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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Leið 10VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Leiðarvísan 10’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 149-50.

Anonymous PoemsLeiðarvísan

‘Munk’, kvað vǫrðr, ‘í virða’,
vallræfrs, ‘liðu alla
— stríð þjá drótt til dauða
drjúghvasst — eldum kasta,
ef vegrunnar vinna
varrelgs daga helga
elds eða eigi gjalda
allþétt tíund rétta.’

{Vǫrðr {vallræfrs}} kvað: ‘Munk kasta eldum í alla liðu virða — stríð þjá drjúghvasst drótt til dauða —, ef {{{{varrelgs} veg-} elds} -runnar} vinna allþétt helga daga eða gjalda eigi rétta tíund’.

{The warden {of the plain-roof}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God] said: ‘I will cast fires into all the limbs of men — afflictions will plague mankind severely unto death — if {the trees {of the fire {of the way {of the wake-elk}}}} [(lit. ‘way-trees of the fire of the wake-elk’) SHIP > SEA > GOLD > MEN] work very energetically on holy days or do not pay the correct tithe’.

Mss: B(10v), 624(87), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [1] vǫrðr: so all others, ‘vo᷎rd[...]’ B    [2] ‑ræfrs (‘‑ręfrss’): ‘ræfuls’ 624    [4] eldum: ‘ęttum’ B, ættum 624, ‘ęllum’ 399a‑bˣ    [6] varrelgs: ‘vardegls’ BRydberg, 624, 399a‑bˣ, ‘vareelgs’ B;    helga: so 624, ‘helg[...]’ B    [7] elds: so 624, ‘[...]ll[...]z’ B

Editions: Skj AI, 620, Skj BI, 624, NN §§2141, 3249; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 59-60, Rydberg 1907, 5, Attwood 1996a, 62, 173.

Notes: [4] eldum (dat. pl.) ‘fires’: The dat. is needed with kasta. It has not been possible to make sense of B’s reading ‘ęttum’, possibly dat. pl. of f. ætt, either an astronomical term referring to a portion, or ‘quarter’ of the heavens or, more commonly, a reference to kinship relations or family pedigree (cf. Fritzner: ætt). The word is clearly intended as the instrument of God’s threat to punish mankind for its failure to observe Sundays by throwing (kasta, l. 4) something painful into men’s limbs. Finnur Jónsson’s emendation (Skj B) to trega, dat. sg. of tregi ‘woe, sorrow’, bears no relation to the ms. reading. Kock’s suggestion (NN §2141) of eitrum or eitri, dat. pl. or dat. sg. of eitr ‘poison’ makes sense in the context and is in keeping with the threatening tone of the st. Most other versions of the Sunday Letter include fire as one of the punishments for failing to observe the sanctity of Sunday (Attwood 2003, 72). Thus emendation has been made to eldum, dat. pl. of eldr ‘fire’. — [5, 6, 7] vinna allþétt helga daga eða eigi gjalda rétta tíund ‘[they] work very energetically on holy days or do not pay the correct tithe’: Kock (NN §3249) offers an alternative prose rendition, requiring a slight emendation, though he did not adopt it in Skald: vinna all[a] helga daga, eða gjalda eigi þétt rétta tíund ‘work on all holy days, or do not eagerly pay the correct tithe’. — [5, 6, 7] vegrunnar elds varrelgs ‘way-trees of the fire of the wake-elk [SHIP > SEA > GOLD > SEAFARERS]’: Sveinbjörn Egilsson (1844, 60) follows 624’s and 399a-bˣ’s readings to give varðelg ‘guardian-elk’, but B reads ‘vareelgs’, though it is possible that the first <e> is meant to be a <d> (cf. Rydberg 1907, 5 n. 14). Skj B and Kock emend to varrelg, compounding elgr ‘elk’ with the poetic word vǫrr ‘wake of a ship’. Although varrelgr is not otherwise attested, elgr is often used in kennings for ships (LP: elgr). Vegr varrelgs ‘way of the wake-elk’ i.e. ‘way of the ship’ makes for an acceptable sea-kenning.


  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. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  7. Attwood, Katrina. 2003. ‘Leiðarvísan and the “Sunday Letter” Tradition in Iceland’. In Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir et al. 2003, 53-78.
  8. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  9. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  10. 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.

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