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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Heil 5VII

Kirsten Wolf (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Heilagra manna drápa 5’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 876-7.

Anonymous PoemsHeilagra manna drápa

text and translation

Eina skulu vier Einglands krúnu
upp rísandi heiðra og prísa,
Játmund kóng, er unni drottni
einarðliga með lífi hreinu.
Líkama sinn, er lostann rækir,
leggr í sinn meðal kvenna tveggja;
völdug fljóð í vatnið kalda
vendu honum, þegar freistni kendi.

Skulu vier heiðra og prísa eina upp rísandi krúnu Einglands, Játmund kóng, er einarðliga unni drottni með hreinu lífi. Leggr sinn líkama, er rækir lostann, meðal tveggja kvenna í sinn; völdug fljóð vendu, honum í kalda vatnið, þegar kendi freistni.
‘We shall honour and praise the one rising crown of England, King Edmund, who sincerely loved the Lord with a pure life. He lays his body, which desires the lust of the flesh, between two women at the same time; the powerful women placed him in cold water when he experienced temptation.

notes and context

Sts 5-8 celebrate S. Edmund, King of the East Angles (d. 869, given as 870 by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and by Ari Þorgilsson in Íslendingabók, written c. 1130). For his life, see Gransden 2004. Edmund was venerated as a martyr because he died fighting heathen Danish Vikings, his killer being identified by Ari as Ívarr, son of Ragnarr loðbrók. Ari records that Edmund’s martyrdom is ritit … í sǫgu hans ‘written in his saga’ (ÍF 1, 1.4), but no other evidence of an Icel. saga about Edmund exists, so Ari may be referring to the earliest Lat. life of Edmund, by Abbo of Fleury, written c. 985-7 (Winterbottom 1972) or possibly to Abbot Ælfric’s vernacular life, c. 1000, based on Abbo’s (Needham 1966, 43-59). Ari used Edmund’s death date as the basis for his reckoning of the beginning of the settlement of Iceland. Evidence for his cult seems to be confined to the church at Lögmannshlíð in the north of Iceland, where there was an image of him in C14th; Cormack (1994, 94) hypothesises that this may have been because people in this area would have considered they could trace their ancestry back to Edmund via Guðmundr the powerful (cf. Stu 1906-11, I, 53). Fell (1981a, 101) indicates that Edmund’s cult may have been first established in Norway, and passed from there to Iceland. — [5-8]: There does not appear to be any parallel for either Edmund’s repression of lust or his mortification of the flesh (see st. 6) in the English, Lat. and French lives (McKeehan 1972). What is claimed in st. 6 about Edmund’s secret mortification of the flesh while outwardly indulging in expensive showy clothes is a feature of the life of Thomas Becket and may possibly have been attracted from there to the sts about Edmund.


Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: [Anonyme digte og vers XIV], [B. 10]. Af et digt om hellige mænd 5: AII, 512, BII, 563-4, Skald II, 309; Kahle 1898, 91, 112.


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