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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Lil 42VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 42’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 612-13.

Anonymous PoemsLilja

‘Þystir hann og er fölr af föstum,
firriz hlátr, en kann að gráta;
mæðiz hann og er móður sinnar
mjólku fæddr, en reifum klæddiz.
Finn eg þó, að í slíku sannar
sjálf náttúran, manndóm váttar;
fýsir mig því framm að æsa
flein ódygðar honum að meini.

‘Þystir hann og er fölr af föstum, firriz hlátr, en kann að gráta; hann mæðiz og er fæddr mjólku móður sinnar en klæddiz reifum. Þó finn eg, að sjálf náttúran sannar í slíku, váttar manndóm; því fýsir mig að æsa framm flein ódygðar að meini honum.

‘He thirsts and is pale from fasts, avoids laughter, but knows how to weep; he grows weary and is fed with the milk of his mother and was clothed in swaddling clothes. And yet I find that nature itself gives proof in such a thing, attests to his humanity; therefore I long to shoot forward the dart of faithlessness to his harm.

Mss: Bb(114vb), 99a(9r), 622(30), 713(9), Vb(250), 41 8°ˣ(118-119), 705ˣ(11v), 4892(31v)

Readings: [1] Þystir: Þyrstir er 99a, 622, 713, Þystur er Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 705ˣ, Þistr eg 4892;    og: om. 713;    er: om. 99a, 622, 713, Vb, 4892;    föstum: föstu 622, 713, Vb, 4892    [2] en: er 4892    [3] er: á Vb, 41 8°ˣ, om. 4892;    móður: ámóðr 4892    [4] mjólku: mjólk upp 713, 4892;    klæddiz: klæddur 622, Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892    [5] að: om. Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 705ˣ, 4892;    slíku: slíku að om. Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892;    sannar: sannaz om. 713, 4892, sannan om. Vb    [8] honum: hamon 4892

Editions: Skj AII, 377, Skj BII, 401, Skald II, 219.

Notes: [1-4]: Lucifer’s soliloquy here is an anachronistic summary of incidents that attest to the humanity of Jesus. He watches Jesus grow weak from fasting in the desert after his Baptism (cf. Matt. IV.2, Mark I.12-13, Luke IV.1-2) and recalls that he was dependent on his mother as a helpless infant. This is part of the topos of the deception of Lucifer (Wee 1974, 5-9); he cannot be sure whether Jesus is human or divine, and he tempts him to learn the truth (see st. 45). Cf. Note to st. 39 and Mar 1871, 187: ef hann vęri gvþ allra verallda, mvndi hann eigi þvilikar vanvirþingar þola vilia. Eigi mvndi hann i vꜹggv halldinn eða reifvm bundinn, eigi mvndi hann grata hungra eða kvensliga miolk drecka, þviat eigi mvn þat synaz talat skynsamliga, at hvngr se a gvðe lifanda ‘if he were God of all worlds, he would not want to suffer such humiliations. He would not be contained in a cradle or bound with swaddling clothes, he would not cry with hunger or drink woman’s milk, because that would not appear spoken fittingly, that the living God should experience hunger’. — [1]: A reference to Jesus’ fasting in the desert before being tempted by the devil. — [1] þystir hann ‘he thirsts’: The verb is impers. The form without <r> is required to form a rhyme with föst-. Other mss (Vb, 41 8°ˣ and 705ˣ) have the adj. þystur ‘thirsty’ and the 3rd pers. sg. of the pres. indic. of the verb ‘to be’, er, immediately afterwards, but omit Bb’s er in er fölr af föstum, giving the l. Þystr er hann og fölr af föstu ‘he is thirsty and pale from fasting’ (so Skj B and Skald). — [5] sannar ‘gives proof’: In Bb, 99a and 622, the 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of the verb sanna ‘to assert, affirm, prove’; Skj B and Skald prefer 713’s m.v. sannaz ‘it is proved true’, Skj B offering the translation jeg mærker dog, at det sandes i sligt, at selve hans natur viser menneskelighed ‘ I notice, however, that it is proved true by such [a thing], that even his nature shows humanity’. — [7] æsa ‘incite, stir up, shoot’: Lit. ‘to set into violent movement’. The verb is used of men inciting others to violent crime as well as of the wind whipping up powerful waves or uncontrollable flames (see Fritzner: œsa). — [8] ódygðar ‘of faithlessness’: Cf. 19/2, where the same word is used in reference to the sin of Adam and Eve, and 66/7, where brandrinn ódygðar ‘the sword of faithlessness’ is analogous to flein ódygðar ‘dart of faithlessness’ in this st. The context of 66/7 suggests that this is a kenning-like phrase (or at least a metaphor) for Lucifer’s malicious, lying tongue.


  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. Wee, David L. 1974. ‘The Temptation of Christ and the Motif of Divine Duplicity in the Corpus Christi Cycle Drama’. MP 72, 1-16.
  5. 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.

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