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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Heildr 11VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Heilags anda drápa 11’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 460-1.

Anonymous PoemsHeilags anda drápa

text and translation

Kom nú, hreinskapaðr himna,
hlutvandr föður andi;
yðvarra frem, errinn,
alsælan hug þræla.
Himneskrar fremr háska
hjálp unnin* miskunnar
gumna brjóst í grimmum
guðs kraptr, þau er þú skaptir.

Kom nú, hreinskapaðr himna, hlutvandr andi föður; errinn, frem alsælan hug yðvarra þræla. Guðs kraptr, hjálp himneskrar miskunnar, unnin* í grimmum háska, fremr brjóst gumna, þau er þú skaptir.
‘Come now, pure creator of the heavens, upright spirit of the father; powerful one, further the altogether-blessed minds [lit. mind] of your servants. God’s power, help of heavenly mercy, won in terrible danger, strengthen the breasts [lit. breast] of men, which you created.

notes and context

Einar Ólafur Sveinsson (1942) pointed out that sts 11-16 are a direct and close translation of the C9th Lat. Pentecost hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (AH 50, 193, no. 144), which is sometimes attributed to Hrabanus Maurus. The Lat. text is often useful in interpreting B. The first helmingr of st. 11 corresponds to the first two ll. of the hymn: Veni, creator spiritus, / mentes tuorum visita ‘Come, creator spirit, visit the minds of your [people]’. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) interprets what are presented here as two independent periphrases for the Holy Spirit as a single one, hreinskapaðr, hlutvandr andi himna fǫður ‘purely-created, honest spirit of the father of the heavens’, but this seems far from the Lat. original, as Einar Ólafur pointed out (1942, 143). — [5-8]: This helmingr corresponds loosely to ll. 3-4 of the first st. of the Lat. hymn: imple superna gratia, / quae tu creasti, pectora ‘fill the breasts, which you created, with celestial grace’. It is difficult to make sense of B’s text here, and considerable emendation has been necessary. B’s ‘spaktir’ (l. 8) is clearly a scribal error, and 399a-bˣ’s skaptir is undoubtedly correct. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends to himneskum krapt* ‘with heavenly power’ (dat.) (ll. 5, 8), which he takes with fremr, 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of fremja ‘to promote, further’, translated as styrker ‘[he] strengthens’. Finnur construes the helmingr: unnin hjálp miskunnar guðs fremr himneskum krapt, þeims þú skaptir, gumna brjóst í grimmum háska ‘the accomplished help of the mercy of God strengthens with heavenly power, which you created, men’s hearts (lit. ‘breasts’) in cruel danger’. Rydberg (1907, 47) retains B’s kraptr ‘power’ (nom.) (l. 8), but emends to himneskra (gen. pl.). He treats the helmingr as an apostrophe to God, the ‘help of mercy’: Guðs unninn kraptr fremr brjóst himneskra gumna í grimmum háska, þeim er þú skaptir, hjálp miskunnar ‘God’s accomplished power strengthens the breast of heavenly men (i.e. good men, or angels?) in cruel danger, which you created, help of mercy (i.e. God)’. Kock’s arrangement (NN §1408) is essentially the same as Rydberg’s, apart from the periphrasis for the Holy Spirit, which Kock renders himneskrar miskunnar unnin hjálp ‘accomplished help of heavenly mercy’, in apposition to Guðs kraptr ‘God’s power’. Although each of these arrangements makes grammatical sense, none of them is acceptable, since the Lat. text makes it clear that the rel. cl. þau er þú skaptir ‘which you created’ (l. 8) must refer neither to the might of heaven (pace Finnur Jónsson) nor worldly danger (Rydberg, Kock) but to the breasts (or hearts) of men. The present reading retains brjóst ‘breast’ (l. 7), assuming sg. for pl. ‘breasts’, corresponding to Lat. pectora in a learned style where the rel. pron., here emended þau er, does not agree with its antecedent (see NS §§260, 264).



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 [XIII], C. [3]. Heilags anda vísur 11: AII, 162, BII, 177-8, Skald II, 93, NN §1408; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 54-5, Rydberg 1907, 2, 46, Attwood 1996a, 58, 153.


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