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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Lil 93VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 93’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 667-9.

Anonymous PoemsLilja

text and translation

Hrærð af list þó að hvers manns verði
hold og bein að tungum einum,
vindur, leiftur, grænar grundir,
grös ilmandi, duft og sandar,
hagl og drif sem fjaðrir fugla,
fiskar, dýr sem holt og mýrar,
hár og korn sem heiðar stjörnur,
hreistur, ull, sem dropar og gneistar,

Þó að hold og bein hvers manns, hrærð af list, verði að einum tungum, vindur, leiftur, grænar grundir, ilmandi grös, duft og sandar, hagl og drif sem fjaðrir fugla, fiskar, dýr sem holt og mýrar, hár og korn sem heiðar stjörnur, hreistur, ull sem dropar og gneistar,
‘Even if every man’s flesh and bones, moved by artistry, might become nothing but tongues, [and so also] wind, lightning, green fields, sweet-smelling grass, dust and sands, hail and driven snow, along with feathers of birds, fish, animals, and woods and moors, hair and corn, as well as bright stars, scales, wool, and drops and sparks,

notes and context

Sts 93 and 94 form a single long sentence and continue the topos of inexpressibility: the schema ‘the whole earth sings his praise’ was a favourite form of this topos (Curtius 1953, 161). The vocabulary of these sts is reminiscent of a Marian verse attributed to Peter Comestor and recorded in a ms. of Mar (Holm1, printed in Mar 1871, 686; for another version see AH 32, 206 and PL 198:1045). Paasche and Schottmann find the correspondence so close that they assume that these sts are directly related to the Lat. poem (Paasche 1957, 535; Schottmann 1973, 198): Si fieri posset, quod arene, puluis et unde, / Sudorum gutte, rosa, gemme, lilia, flamme, / Ethera, celicole, nix, grando, sexus uterque, / Ventorum penne, volucrum, pecudum genus omne, / Siluarum rami frondes, avium quoque penne, / Ros, gramen, stelle, pisces, angues, et ariste, / Et lapides, montes, conualles, terra, dracones, / Lingue cuncta forent, minime depromere possent, / Que sis vel quanta uirgo regina Maria. / Que tua sit pietas, nec littera nec dabit etas. / Tanto compluit hanc diues natura decore, / Unde mirata fuit, nil superesse sibi. / Labem nec maculam natura reliquit in ista, / Ad caput a planta transuolat iste decor, / Colla, supercilia, coma, frons, oculi, gena, nasus, / Os, dens, labra, manus, pes sine labe nitent ‘If it could be possible that sand, dust, and wave, drops of moisture, rose, lily, flames, air, heavenly dwellings, snow, hail, both sexes, wings of the winds, flying creatures, every kind of cattle, leafy branches, birds, dew, grass, stars, fish, serpents, and ears of grain, and rocks, mountains, valleys, earth, dragons, all could be tongues, they would hardly be able to express what and how great you are, virgin queen Mary; there could be neither words nor time enough to tell the extent of your piety. The wealth of nature flows together to this end with such splendour, that it is amazed that it does not become superfluous in itself. Nature allows no blemish or stain to remain in that woman, splendour spreads over her from head to foot, neck, eyebrows, hair, forehead, eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, teeth, lips, hands, feet shine without blemish’ (Mar 1871, 686). There is an interesting analogue in the Egerer Fronleichnamsspiel, where the topos is placed in the mouth of the newly fallen Lucifer to emphasize the enormity of his loss (Milchsack 1881, 8-9).



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 93: AII, 393, BII, 414-5, Skald II, 227, NN §§1532, 3317, 3318.


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