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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Leið 22VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Leiðarvísan 22’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 160-1.

Anonymous PoemsLeiðarvísan

Engill kom við unga
allheppinn mey spjalla,
burð ok buðlungs dýrðar
bauð hann frǫmum svanna.
Brims tók bjǫrk in fremsta
brands við helgum anda;
sú hefk frétt at dag dróttins
dýrð framm komin yrði.

Allheppinn engill kom spjalla við unga mey, ok hann bauð frǫmum svanna burð {buðlungs dýrðar}. {In fremsta bjǫrk {brands brims}} tók við helgum anda; hefk frétt, at sú dýrð yrði framm komin dróttins dag.

An altogether fortunate angel came to speak with a young maiden, and he announced to the foremost lady the birth {of the king of glory} [= God (= Christ)]. {The foremost birch {of the fire of the sea}} [GOLD > WOMAN] received the Holy Spirit; I have heard that this glory was brought about on the Lord’s day.

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

Readings: [1] við: om. 624    [3] dýrðar: dýrðir B, 624    [5] Brims: corrected from ‘grims’ in margin in a different hand 624    [6] brands: ‘banndz’ B, 624    [7] hefk (‘hefe ec’): so 624, ‘hefer ek’ B

Editions: Skj AI, 622, Skj BI, 627-8, Skald I, 305; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 63, Rydberg 1907, 7, Attwood 1996a, 65, 176.

Notes: [All]: Sts 22-4 recount events leading up to the birth and baptism of Christ. Gabriel’s Annunciation of the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary is recounted in Luke I.26-38. The account in Leið has some conceptual similarities to that found in the sermon for the Feast of the Assumption in HómÍsl 1872, 138: seɴdi guþ drottiɴ engil siɴ ɢabriel til fundar viþ mario meþ þui eyrende at segia henni þat at guþ siálfr kaus hana til móþor sér. oc hon scyllde verþa hafandi at guþs syni. en þat eyreɴdi bar engilleɴ heɴi a þessom degi er nu hꜵlldom vér ‘The Lord God sent his angel Gabriel to meet with Mary with the purpose of telling her that God himself chose her to be his own mother, and she would bear God’s son. And the angel brought her that message on this day which we now celebrate’. — [1-2] allheppinn engill ‘altogether fortunate angel’: Cf. heppinn heimstýrir ‘fortunate lord of the world’ 14/5-6. — [3] dýrðar ‘of glory’: B’s dýrðir must be emended to provide the correct gen. sg. form, an emendation first suggested by Sveinbjörn Egilsson in a marginal note to the 444ˣ transcript. — [5-6] bjǫrk brims brands ‘birch of the fire of the sea [GOLD > WOMAN]’: A kenning for ‘woman’ is clearly required here. In that context, it has not been possible to make sense of B’s reading ‘banndz’, which could be gen. sg. of band ‘a bond, fetter, team, confederacy etc.’, sometimes used in pl. of the Norse gods. In a n. to Jón Sigurðsson’s transcript of 624 in 444(2)ˣ, Sveinbjörn Egilsson suggested emendation to beins, gen. sg. of beinn ‘ebony’, which is listed among heiti for ‘tree’ in a þula but is not attested elesewhere (LP: 1. beinn). Aside from its rarity, the noun does not work in a kenning which already has a tree-element, bjǫrk f. ‘birch’ in l. 5. Sveinbjörn rethought this emendation in preparing his printed edn (1844, 62 n. 10), in which he emended to brands gen. sg. of m. brandr ‘fire, flame’. This creates the gold-kenning, brandr brims ‘flame of the sea’, whose bjǫrk is a woman, in this case the Virgin Mary. Sveinbjörn’s second emendation has been adopted by all subsequent eds.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. 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.
  4. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  5. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  6. HómÍsl 1872 = Wisén, Theodor, ed. 1872. Homiliu-bók: Isländska homilier efter en handskrift från tolfte århundredet. Lund: Gleerup.
  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, ‘ Anonymous, Leiðarvísan’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 137-78. <> (accessed 21 September 2021)

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