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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamlkan Has 12VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 12’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 84-5.

Gamli kanókiHarmsól

text and translation

Bergðak brjósti saurgu,
byrjar hlunns, sem munni,
hreins, ok holdi þínu,
huggóðr jǫfurr, blóði.
Þó sék, þengill skýja
þrifskjótr, — meginljótir
hagir sýnask mér mínir
margir — þar til bjargar.

Bergðak blóði ok holdi þínu saurgu brjósti sem munni, {huggóðr jǫfurr {hlunns hreins byrjar}}. Þó sék þar til bjargar, {þrifskjótr þengill skýja}; margir hagir mínir sýnask mér meginljótir.
‘I tasted your blood and body with an unclean heart and mouth, merciful prince of the launching-roller of the fair [lit. pure] breeze [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)]. Nevertheless I look there [i.e. to the body and blood of Christ] for help, prosperity-swift king of the clouds [= God (= Christ)]; many of my actions seem to me extremely ugly.

notes and context

[1-4]: Gamli’s confession is presumably a response to S. Paul’s warning in 1 Cor. XI. 26-9: quotienscumque enim manducabitis panem hunc et calicem bibetis mortem Domini adnuntiatis donec veniat itaque quicumque manducaverit panem vel biberit calicem Domini indigne reus erit corporis et sanguinis Domini probet autem se ipsum homo et sic de pane illo edat et de calice bibat qui enim manducat et bibit indigne iudicium sibi manducat et bibit non diudicans corpus ‘for as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgement to himself not discerning the body [of the Lord]’. The same sentiment is found elsewhere in ON-Icel. religious literature. A Christmas day sermon in HómÍsl (HómÍsl 1872, 215), for example, warns its hearers that sa es criz licama etr. Oc hans blóþ drekcr ómaclega. Hann etr sér afallz dóm oc dreckr ‘whoever eats Christ’s body and drinks his blood unworthily eats and drinks a severe judgement for himself’. The Magister of Eluc (Eluc 1989, 83) is even more explicit in his condemnation of unworthy communicants: en þa er þeir hondla holld drottens vars syndvgvm hondom ok vhreinvm hvat gera þeir þa nema crossfesta kristr ‘and when they touch our Lord’s flesh with sinful and unclean hands, what are they doing then except crucifying Christ?’



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: Gamli kanóki, 2. Harmsól 12: AI, 564, BI, 551, Skald I, 267, NN §2804; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 17, Kempff 1867, 4, Rydberg 1907, 22, Black 1971, 169, Attwood 1996a, 224.


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