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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Alpost 9VII

Ian McDougall (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Allra postula minnisvísur 9’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 864-6.

Anonymous PoemsAllra postula minnisvísur

Borinn var blóms með æru
Bartoloméus að skarta;
Indía liet á landi
lífið, flegið með knífi,
þann er þúsund sinnum
— það er ritningar vitni —
sigrar sæta fegri
sólar guðs fyrir stóli.
Blessi hier blíðr guð inni
Bartoloméus minni.

Bartoloméus var borinn að skarta með blóms æru; liet lífið á Indía-landi flegið með knífi, þann er sigrar þúsund sinnum sæta fegri sólar fyrir stóli guðs; — það er vitni ritningar. Blessi blíðr guð hier inni minni Bartoloméus.

Bartholomew was born to shine with flourishing honour. He laid down his life in the land of India, [his body] flayed by a knife, that one who surpasses a thousand times the sweet beauty of the sun before the throne of God; — that is the testimony of a written text. May gentle God bless herein a memorial toast for Bartholomew.

Mss: 721(15v)

Readings: [6] það: þar 721

Editions: Skj AII, 510-11, Skj BII, 561, Skald II, 307; NN §1760.

Notes: [1] blóms ‘flourishing’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends to blóm and reads blóm með æru as ‘with the flower of honour’. Kock (Skald) retains the ms. reading blóms and argues (NN §1760) that the form should be treated as a descriptive gen. with the same adjectival force found in similar genitival constructions with dýrðar: ‘of glory’, i.e. ‘glorious’ (see NN §§1751, 1007B, and cf. genitival compounds such as dýrðar-ástúð, -líf, -staðr, -verk; cf. Meissner 1930, 232). It is noteworthy that Finnur Jónsson’s interpretation would represent the only example in the poem where a noun is governed by a prep. in postposition. In all parallel constructions in the poem, a dependent gen. is placed first, followed by a prep. preceding the noun it governs (cf. Krist und krossi 4/5; guðs fyr stóli 9/8; guðs til ... náða 13/7). On the use of blóm in the sense ‘glory’, see Schottmann 1973, 23, 28 n. 23; Davið Erlingsson 1974, 12-18. — [2] Bartoloméus: On S. Bartholomew the Apostle, see Cross and Livingstone 1983, 137; Jón Þorkelsson 1888, 67; Bagge 1956, 365-8; Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 302; Foote 1976, 164-6; Cormack 1994, 83. — [3-4] liet lífið á Indía-landi flegið með knífi ‘He laid down his life in the land of India, [his body] flayed by a knife’: The ll. may involve deliberate word-play, for they could be interpreted either ‘he left his body, flayed by a knife, in India’ or, with ellipsis of vera ‘he let his body (be) flayed with a knife’, i.e. ‘he suffered martyrdom’. At the same time, the phrase liet ... lífið suggests the sense ‘he lost his life’, although flegið clearly modifies lífið, rather than the subject of the sentence, Bartoloméus. On líf as a synonym of líkamr ‘body’, see Fritzner: líf 4. According to tradition, Bartholomew was flayed alive at Albanopolis in Armenia (cf. Cross and Livingstone 1983, 137; Brev. 4/14; IO 74). Norse sources regularly locate the place of Bartholomew’s martyrdom in a part of India, following accounts such as Beda, Martyrologium, col. 1015A: Natale S. Bartholomaei apostoli, qui apud Indiam Christi Evangelium praedicans, vivens a barbaris decoriatus est ‘The feast-day of the Apostle S. Bartholomew, who, preaching the gospel of Christ in India, was flayed alive by barbarians’. Cf. Barth1ˣ 752: Bartholomeus kendi kenningar a hinu yzta Indialandi, er liggr viðr heims enda. Hann var, sem fyrr er sagt, fleginn kvikr fyrir guðs nafni ‘Bartholomew preached the gospel in furthest India, which lies at the end of the world. He was, as has previously been mentioned, flayed alive in God’s name’; cf. Holm perg 5 fol, 59vb (Foote 1976, 154); AM 764 4° 16v. Although none of the many accounts of Bartholomew’s passion make specific mention of a flayer’s knife, the instrument of his martyrdom becomes Bartholomew’s standard iconographic attribute (see Braun 1943, 119-20; Kilström 1956, 175; Roeder 1956, 20), and it is not surprising to find this detail once again in the list of the fates of the Apostles in AM 660 4°, 23v (Foote, 1976, 