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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Lil 92VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 92’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 666-7.

Anonymous PoemsLilja

Tungusætr ef einnhverr ýta,
orðum hygz í kvæði að skorða
mjúkan dikt að makligleikum,
mín drotning, af heiðri þínum,
því er líkast, sem rasi og reiki
ráðlauss seggr að ýmsum veggjum
fældr og byrgðr, og feti þó hvergi
fúss í burt ór völundarhúsi.

Ef einnhverr ýta, tungusætr, hygz að makligleikum að skorða orðum mjúkan dikt af heiðri þínum í kvæði, mín drotning, er líkast því sem ráðlauss seggr rasi og reiki, fældr og byrgðr, að ýmsum veggjum, og feti hvergi í burt ór völundarhúsi, þó fúss.

If some man, sweet of tongue, intends fittingly to support with words a supple poem about your honour in verse, my queen, it would be as if a bewildered man should stumble and stagger, panic-stricken and hemmed in, from wall to wall and was not at all able to make his way away out of a labyrinth, although he was eager to.

Mss: Bb(116va), 99a(18r-v), 622(39-40), 713(14), Vb(255), 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(420-421), 705ˣ(22r-v), 4892(39v)

Readings: [1] Tungusætr: Tungann setr 4892;    ef einnhverr ýta: einnhverr ýta ef 41 8°ˣ(420);    ef: þó 99a, 705ˣ, om. Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 4892    [2] orðum: í orðum 99a, ef orðinn Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), með orðum 705ˣ, orðinn 4892;    hygz í: hygiz 99a, hygði 622, hyggi 705ˣ;    að: om. 4892    [3] að: so 41 8°ˣ(420);    makligleikum: meigi auka 41 8°ˣ(420)    [4] drotning: drottinn Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(420);    heiðri: vegsemd Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134);    þínum: þinni Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134)    [5] því er líkast: þá er líkt Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), þá er þvílíkr 41 8°ˣ(420);    sem: sín 41 8°ˣ(420);    rasi: rafi 41 8°ˣ(420);    og: eða 622, 713, Vb, 4892, eðr 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(420), 705ˣ    [6] ráðlauss: so all others, ‘radslaus’ Bb;    ýmsum: ‘unsom’ 4892    [7] fældr: feldr 99a, faldr Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(420);    byrgðr: byrðr 99a, 622, 713, 41 8°ˣ(420), 705ˣ, 4892;    og: en 99a, 622, Vb, 41 8°ˣ(134), 41 8°ˣ(420), 705ˣ, 4892;    feti: fet 622, feta 41 8°ˣ(420), fetir 4892    [8] burt: burtu 705ˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 392, Skj BII, 414, Skald II, 227.

Notes: [All]: Hallvard Lie (1952, 77-80) reads sts 92-4 (cf. also sts 26, 38, and 64) as a sincere expression of the skald’s frustration with the limitations of traditional skaldic verse-forms, which limit his ability to praise Mary as she deserves. He sees the ‘natural psychological consequence’ of feelings like those expressed in this st. as a move towards a ‘more ethical’ form of poetry, which expresses only what is essential. But this is more likely a conventional use of the topic of inexpressibility (Curtius 1953, 159-62). — [1] tungusætr ‘sweet of tongue, sweetly speaking’: This is the earliest known occurrence of the word in ON: see Sigfús Blöndal 1920-4 for its use in MIcel. — [2] skorða ‘to support’: Originally a nautical term (cf. the idiom skorða skip ‘to prop up a ship with supports’), in Lil it is used of poetry (cf. 2/6, þraungskorðaðra ‘tightly-propped’ 96/6). Rigid supports or props and ‘supple words’ seem to be at odds in the poet’s mind. — [8] ór völundarhúsi ‘out of the house of Vǫlundr, labyrinth’: The Gmc. hero Vǫlundr was associated with the classical Daedalus, who was in turn associated with the labyrinth. The term domus Dedali ‘house of Daedalus’, gave rise to the Icel. term völundarhús (Granlund 1974). Cf. Stjórn: laborintho. er sumir menn kalla Vo᷎lundar hús ‘labyrinth, which some men call Vǫlund’s house’ (Unger 1862, 85). While the extended metaphor in this st. is a conventional inexpressibility topos (it is impossible to praise Mary adequately), the formula völundarhús can also be regarded as an original designation of poetry. The poet’s comments in the sts that follow suggest that he regards the traditional skaldic st. as a labyrinth: it holds the delight of compressed symmetry, but can also be a confining trap (for both skald and hearer/reader), which frustrates movement forward.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. Unger, C. R., ed. 1862. Stjorn. Gammelnorsk bibelhistorie fra verdens skabelse til det babyloniske fangenskab. Christiania (Oslo): Feilberg og Landmarks forlag.
  4. Curtius, Ernst R. 1953. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Bollingen Ser. 36. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Originally published 1948. Europäische literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter. Bern: Francke.
  5. Sigfús Blöndal. 1920-4. Islandsk-dansk ordbog / Íslensk-dönsk orðabók. Reykjavík, Copenhagen and Kristiania (Oslo): Verslun Þórarins B. Þorlákssonar / Aschehoug.
  6. Granlund, John. 1974. ‘Trojeborg’. KLNM 18, 647-52.
  7. Lie, Hallvard. 1952. ‘Skaldestil-studier’. MM, 1-92. Rpt. in Lie 1982, 109-200.
  8. Internal references
  9. Martin Chase 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Lilja’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 544-677.
  10. Not published: do not cite ()

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