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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Máríuvísur III — Anon Mv IIIVII

Anonymous Poems

Kari Ellen Gade 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Máríuvísur III’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 718-38.


Máríuvísur IIIVísur about Mary III’ (Anon Mv III) consists of 30 sts. The poem is preserved on fols 15v-16v in an early C16th vellum, AM 721 4° (721; see Kålund 1888-94, II, 149-50). It is also found on fols 143v-157v (verso only) in AM 1032ˣ (1032ˣ), a copy of 721 by Árni Magnússon (early C18th; see Kålund 1898-94, II, 299-300). In 721, Mv III directly follows Allra postula minnisvísur ‘Celebratory Vísur about all the Apostles’ (Anon Alpost) and precedes a later poem about S. Peter (Pétursdiktur ‘S. Peter’s poem’; see Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 64, 280-3). Because the text of Mv III in 721 is damaged in numerous places, both 1032ˣ and Skj A (721FJ) have been used selectively in the present edn. No medieval title of the poem survives, but the heading Krapta verk sællrar Mariu ‘A miracle of blessed Mary’ has been added at the top of 721 (16r) in a later hand. For previous eds, see Kahle (1898, 43-9, 100-2), Sperber (1911, 15-22, 64-9), Wrightson (2001, 67-81), Skj (AII, 496-500; BII, 538-45) and Skald (II, 295-9).

Structurally, Mv III follows Vitnisvísur af Máríu ‘Testimonial Vísur about Mary’ (Anon Vitn) and Máríuvísur I-IIVísur about Mary I-II’ (Mv I, Mv II; see Introduction to Vitn). The poem opens with a prayer to God (st. 1) and an invocation to S. Andrew (st. 2), followed by the narrative of the miracle (sts 3-26) and a prayer to Mary and plea for mercy (sts. 27-30). The miracle told in the poem, known variously as ‘The Drowned Sacristan’ (Widding 1996, 93) or ‘Ave on the Tongue’ (Wrightson 2001, xx; see also Wrightson 1995, 88, 91-3), is recorded frequently in Lat. and vernacular Marian collections (see Schottmann 1973, 368-9; Wrightson 2001, xxi), and it is given as no. 8 in the so-called TS (Toledo-Samstag) collection (from C12th England; Neuhaus 1886, 58-60). It is preserved in prose in Maríu saga (Mar 1871, 604-8, no. xlv: Fra klerk einvm ‘About a certain cleric’), and a late, fragmentary poetic version is found on fols 2r-2v in AM 720 a 4° (see Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 55; Kålund 1888-94, II, 144-7; ÍM II, 119-21). The miracle concerns a cleric who is devoted to Mary but leads a life of debauchery (sts 3-5). Every night he crosses a mighty river to visit his mistress, but on one occasion the strong current causes the cleric’s boat to sink, and he drowns while reciting the Hail Mary (sts 6-9). A flock of devils claims his soul, but the Virgin intercedes and summons his case before Christ (sts 10-20). When the cleric’s mouth is opened, the first words of the Hail Mary are found written on his tongue, and he is redeemed by Christ and Mary and allowed to return to an earthly existence (sts 20-6). The text of Mv III shows verbal correspondences with the prose version in Mar 1871 (see Notes passim below), and it is unlikely that the poet availed himself of a Lat. version of the miracle (but see Schottmann 1973, 370-1).

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; Schottmann 1973, 351-2; Wrightson 2001, xvii-xviii) but seems to represent a somewhat earlier stage than the language of Vitn and Mv I-II. For a discussion of the poet and the possible connections between Vitn, Mv I and Mv II, Mv III, see Introduction to Vitn. The metre is hálfhnept ‘half-curtailed’. For Kock’s metrical reconstructions of Mv III (Kock 1933, 279-94) and the references in Skald to the paragraphs in Metr. (retained in the present edn), see Introduction to Mv II.


  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. Neuhaus, Carl, ed. 1886. Adgars Marienlegenden nach der Londoner Handschrift Egerton 612 zum ersten Mal vollständig. Altfranzosische Bibliothek 9. Heilbronn: Henninger.
  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. Ian McDougall 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Allra postula minnisvísur’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 852-71.
  16. 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.
  17. Kari Ellen Gade 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Máríuvísur II’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 701-17.
  18. 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.
  19. Not published: do not cite ()

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