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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Lil 33VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 33’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 601-2.

Anonymous PoemsLilja

text and translation

Fimm mánuðum og fjórum síðar
fæddiz sveinn af meyju hreinni,
skygnast sem þá er glerið í gegnum
geislinn brár fyrir augum várum.
Glóar þar sól af glerinu heilu;
gleðiligt jóðið skínn af móður,
að innsigli höldnu hennar
hreinferðugstra meydóms greina.

Fimm mánuðum og fjórum síðar fæddiz sveinn af hreinni meyju, sem þá er geislinn brár í gegnum skygnast glerið fyrir augum várum. Þar glóar sól af heilu glerinu; gleðiligt jóðið skínn af móður, að innsigli hreinferðugstra greina meydóms hennar höldnu.
‘Five months and four later a boy was born of the pure maiden, just as when the sunbeam breaks through the clearest glass before our eyes. There sun shines from intact glass; the joyful boy shines from the mother, the seal of the purest marks of her virginity having been preserved.

notes and context

It is significant that the birth of Jesus is reported in st. 33: thirty-three was believed to be the age of Jesus when he died and was regarded as a sacred number (Curtius 1953, 505; Tschirch 1966, 167-87). It is likewise significant that the section on the life of Jesus concludes thirty-three sts later in st. 66 (Hill 1970, 564). The image of the Incarnation as a sunbeam shining through glass is a commonplace in medieval homiletic and liturgical literature. It occurs in both the Icel. and Norw. homily books (HómÍsl 1993, 3r-v; HómNo, 133), as well as in the ON poem Rósa (ÍM I.2, 20, st. 64) where the simile emphasizes the Divinity shining through and pervading Mary’s transparent humanity. There is a closer parallel to Lil in Mar 1871, 28: Dróttinn kom at vera með móþur sinni at luktum kviði ok óbrugðnum liðum ... sem þá er hugr líðr or briósti mannz at samanhölldnum ok luktum munni ok óbrugðnum vörrum, eða sólar geisli skínn í gegnum rauflaust gler. ‘the Lord came to be with his mother in her closed womb and with her virginity intact ... as when a thought goes forth from a man’s breast, though his mouth is closed and his lips are not used, or as when a ray of sunlight shines through glass that remains intact’. In the first book of S. Birgitta’s Revelations (c. 1340). Jesus says to Birgitta: Ego sum creator celi et terre, unus in deitate cum Patre et Spiritu sancto, ego, qui prophetis et patriarchis loquebar et quem ipsi expectabant. Ob quorum desiderium et iuxta promissionem meam assumpsi carnem sine peccato et concupiscencia ingrediens viscera virginea tamquam sol splendens per lapidem mundissimum. Quia sicut sol vitrum ingrediendo non ledit, sic nec virginitas Virginis in assumpcione humanitatis mee corrupta est ‘I am the Creator of heaven and earth, one in divinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, I, who the prophets and patriarchs proclaimed and who they awaited. Because of their longing and according to my promise, I took on flesh without sin or concupiscence and entered the virgin womb like the sun shining through pure crystal. Because just as sun passes through glass and does not harm it, the virginity of the Virgin was not destroyed by her assumption of my humanity’ (Undhagen and Jönsson 1977-2001, I.1, 241) Splendor Patris et Figura, a sequence attributed to Adam of S.-Victor, contains the verse: Si crystallus sit humecta / Atque soli sit objecta, / Scintillat igniculum: / Nec crystallus rumpitur, / Nec in partu solvitur / Pudoris signaculum ‘If crystal should be moist and placed in the sun, a spark flashes. But the crystal is not shattered, and neither is the seal of chastity [or the chaste one] broken in giving birth’ (Gautier 1894, 10; AH 54,154). Cf. also the hymn by Peter Pictor: Lumen lucens Patris de lumine / Christus homo prodit de Virgine, / Sic ingressus et egressus per aulam uirgineam / Vt sol splendens nec incendens per fenestram uitream, / Cum nec uitrum splendor solis / Neque matrem causa prolis / Violet ingrediens / Nec corrumpat exiens ‘Light illuminating with the light of the Father, Christ the man was born of the Virgin, his entry and his going out of the virginal hall was as sunlight shining through a glass window, but not disturbing it. For just as the splendor of the sun neither violates glass as it enters, nor breaks it as it leaves, so it is with the offspring and the mother’ (van Acker 1972, 119; AH 20, 121). The hymn Sol, crystallus by Hildebert of Lavardin (Scott 2001, 54-5) develops this theme extensively, and John Bromyard discusses it in his widely circulated Summa Praedicantium (Bromyard 1518, 199v-200r).



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: Eysteinn Ásgrímsson, Lilja 33: AII, 374, BII, 399, Skald II, 217.


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