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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Jónsdrápa — Gamlkan JóndrVII

Gamli kanóki

Beatrice La Farge 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Gamli kanóki, Jónsdrápa’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 133-6.


Four sts of Jónsdrápa Drápa about the Apostle John’ (Gamlkan Jóndr) composed by Gamli kanóki in honour of John the Apostle, to whom the fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation were traditionally attributed, are preserved in a sole ms., AM 649 a 4° (649a, c. 1350-1400), where they are quoted at the end of a version of Jóns saga postula (Jón4; on this ms., see Introduction to Ník Jóndr and Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 316). Three of the sts emphasise the special privileges granted to John; the fourth st. is a prayer for the forgiveness of sin.

In Jón4 the four sts are quoted in the same order as they appear below, with short explanations before each st. The sts are evidently extracts from a longer poem, as the remark made before the fourth st. quoted indicates: Nærr enda drápunnar setr bróðir Gamli bœnarform ... ‘Near the end of the drápa Brother Gamli places a st. in the form of a prayer ...’ (Jón4 1874, 511). Given the paucity of information, it is virtually impossible to make assertions about the content of the rest of this poem or about the position of the other three sts within it (see Lange 1958a, 83-4). The sts are composed in the metre hrynhent.

In Jón4 Gamli’s poem is twice called a drápa, hence the title used by previous eds and here as well. Since the name of the Apostle appears in st. 3 as Jón, this form has been adopted in the title, whereas Finnur Jónsson used the earlier form Jóan in Skj A and B.

Gamlkan Jóndr has been previously edited by Unger 1874 and, as an appendix to Unger’s edn of Jón4, by Sophus Bugge (1874, 933-4), as well as by Lange 1958a, Finnur Jónsson (Skj) and Kock (Skald).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Unger, C. R., ed. 1874. Postola sögur: Legendariske fortællinger om Apostlernes liv, deres kamp for kristendommens udbredelse, samt deres martyrdød. Christiania (Oslo): Bentzen.
  3. Bugge, Sophus, ed. 1874. ‘Anmærkingar ved de til Jons saga IV henhørende viser’. In Unger 1874, 932-6.
  4. Lange, Wolfgang. 1958a. Studien zur christlichen Dichtung der Nordgermanen 1000-1200. Palaestra 222. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  5. Internal references
  6. Not published: do not cite (GamlkanVII)

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