Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamlkan Jóndr 1VII

Beatrice La Farge (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Jónsdrápa 1’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 133-4.

Gamli kanókiJónsdrápa

Tígnar frák þik upphaf eignask
— eigi mistir blezan Kristi —
ráðeflandi, risnu prúðan,
rekka liðs, af flærðar hnekki,
sólar ranns at siklingr unni
seima brjót* í þessum heimi
mærðar kœnn, ok móður sinni
mætra lífs, an aðrir gæti.

{Ráðeflandi {liðs rekka}}, frák þik, prúðan risnu, eignask upphaf tígnar af {hnekki flærðar} — eigi mistir blezan Kristi — at {mærðar kœnn siklingr {ranns sólar}} unni {brjót* seima} ok sinni móður mætra lífs í þessum heimi, an aðrir gæti.

{Counsel-provider {of the troop of men}} [MANKIND > APOSTLE], I have heard that you, splendid in munificence, acquired for yourself elevation in honour from {the suppressor of falsehood} [= God (= Christ)] — you did not go without the blessing of Christ — that {the famous lord {of the hall of the sun}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)] granted {to the breaker of gold wires} [GENEROUS MAN] and to his own mother a more worthy life in this world than others were able to obtain.

Mss: 649a(46v) (Jón4)

Readings: [6] brjót*: brjótr 649a

Editions: Skj AI, 561, Skj BI, 547, Skald I, 265, NN §3124; Jón4 1874, 510, Bugge 1874, 933, Lange 1958a, 81.

Context: Prefaced to this st. is the remark: ok kveðr svá til ástarlófs Jesu Cristi, er hann veitti sínum frænda ‘and he [Gamli] says this in praise of the love that Jesus Christ granted to his relative [John]’ (Jón4 1874, 510). On the idea of John as Christ’s relative, see Note to st. 2/4.

Notes: [3-4] ráðeflandi liðs rekka ‘counsel-provider of the troop of men [MANKIND > APOSTLE]’: Since the base-word of this kenning ([ráð]eflandi) is in the nom. and the st. is addressed to S. John, Lange (1958a, 82) plausibly regards the nom. form eflandi as a vocative; the kenning is thus an apostrophe addressed to S. John. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) takes ráð ... liðs to be a phrase standing in apposition to the pron. þik ‘you’. As Lange points out, one would then expect an acc. form eflanda, rather than the nom. Bugge takes the kenning to be part of the intercalary cl. eigi mistir blezan Kristi, but it is more likely that he takes it as a vocative addressed to S. John than as a phrase standing in apposition to the gen. Kristi, as Lange asserts. The kenning reflects the Christian view that it was the function of the Apostles to teach mankind (cf. Matt. XXVIII.20). — [6] brjót*: The ms. reading is ‘brjotr’ (nom. sg.). The subject of the sentence is the kenning siklingr ranns sólar ‘lord of the hall of the sun’ [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)]; since the st. is addressed to S. John, it is to be expected that he be mentioned in the second part of the st. as well as in the first. All eds since Bugge therefore emend the nom. form brjótr to the dat. sg. brjót* (1874, 933 n. 3) assuming a m. dat. sg. a-stem noun without dat. ending -i (ANG §358.3). The man-kenning brjót seima ‘breaker of gold wires’ [GENEROUS MAN] then designates the Apostle John and forms part of the indirect object in the construction unni mætra lífs seima brjót ok móður sinni ‘granted a more worthy life to the breaker of gold wires [GENEROUS MAN = John] and to his mother’. — [6] í þessum heimi ‘in this world’: Bugge, Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Lange (1958b, 17) regard this prepositional phrase as part of the subordinate cl. an aðrir gæti ‘than others were able to obtain’; Kock (NN §3124) argues that the w.o. suggests rather that í þessum heimi forms part of the cl. at siklingr ranns sólar unni seima brjót ok móður sinni mætra líf. — [7] mærðar kœnn ‘famous’: This phrase can be translated as ‘wise in fame’ and is interpreted by Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: mærð), Kahle (1901, 138) and Lange (1958b, 17) as ‘famous, much praised’ or (less plausibly) as ‘praised for his wisdom’ (LP: kœnn).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. 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.
  6. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  7. Bugge, Sophus, ed. 1874. ‘Anmærkingar ved de til Jons saga IV henhørende viser’. In Unger 1874, 932-6.
  8. Kahle, Bernhard. 1901. ‘Das Christentum in der altwestnordischen Dichtung’. ANF 17, 1-40, 97-159.
  9. Lange, Wolfgang. 1958a. Studien zur christlichen Dichtung der Nordgermanen 1000-1200. Palaestra 222. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  10. Lange, Wolfgang. 1958b. Christliche Skaldendichtung. Kleine Vandenhoeck-Reihe 54. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

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