° (713) from the early C16th (see Kålund 1888-94, II, 128-31). Copies of the text of Mgr in 713 are found in two later mss, AM 1032 4°ˣ (1032ˣ) (on fols 57v-79v verso only, lacking st. 3) from the early C18th (by Árni Magnússon) and AM 920 4°ˣ (920ˣ) (on fols 205r-11r) from the C19th (by Steingrímur Thorsteinsson) (see Kålund 1888-94, II, 262, 299-300). The text in 713 is currently illegible in several places and both 1032ˣ and 920ˣ have been used selectively in the present edn, as has Skj A (713FJ). In 713, Mgr is recorded after Vísur af Máríu Magdalene IIVísur about Mary Magdalene II’ (see Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 91; ÍM II, 398-401) and before KátrínardrápaDrápa about S. Catherine’ (Kálf Kátr). The title of the poem, drapa af marív grat, is recorded in the right margin of 713 (p. 123, ll. 18-19) in the same hand as the main text, and this heading is given in 1032ˣ and 920ˣ. The title (Grátinn ‘the Lament’, lit. ‘the Weeping’) also occurs in the poem itself (st. 52/8). For earlier eds of Mgr, see Kahle (1898, 55-66, 103-5), (Sperber 1911, 30-42, 73-7), Wrightson (2001, 1-26), Skj (AII, 472-82; BII, 505-19) and Skald (II, 276-85).

Mgr is a stefjadrápa ‘poem with refrains’ that is divided into upphaf ‘beginning’ (sts 1-15), two stefjamál (or stefjabálkar or stefjamél) ‘refrain sections’ (sts 16-27, 28-36) and the slæmr ‘final section’ (sts 37-52). The two refrains (stef) occur at sts 16/5-8, 20/5-8, 24/5-8 (stef 1) and sts 28/5-8, 32/5-8, 36/5-8 (stef 2; see also Schottmann 1973, 507; Wrightson 1997a, 284-5). In 713, the refrains are first written out in full (sts 16, 28) and later given in abbreviated form (at sts 20, 24, 32, 36) each time marked by a cross in the right margin.

The content of Mgr falls into two parts. The poem opens with a prayer to God and Christ (sts 1-3), followed by the story of how the Virgin Mary appears before S. Augustine at his behest and laments to him the events that took place before, during, and after the Crucifixion of Christ (sts 4-39; see Wrightson 1997a, 285, 291). This section of the poem is presented as a dialogue between S. Augustine and Mary, interrupted by asides from the poet (at sts 8, 16, 19, 22, 24, 28, 31, 32, 36-7). At st. 40, the poet (or S. Augustine?) concludes with an admonition to his audience to recall the wounds of Christ with tears and to prostrate themselves in confession. The story of Mary and S. Augustine is transmitted in Máriu saga (Mar) where it is recorded in Holm perg 1 4° right after the end of Mar proper (see Mar 1871, 1003-12, no. cxciii: Sequitur planctus siue lamentacio beate Marie ‘Here follows the weeping or lament of Holy Mary’). A fragment of the same narrative is also found on two leaves from the first half of the C14th in AM 667 4° (see Mar 1871, xv-xviii; Kålund 1888-94, II, 78). The many verbal parallels between the prose texts and Mgr show that the poet undoubtedly used a version of the lament close to that of AM 667 4° (the text in Holm perg 1 4° is somewhat abbreviated; see Notes passim below for textual comparisons). The ultimate source of this Marian lament is Liber de passione Christi et doloribus et planctus Matris eius by the Italian abbot Ogerius de Locedio (1136-1214) (Mushacke 1890, 41-53; Auctor incertus, cols 1133-42; see also Kahle 1898, 8-11; Schottmann 1973, 504-7; Wrightson 1997a, 283-4; Wrightson 1997b, 687; Wrightson 2001, xix). The exact Lat. source of the Icel. prose version cannot be identified (see Schottmann 1973, 505-6).

The second part of Mgr (sts 41-7) is devoted to the five joys of Mary (the Conception, the Nativity, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Assumption of Mary) which Mary herself enumerates when she appears before an unnamed monk. The poem concludes with an admonition from the poet calling for repentance (st. 48) and with prayers to Christ and Mary (sts 48-52). The joys and sorrows of Mary in medieval literature are discussed in Schottmann (1973, 513-22). There are no known sources for the last part of Mgr, and it could have been added to counterbalance the lament narrated in the first section of the poem (see Schottmann 1973, 520). For a possible connection between Mgr and the later Dominican Rosary, see Wrightson 1997a.

Mgr is anonymous, but the poet appears to have been a cleric composing for a learned monastic audience (see Wrightson 1997b). The language of the poem is consistent with a late C14th or early C15th date of composition (see Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 41; Kahle 1898, 3; LH III, 16; Wrightson 2001, xvii-iii). Mgr is composed in hrynhent metre, more specifically, in liljulag (see Anon Lil). Verbal correspondences suggest that the poet must have been familiar with such earlier poems as Leiðarvísan ‘Way Guidance’ (Anon Leið) and Lilja ‘Lily’ (Anon Lil) (see Notes to 3/5-6, 14/1-4, 45/2, 45/3, 49/1-4, 57/4; see also LH III, 17; Schottmann 1973, 507; Wrightson 2001, xvii).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj A = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15a. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. A: Tekst efter håndskrifterne. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1967. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Schottmann, Hans. 1973. Die isländische Mariendichtung. Untersuchungen zur volkssprachigen Mariendichtung des Mittelalters. Münchner germanistische Beiträge 9. Munich: Fink.
  5. Sperber, Hans, ed. 1911. Sechs isländische Gedichte legendarischen Inhalts. Uppsala Universitets årsskrift, filosofi, språkvetenskap och historiska vetenskaper 2. Uppsala: Akademische Buchdruckerei Edv. Berling.
  6. Wrightson, Kellinde. 1997a. ‘Drápa af Maríugrát, the Joys and Sorrows of the Virgin and Christ, and the Dominican Rosary’. SBVS 24, 283-92.
  7. Wrightson, Kellinde, ed. 2001. Fourteenth-Century Icelandic Verse on the Virgin Mary: Drápa af Maríugrát, Vitnisvísur af Maríu, Maríuvísur I-III. Viking Society for Northern Research Text Series 14. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  8. Mushacke, Wilhelm, ed. 1890. Altprovenzalische Marienklage des xiii. Jahrhunderts. Romanische Bibliothek 3. Halle: Niemeyer.
  9. ÍM = Jón Helgason, ed. 1936-8. Íslenzk miðaldarkvæði: Islandske digte fra senmiddelalderen. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  10. Jón Þorkelsson [J. Thorkelsson]. 1888. Om digtningen på Island i det 15. og 16. århundrede. Copenhagen: Høst & søns forlag.
  11. Kahle, Bernhard, ed. 1898. Isländische geistliche Dichtungen des ausgehenden Mittelalters. Heidelberg: Winter.
  12. Kålund, Kristian. 1888-94. Katalog over den Arnamagnæanske håndskriftsamling. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  13. LH = Finnur Jónsson. 1920-4. Den oldnorske og oldislandske litteraturs historie. 3 vols. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Gad.
  14. Internal references
  15. Kirsten Wolf 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Kálfr Hallsson, Kátrínardrápa’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 931-64.
  16. Katrina Attwood 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Leiðarvísan’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 137-78.
  17. 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.

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