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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon (FoGT) 43III

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Stanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise 43’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 621.

Anonymous LausavísurStanzas from the Fourth Grammatical Treatise


These three dróttkvætt stanzas are inserted, one after the other, to exemplify the figure called simatrismos (the Graecismus gives the correct form synacrismos), which FoGT defines as the union of praise and faults in one chapter or clause or verse in Latin and in one stanza or more in Old Norse. This figure is not treated in the Doctrinale, but is present in the Graecismus (Wrobel 1887, 6-7, ll. 63-4). Longo (FoGT 2004, 223 n. 93) has noted that this figure was a favourite form of amplificatio in poetic treatises of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. All the examples cited in sts 43-5 concern characters from the Old Testament of the Bible, except for the last one, which refers to God; all are of virtues, not vices, and all use forms of the verb lofa ‘praise, extol’ to describe their subjects. Although none of the stanzas displays ‘vices’ and ‘faults’ as far as their content is concerned, all of them do indeed contain a number of stereotyped metrical errors. Stanzas 43/1, 5 and 44/1, 5, 7 all have metrically illicit hendingar on weakly stressed or unstressed lofar ‘praises’ and fully stressed ævi ‘life’ (voiced intervocalic [f] and [v]). In st. 45/1, lofar alliterates (but does not rhyme) and there is suspended resolution in metrical positions 3-4. This line does not correspond to any metrical type attested in Germanic alliterative poetry. Hence it appears that all of these stanzas illustrate the rhetorical figure simatrismos on two different levels: they unite ‘praise’ on the textual level and ‘faults’ on the metrical level.

text and translation

Ábiels lofar ævi
ómeinsemi hreina;
öld lofar Ienóch mildan
einkiend siðavendni.
Nóe lofaz öflugs ævi
ágætu hreinlæti;
Siem lofar fært til fremdar
fórnarhald um aldir.

Ómeinsemi lofar hreina ævi Ábiels; siðavendni, einkiend öld, lofar mildan Ienóch. Ævi öflugs Nóe lofaz ágætu hreinlæti; fórnarhald, fært til fremdar, lofar Siem um aldir.
‘Innocence praises the pure life of Abel; integrity of morals, specific to mankind, praises gentle Enoch. The life of powerful Noah is praised on account of extraordinary purity; the observance of sacrifice, performed in honour [of God], will praise Shem forever.

notes and context

Stanza 43 divides neatly into couplets (fjórðungar), devoting one couplet to the virtues of each of four characters from the Biblical Book of Genesis: Abel, son of Adam and Eve, the victim of the first murder by his brother Cain; Enoch, son of Jared and great-grandfather of Noah (Gen. V.18); Noah himself and his son Shem (Gen. V-IX). The metre is an irregular, couplet-based (fjórðungalok) dróttkvætt (see Introduction above). — [7-8]: The association of Noah’s son Shem with religious observance alludes to a tradition, originally midrashic, that Shem was the same person as Melchisedech, and that there was a direct line of priesthood from Noah to Aaron, transmitted by primogeniture. Cf. Honorius Augustodunensis, Summa gloria de apostolico et augusto sive de praecellentia sacerdotii prae regno liber, ch. II (PL 172, col. 1260C). The idea goes back at least to Jerome. So far, no direct source in Old Norse has been identified.


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 20: AII, 167, BII, 184, Skald II, 96, NN §2588; SnE 1848-87, II, 246-7, III, 162, FoGT 1884, 150, 293, FoGT 2004, 56, 80, 158-9, FoGT 2014, 46-7, 139-42.


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