Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.



Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

Menu Search

Anon (FoGT) 37III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Stanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise 37’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 615.

Anonymous LausavísurStanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise

text and translation

Sæll er sienn í milli
siðvendis kvikvenda
mána ranns af mönnum
mildingr, þá er barz hingað,
eða þá er djúp að djúpi
dorgtúns niða borgar
um hljóðraufar hávar
hátt samþykkið vátta.

{Sæll mildingr {ranns mána}} er sienn af mönnum í milli kvikvenda siðvendis, þá er barz hingað, eða þá er djúp {dorgtúns} vátta hátt samþykkið að djúpi um hávar hljóðraufar {borgar niða}.
‘The blessed prince of the house of the moon [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)] was seen by men between animals of uprightness, when he was born into this world, or when the deep of the fishing-line-field [SEA] loudly bore witness of concord to the deep across the high sound-crevices of the stronghold of the phases of the moon [SKY/HEAVEN].

notes and context

Stanza 37 illustrates the figure the author of FoGT calls emophasis (homophesis). This glosar myrkan lvt með ǫðrum iammyrkvm lut eðr myrkara ‘explains an obscure thing by something equally obscure or more obscure’.

Stanza 37 is in dróttkvætt metre. — FoGT’s definition of homophesis is dependent on a similar one in the Doctrinale (Reichling 1893, 177, ll. 2627-9), where the examples come from the technical language of astrology. Here, however, the lengthy prose commentary that follows the stanza depends upon two excerpts from patristic writings, ‘the first a discussion attributed to Augustine of a verse from Habakkuk, and the second an interpretation of Ps. 41.8, “Abyssus abyssum inuocat in uoce cataractarum tuarum” ascribed to “leo pafi inn málsnialli”’ (D. McDougall 1988, 478). The obscurities of the two allusions are connected through the pivotal figure of Christ, whose birth as a human ushered in the new law; the first helmingr represents his birth in terms of two Old Testament prophecies, while the allegorical interpretation of the two abysses in the second connects the prophets of the Old Testament and their prophecies with the new law and the words of the apostles and church fathers. As McDougall (1988, 477-83) has shown, the Fourth Grammarian is likely to have derived his material from a text of the popular medieval homiliary of Paul the Deacon. — [1-4]: As both Meissner (1932, 98-101) and D. McDougall (1988) have shown, these lines depend upon the Old Latin version of Habakkuk III.2 In medio duorum animalium cognosceris ‘you will be recognised between two animals’. The interpretation of this text offered in FoGT is taken from a homiletic tract, Contra Judaeos, paganos, et Arianos sermo de symbolo, attributed to Augustine in the Middle Ages, but now included among the writings of Quodvultdeus, Bishop of Carthage 437-53 (D. McDougall 1988, 479). In this tract ‘Quodvultdeus seeks to confute the error of the Jews by summoning a series of Old Testament prophets as “witnesses” of the advent of Christ’ (D. McDougall loc. cit.). Habakkuk III.2 is there interpreted, together with Isiah I.3 Agnouit bos possessorem suum, et asinus praesepium domini sui ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib’, as a prophecy of the Christ-child in the crib. In the prose of FoGT there is a further interpretation of the ox and the ass as representing the Jews and the Gentiles, an ‘exegetical commonplace’ to be found in a number of patristic commentaries (for the details, see D. McDougall 1988, 480 and nn.). — [5-8]: The interpretation of this helmingr follows those of Björn Magnússon Ólsen (FoGT 1884, 289-90) and Kock (NN §1410) rather than Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), who construes borgar niða ‘of the stronghold of the phases of the moon’ (l. 8) with að djúpi ‘to the deep’ (l. 5) rather than with um hávar hljóðraufar ‘across the high sound-crevices’ (l. 7), in order to provide one abyss in heaven, the other below it, but his interpretation fails to take account of the prose text’s commentary vnderdivp vatnanna kallar ꜳ̋ annat vnderdivp vm þær himinborvr sem katerakte kallaz ‘the abyss of the waters calls to the other abyss across those heaven-holes that are called cataracts’. — [5-8]: The stanza’s second helmingr depends upon the second patristic example mentioned in the first Note to [All] above, Ps. XLI. 8 Abyssus abyssum inuocat, in uoce cataractarum tuarum ‘Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts’. The prose gloss attributes its interpretation of Ps. XLI.8 to leo paví hinn mꜳl sníálle ‘Pope Leo the eloquent’, probably Leo the Great. McDougall (1988, 481) proposed this might be a reference to the sixtieth tractate of Pope Leo, also available in the homiliary of Paul the Deacon. The prose gloss proposes an allegorical reading of the voice of the two vatnadjúp ‘abysses’, the one above the heavens, the other below it, on several levels, including their identification with the old and new laws and the teachings of prophets and apostles. McDougall (loc. cit.) adduces several conventional examples of such parallels. — [8] vátta ‘bore witness’: Lit. ‘bears witness’. This verb is both pl. and pres. tense, where one would expect the pret. váttuðu. Kock (NN §1410) draws attention to a similar use of pres. tense where a pret. would be expected in st. 47/4 (and cf. er in l. 1 above’). The pl. usage with a sg. subject (djúp) can probably be explained, as Björn Magnússon Ólsen (FoGT 1884, 290 n. 5) has suggested, because the poet is thinking of two mighty abysses rather than one (and djúp n. can be either sg. or pl.). In the prose the verb kalla is also pl. with a sg. subject. Björn emended vátta to the 3rd pers. sg. pres. tense váttar.



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]. D. Religiøse og moraliserende vers af den 4. grammatiske afhandling 13: AII, 165, BII, 183, Skald II, 95, NN §1410; SnE 1848-87, II, 236-7, III, 161-2, FoGT 1884, 145, 289-90, FoGT 2004, 52, 76, 150-2, FoGT 2014, 38-9, 129-31.


Log in

This service is only available to members of the relevant projects, and to purchasers of the skaldic volumes published by Brepols.
This service uses cookies. By logging in you agree to the use of cookies on your browser.


Stanza/chapter/text segment

Use the buttons at the top of the page to navigate between stanzas in a poem.

Information tab

Interactive tab

The text and translation are given here, with buttons to toggle whether the text is shown in the verse order or prose word order. Clicking on indiviudal words gives dictionary links, variant readings, kennings and notes, where relevant.

Full text tab

This is the text of the edition in a similar format to how the edition appears in the printed volumes.

Chapter/text segment

This view is also used for chapters and other text segments. Not all the headings shown are relevant to such sections.