153): Bartholomeus var pindr flegin hvdin med hnifi ok hoggvinn sidan a env yzsta Jndialandi ‘Bartholomew was tortured, his skin flayed with a knife, after which he was slain in furthest India’. It is possible that the author of Alpost drew the detail of the knife from a list such as this, although it is just as likely that both works simply record a well-known iconographic feature. The attribute figures in depictions of Bartholomew from medieval Iceland – in a picture of the saint with a knife and book on fol. 11v of the Icel. Teiknibók (c. 1420-40; Björn Th. Björnsson 1954, 87-8), and in an image on a C15th altar cloth from Hrafnagil, which depicts Bartholomew with a knife in one hand and what appears to be his flayed skin in the other (see Bagge 1956, 365-8; on these and other examples, see Foote 1976, 165-6). — [3] Indía ... á landi ‘in the land of India’: A case of tmesis, so á Indía-landi. — [5, 7, 8] þann er sigrar þúsund sinnum ... sæta fegri sólar ‘that one who surpasses a thousand times ... the sweet beauty of the sun’: These ll. are strikingly reminiscent of the opening ll. of a hymn sung at the feast of S. Bartholomew (24 August): Bartholomeae, caeli sidus aureum milies supra solis iubar radians... ‘Bartholomew, golden star in the sky that shines a thousand times brighter than the rays of the sun...’ (AH 51, 122, no. 107, v. 6; CH, 86; DH, 109). The interjection, það er ritningar vitni ‘that is the testimony of a written text’, of course suggests that the author knew this detail from a book, but there seems to be no scriptural parallel. — [5] þann er ‘that one who’: On use of m. acc. sg. þann as equivalent of m. nom. sg. in late texts, see ANG §469, Anm. 3; Iversen 1961, 105, Anm. 2; Fritzner: þann.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. AH = Dreves, G. M., C. Blume and H. M. Bannister, eds. 1886-1922. Analecta hymnica medii aeui. 55 vols. Leipzig: Reisland. Rpt. 1961. New York: Johnson.
  6. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  7. Bagge, Anders. 1956. ‘Bartholomæus’. KLNM 1, 365-8.
  8. Björn Th. Björnsson. 1954. Íslenzka teiknibókin í Árnasafni. Þriðji bókaflokkur Máls og menningar 7-8. Reykjavík: Heimskringla Prentsmiðjan Hólar H-F.
  9. Braun, Joseph. 1943. Tracht und Attribute der Heiligen in der deutschen Kunst. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung.
  10. CH = Wieland, Gernot R., ed. 1982. The Canterbury Hymnal. Toronto Medieval Latin Texts 12. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.
  11. Cormack, Margaret. 1994. The Saints in Iceland: Their Veneration from the Conversion to 1400. Studia Hagiographica 78. Brussels: Société des Bollandistes.
  12. Cross, F. L. and E. A. Livingstone. 1983. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 2nd edn. 4th impression. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 3rd rev. edn 2005 by E. A. Livingstone. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  13. DH = Milfull, Inge B. 1996. The Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church: A study and edition of the ‘Durham Hymnal’. Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 17. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  14. Schottmann, Hans. 1973. Die isländische Mariendichtung. Untersuchungen zur volkssprachigen Mariendichtung des Mittelalters. Münchner germanistische Beiträge 9. Munich: Fink.
  15. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  16. IO = Gómez, César C., ed. 1985. [Isidore of Seville] De ortu et obitu patrum. Auteurs Latins du Moyen Age. Paris: Société d’Editions ‘Les Belles Lettres’.
  17. Iversen, Ragnvald. 1961. Norrøn Grammatik. 6th rev. edn. Oslo: Aschehoug.
  18. Jón Þorkelsson [J. Thorkelsson]. 1888. Om digtningen på Island i det 15. og 16. århundrede. Copenhagen: Høst & søns forlag.
  19. Kilström, B. I. 1956. ‘Apostelframställningar’. KLNM 1, 173-6.
  20. Meissner, Rudolf. 1930. ‘Minnetrinken in Island und in der Auvergne’. In Vogt et al. 1930, .
  21. Internal references
  22. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  23. Ian McDougall 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Allra postula minnisvísur’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 852-71.

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