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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Leið 20VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Leiðarvísan 20’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 158-9.

Anonymous PoemsLeiðarvísan

Sinn skreytti dag dróttinn
dáðsterkr framaverkum,
rekkum*s rann til drykkjar
reint vatn fram ór steini.
* Ráðmegninn lét rigna
risnufimr af himni
mat, þeims manna heitir,
margri þjóð til bjargar.

Dáðsterkr dróttinn skreytti sinn dag framaverkum, *[e]s reint vatn rann fram ór steini til drykkjar rekkum. * Ráðmegninn, risnufimr, lét rigna af himni mat, þeims heitir manna, til bjargar margri þjóð.

The deed-strong Lord adorned his day with deeds of distinction, when pure water flowed forth from a rock as a drink for men. The one strong in counsel, quick with hospitality, caused that food which is called manna to rain from heaven as a help to many people.

Mss: B(10v), 624(88)

Readings: [3] rekkum*s: rekkum þá er B, 624    [5] *: ok B, 624;    Ráðmegninn: ráðmeginn B, 624

Editions: Skj AI, 622, Skj BI, 627, Skald I, 305; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 62-3, Rydberg 1907, 7, Attwood 1996a, 65, 175.

Notes: [All]: Two separate accounts of God’s feeding the hungry Israelites during their desert wanderings are alluded to in this st. Lines 1-4 refer to Moses’ striking the rock at Horeb with his staff, providing drinking water. This event is recorded in Exod. XVII.1-7, and is widely referred to in later Hebrew hymns and Scriptures (see, for example, Ps. LXXVIII.15-16, XLVIII. 48.21). Lines 5-8 relate the more famous incident of the provision of manna, panes de caelo ‘bread from heaven’ (Exod. XVI.4), which is recorded in Exod. XVI.1-36. It is interesting to note that the Leið-poet has reversed the biblical chronology in sts 19-20. In Exod., the provision of manna is recorded as taking place before the striking of the rock at Horeb (the relative chronology is confirmed by the geographical progression indicated in Exod. XVI.1 and Exod. XVII.1), both of which take place before the Israelites reach Sinai, where Moses receives the Law. None of the surviving recensions of the Sunday Letter actually contains accounts of all three of these incidents, and only the S. Emmeram Homily version of the Sunday List has accounts of both the miracle at Horeb and the receipt of the Ten Commandments, these being presented there in strict biblical order (see Attwood 2003, 73). Either the Leið-poet was working from some hitherto undiscovered exemplar, or there is some artistic purpose behind the chronology here. Imagery established in these events, in which God provides nourishment for his people, is traditionally considered in Christian thought to refer to Christ, who is described in the New Testament as a provider of life-giving water and as the bread of life: sed aqua quam dabo ei fiet in eo fons aquae salientis in vitam aeternam ‘the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting’ (John IV.14); ego sum panis vitae ‘I am the bread of life’ (John VI.35). Read in this light, st. 20 prefigures the Incarnation, which is the subject of the next narrative st. (as opposed to refrain st.), st. 22. It is perhaps churlish to point out that the Exod. account implies that manna did not fall on the Sabbath – the Israelites were told to collect a double ration on the sixth day and keep the seventh as a day of rest (Exod. XVI.23-6). — [2] dáðsterkr ‘deed-strong’: See Note on 5/7: dáðmáttugr ‘deed-mighty’. — [3] rekkum*s: The omission of B’s þá was first suggested by Konráð Gíslason (and Eiríkur Jónsson 1875-89, II, 907, 926) to produce a 6-syllable l., and has been followed by Skj B and Skald. — [5]: Similarly, Konráð Gíslason (and Eiríkur Jónsson 1875-89, II, 907) proposed the omission of B’s ok at the beginning of this l., to produce a regular 6-syllable l. — [5] ráðmegninn ‘the one strong in counsel’: Both B and 624 read ráðmeginn, but emendation to the substantivised adj. + def. art. is adopted here to provide a long syllable in metrical position 2. — [7] manna ‘manna’: The only reference in skaldic poetry to this miraculous biblical food. — [8] margri þjóð til bjargar: ‘Filler’ ll. on this model occur elsewhere in the Christian skaldic corpus. Cf. 6/7: borgar lýð til bjargar; Has 12/8: margir þar til bjargar.


  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. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  5. Attwood, Katrina. 2003. ‘Leiðarvísan and the “Sunday Letter” Tradition in Iceland’. In Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir et al. 2003, 53-78.
  6. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. 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.
  8. Internal references
  9. Katrina Attwood 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Leiðarvísan’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 137-78.
  10. 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.

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