Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Máríuvísur I — Anon Mv IVII

Anonymous Poems

Kari Ellen Gade 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Máríuvísur I’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 678-700.


Máríuvísur IVísur about Mary I’ (Anon Mv I) consists of twenty-nine sts and narrates a miracle of the Virgin Mary (for other skaldic poems in this genre, see Introduction to Vitn). The poem is preserved in one ms., AM 721 4° (721) from the early C16th, where it is recorded on fols 12v-13v, directly following Vitnisvísur af Máríu ‘Testimonial vísur about Mary’ (Anon Vitn) and preceding Máríuvísur IIVísur about Mary II’ (Anon Mv II) (see Kålund 1889-94, II, 149-50; Introduction to Vitn). Mv I is also transmitted on fols 81v-94v (verso only) in an early C18th copy of 721, AM 1032 4° (1032ˣ) by Árni Magnússon (Kålund 1889-94, II, 299-300). Because the text of Mv I in 721 is now illegible in many places, both 1032ˣ and Skj A (721FJ) have been used selectively in the present edn. No medieval title of the poem has been transmitted, but the heading Gúð [or Gúd] sijner sakleijse fyrer ma̋tt Mariu Meyar ‘God shows innocence on account of the power of the Virgin Mary’, is recorded on the top of fol. 10v in 712. For earlier eds of Mv I, see Kahle (1898, 31-7, 97-9), Sperber (1911, 1-8, 56-61), Wrightson (2001, 40-54), Skj (AII, 487-92; BII, 526-32) and Skald (II, 288-92).

Mv I opens with an invocation to God (st. 1) followed by a prayer to S. Andrew (st. 2) and the narrative of the Marian miracle (sts 3-26). The poem ends with praise of the Virgin Mary and a final plea to Mary for mercy (sts 26-9; for structural similarities to other poems, see Introduction to Vitn). The Marian miracle described in Mv I (see Schottmann 1973, 360-7; ‘Stepmother and Stepson’, Widding 1996, 93; ‘Mother-in-Law and Son-in-Law’, Wrightson 2001, xx-xxii; see also Wrightson 1995, 87-8, 94) concerns a widow, devoted to the Virgin Mary, who is falsely rumoured to have a sexual relationship with her son-in-law (sts 3-6). When the woman becomes aware of this allegation, she has her son-in-law killed (sts 7-9). During a quarrel between the woman and her confessor, the priest becomes so enraged that he breaks his confidentiality and reports her crime in public, upon which the woman is convicted of murder and is sentenced to be burned alive (sts 10-13). Prior to the execution of the sentence, she is allowed to visit the Church of Mary where she repents of her sins and asks the Virgin for clemency (sts 14-18). When the executioners twice attempt to burn her alive, the woman emerges unscathed from the fire on both occasions (sts 19-24), and she is pardoned for her crime (sts 25-6).

Two versions of this miracle, which is widely attested in Lat. compendia of Marian miracles (see Schottmann 1973, 360-1; Widding 1996, 20-1, 63; Wrightson 2001, xxi-xxii), are recorded in prose in Maríu saga (Mar 1871, 277-9, no. 84: Ein kona var frelst fra elldz pinv fyrir vara frv ‘A woman was saved from the torment of fire because of Our Lady’; Mar 1871, 1201-4, no. lx: Konu atti at brenna, er drap mag sinn ‘A woman was sentenced to be burned because she killed her son-in-law’). The text of Mar no. 84 ultimately derives from Auctarium Ursicampinum by Sigebert of Gembloux (Sigebertus Gemblacensis, col. 405), while Mar no. lx shows correspondences with Guibert de Nogent’s Liber de Laude Sanctae Mariae (Guibertus S. Mariae de Novigento, cols 564-8). Both of these texts are C12th compositions from Northern France (see Schottmann 1973, 361; Widding 1996, 20-1; Wrightson 2001, xxi). There are close textual correspondences between Mv I and Mar no. 84, which suggests that the poet had direct access to that version of the miracle. He also availed himself of Guibert de Nogent’s compendium, most likely in an ON adaptation of the Lat. text (see the textual parallels given in Schottmann 1973, 361-3; see also the Notes passim below). Because the loanword affíni (from Lat. affīnis) ‘son-in-law’ occurs in st. 8/8, Kahle (1898, 7) concluded that the poet must have used a Lat. version of the miracle, but that is unlikely (see Schottmann 1973, 362).

Mv I is composed in dróttkvætt metre with some late, irregular features, and the language of the poem suggests a late C14th or early C15th date of composition (see Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 41; Kahle 1898, 3; LH III, 16; Schottmann 1973, 351-2; Wrightson 2001, xvii-xviii). For a discussion of the poet and the possible connections between Vitn, Mv I and Mv II-III, see Introduction to Vitn.


  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. 1995. ‘Marian Miracles in Old Icelandic Skaldic Poetry’. In Burge et al. 1995, 87-99.
  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. Jón Þorkelsson [J. Thorkelsson]. 1888. Om digtningen på Island i det 15. og 16. århundrede. Copenhagen: Høst & søns forlag.
  9. Kahle, Bernhard, ed. 1898. Isländische geistliche Dichtungen des ausgehenden Mittelalters. Heidelberg: Winter.
  10. LH = Finnur Jónsson. 1920-4. Den oldnorske og oldislandske litteraturs historie. 3 vols. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Gad.
  11. Internal references
  12. Kari Ellen Gade 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Vitnisvísur af Máríu’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 739-57.
  13. Not published: do not cite ()

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