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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamlkan Has 21VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 21’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 21-2.

Gamli kanókiHarmsól

text and translation

Endr vast barðr ok bundinn,
buðlungr, meginþungar,
hlýrnis elds, af hǫldum,
hár, fyr sekðir várar.
Enn lézt, ǫldu runna
angrstríðir, þik síðan,
viggs, meðal vándra seggja,
vegligr, á tré negla.

Endr vast barðr ok bundinn af hǫldum fyr várar meginþungar sekðir, {hár buðlungr {elds hlýrnis}}. Enn lézt síðan negla þik á tré meðal vándra seggja, {vegligr angrstríðir {runna {viggs ǫldu}}}.
‘Once you were beaten and bound by men because of our very heavy sins, high king of the fire of the sky [SUN > = God (= Christ)]. Further you allowed yourself afterwards to be nailed to a tree between wicked men, magnificent sin-fighter of the trees of the steed of the wave [SHIP > SEAFARERS > = God (= Christ)].

notes and context

This st. represents the thematic centre of the poem, and introduces a haunting evocation of, and meditation on, the Crucifixion (sts 21-7), which focusses on Christ’s merciful response to the penitent thief. Gamli’s mastery and manipulation of the skaldic genre is clear as he simplifies both his diction and his w.o. from this point to exploit the full pathos of the scene in a stark narrative reproduced almost verbatim from the account of the Passion in the Gospel of Luke. As Fidjestøl (1993, 223) points out, Has is very carefully structured, and st. 21 is the beginning of the 25-st. stefjabálkr, which carries the central meditation, in contrast to the surrounding sermon material.



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 21: AI, 565, BI, 553, Skald I, 268; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 19-20, Kempff 1867, 6-7, Rydberg 1907, 24, Black 1971, 193, Attwood 1996a, 227.


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