Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamlkan Has 7VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 7’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 78-80.

Gamli kanókiHarmsól

Ungr vǫndumk ek, yngvi,
opt djarf*liga at hvarfa,
(lítt gáðak þá) þjóðar,
(þín) ept vilja mínum.
Enn snørak jafnan inni,
illt ráð þás mik villti,
dýrðhittandi dróttinn
dáðrakkr, við þér hnakka.

{Yngvi þjóðar}, ungr vǫndumk ek opt djarf*liga at hvarfa ept mínum vilja; gáðak þá þín lítt. Enn snørak jafnan inni hnakka við þér, dáðrakkr dýrðhittandi dróttinn, þás illt ráð villti mik.

{Prince of the people} [= God], as a young man I often presumptuously developed the habit of wandering according to my desire; I paid you little heed then. Further I always turned my back on you inwardly, deed-bold, glory-finding Lord, when evil counsel led my heart astray.

Mss: B(12v), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [2] djarf*liga: ‘erfilega’ B;    hvarfa: hverfa B    [3] gáðak (‘gáði ek’): so 399a‑bˣ, ‘ga[...]ek’ B, ‘ga(...)æk’(?) BRydberg, ‘ga(da) ek’(?) BFJ    [5] inni: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘[...]ne’ B

Editions: Skj AI, 563, Skj BI, 550, Skald I, 267, NN §2928; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 15, Kempff 1867, 2, Rydberg 1907, 21, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 253-4, Black 1971, 153, Attwood 1996a, 223.

Notes: [All]: Repentance for sins committed in youth is a common feature of biblical confessions. Job, for example, mentions the possibility that his sufferings are intended as a punishment for youthful sins: scribis enim contra me amaritudines et consumere me vis peccatis adulescentiae meae ‘for thou writest bitter things against me, and wilt consume me for the sins of my youth’ (Job XIII.26). Perhaps a more likely source for Gamli’s inspiration is the Penitential Psalm XXIV, which contains the verse delicta iuventutis meae et ignorantias meas ne memineris secundum misericordiam tuam memento mei tu; propter bonitatem tuam Domine ‘the sins of my youth and my ignorances do not remember. According to thy mercy remember thou me: for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord’ (Ps. XXIV.7). — [1] yngvi: B’s text reads ‘yng’ with a superscript ‘i’ above the ‘g’, which may be understood as either yngvi or yngri. Finnur Jónsson (Skj A) understood it as yngvi, which makes sense in context, while Sveinbjörn Egilsson read yngri, which he emended to yngvi (note in 444ˣ and 1844 edn). — [2] djarf*liga ‘boldly, presumptuously’: It is not possible to make sense of B’s reading opt erfiliga ‘often with difficulty’ in this context, and various suggestions for emendation have been made. Finnur Jónsson modifies Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s ofderfilega (1844, adopted by Kempff 1867, 2) to ofderfil*a, hap. leg., which he glosses dristigt ‘boldly, audaciously’ (LP). Kock (NN §2928) suggests ofherfliga ‘very wickedly’, comparing Gamli’s confession of sinful behaviour in 53/3-4 þótt atferðin ór yrði stórum herfilig ‘even though my behaviour were to become very shameful’. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 253-4) observes that the poet often uses phrases with opt, and suggests a further emendation of Finnur’s text to opt derfila ‘often presumptuously’. Since derfila is not otherwise attested, he makes two alternative suggestions: óþerfila ‘useless, inconvenient’ and opt djarfliga ‘often presumptuously’. Although emendation to opt djarfliga necessitates a further emendation, to hvarfa, to satisfy the aðalhending in l. 2, this edn, with Black (1971, 154), follows Jón’s suggestion, on the ground that it preserves B’s opt. — [7] dýrðhittandi dróttinn ‘glory-finding Lord’: Cf. Anon Pl 18/1, where the epithet dýrðhittir ‘glory-finder’, used of Plácitus, alliterates with dróttinn. Although neither dýrðhittir nor dýrðhittandi is attested elsewhere, LP: dýrðhittir compares dáðhittir ‘finder of [good] deeds’, which is used of Bishop Páll Jónsson by ÁmÁrn Lv 3/1IV (see also Attwood 1996b, 227). Once again, the alliteration is with dróttinn. With Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), Kock (NN §2929), Kempff (1867, 26), Rydberg (1907, xxvi) and Sveinbjǫrn Egilsson (444ˣ) this edn takes dýrðhittandi as adjectival, paralleling dáðrakkr and qualifying dróttinn. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 254) objects to this interpretation on the grounds that dýrðhittir is not ‘a suitable expression’ for God and that, in Pl, the epithet denotes Plácitus, not God. Jón therefore emends dróttinn to drótta, gen. pl. of drótt ‘people, company’, asserting that dróttinn is a straightforward scribal error. Dýrðhittandi drótta is understood to mean ‘people who attain blessedness’, and is construed with an emended sinnir in l. 5, to give the God-kenning dáðrakkr sinnir dýrðhittandi drótta ‘valiant helper of men who are striving for glory’. Jón has, however, overlooked the epithet dýrðargjarn ‘glory-eager’ (st. 34/4), which is an exact parallel for dýrðhittandi.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj A = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15a. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. A: Tekst efter håndskrifterne. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1967. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. Attwood, Katrina. 1996b. ‘Intertextual Aspects of the Twelfth-Century Christian drápur’. SBVS 24, 221-39.
  8. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  9. Black, Elizabeth L. 1971. ‘Harmsól: an edition’. B. Litt. thesis. University of Oxford.
  10. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  11. Jón Helgason. 1935-6. ‘Til skjaldedigtningen’. APS 10, 250-64.
  12. Kempff, Hjalmar, ed. 1867. Kaniken Gamles ‘Harmsól’ (Sol i Sorgen): isländskt andligt qväde från medeltiden med öfversättning och förklaringar. Uppsala: Edquist & Berglund.
  13. Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1844. Fjøgur gømul kvæði. Boðsrit til að hlusta á þá opinberu yfirheyrslu í Bessastaða Skóla þann 22-29 mai 1844. Viðeyar Klaustri: prentuð af Helga Helgasyni, á kostnað Bessastaða Skóla. Bessastaðir: Helgi Helgason.
  14. Internal references
  15. Not published: do not cite (ÁmÁrn Lv 3IV)
  16. Not published: do not cite (KrókV)
  17. Jonna Louis-Jensen and Tarrin Wills (eds) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Plácitusdrápa 18’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 193.
  18. Jonna Louis-Jensen and Tarrin Wills 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Plácitusdrápa’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 179-220.

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