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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Leið 24VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Leiðarvísan 24’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 162-3.

Anonymous PoemsLeiðarvísan

Lét Jóhannem ítran
einn dýrðarmann hreinan
ár í Jórðôn stýrir
alls tírar sik skíra.
Dáðstéttar kom dróttni
dags ok krismu lagði
líknarfúss í lesni
lands inn helgi andi.

{Stýrir alls tírar} lét ítran Jóhannem, einn hreinan dýrðarmann, skíra sik ár í Jórðôn. Inn helgi andi kom líknarfúss ok lagði krismu í lesni dróttni dáðstéttar dags lands.

{The steerer of all glory} [= God (= Christ)] allowed the remarkable John, a certain pure man of glory, to baptise him long ago in the [River] Jordan. The Holy Spirit came, eager with grace, and laid chrism in the headband {of the Lord {of the deed-host {of day’s land}}} [SKY/HEAVEN > ANGELS > = God (= Christ)].

Mss: B(10v), 624(89), 399a-bˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 622-3, Skj BI, 628, Skald I, 305, NN §1265; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 64, Rydberg 1907, 7-8, Attwood 1996a, 66, 176.

Notes: [2] einn ‘a certain’: Once again (cf. Note to 21/1) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) understands einn to qualify stýrir alls tírar in the sense den eneste styrer af al hæder ‘the sole steerer of all glory’, referring to Christ. Here einn is construed with hreinan dýrðarmann as ‘a certain pure man of glory’ (l. 2). — [5-8]: It is interesting to compare this helmingr with a lv. on Christ’s baptism preserved in the text of Skm in AM 242 fol and attributed there to Skáld-Þórir (Skáldþ LvIII). This poet is otherwise unknown (he is tentatively assigned by Skj B to the C12th). The noun krisma ‘chrism’ appears only in these two places in the skaldic corpus. — [6-7] lagði krismu í lesni ‘laid chrism in the headband’: Anointing with chrism (a mixture of consecrated oil and balsam) was a standard part of medieval baptismal practice. That Iceland was no exception to the norm is confirmed by Bishop Árni Þorláksson’s ‘Boðskapur’ (DI II, 23-37), a series of instructions to clergy in his Skálholt diocese, which are dated September 1269, shortly after Árni’s accession to the see. They claim to confirm and update a similar document of Bishop Magnús Gizurarson (bishop of Skálholt 1216-29, 1231-7; DI I, 423-63) which is dated 1224, but does not include detail of baptismal practice. The version of Árni’s ‘Boðskapur’ preserved in AM 456 12° fols 130-6 discusses infant baptism at some length: ... þa skal [prestrinn] signa þat [barn] ok gefa sallt vigt ok lesa gudspiall yfir ok giora krossa yfir med hraka sinum fyri eyrum ok nosum ok leida i kirkiu. smyria sidan ä brioste ok millum herde med oleo sancto ok sidan med krisma j hǫfdi. færa j skirnar klædi ok fa kerti loganda j hond ... ‘Then the priest must sign the child and give it consecrated salt and read the gospel over it and make the sign of the cross over its ears and nose with his saliva and lead it into the church; then [the priest must] annoint [the child’s] breast and between its shoulders with holy oil and then annoint its head with chrism, put it into baptismal clothes and set a burning candle in its hand...’ (DI II, 26). An alternative version of Árni’s instructions, preserved in AM 456 12° fols 93-4, gives further details of the headband used to seal the chrism (DI II, 51): dregla suo langa at uel megi knyta um hofudit. ok suo breida at hyli krisma krossinu. ... Þriar nætur skulu dreglar um hofudit barnanna ok skulu mædurnar at geyma ok lata eigi at falla ... sidan skulu þuozt hǫfud barnanna j lut ok j uormu uatni ok kasta j elld dreglinum ‘the band [should be] so long that it can be wound around the head, and so broad as to hide the chrism cross ... the children must wear the bands round their heads for three nights and their mothers must look after them and not allow them to fall ... then they must wash the heads of the children in lye and warm water and throw the bands into the fire’. Tveitane (1966, 131 n. 3) argued that the use of the word krisma ‘chrism’ indicates a direct borrowing from the Pseudo-Wulfstan homily Sermo angelorum nomina (Pseudo-Wulfstan Homily XLV, in Napier 1883, 226-32). However, there are considerable differences between the two accounts of the baptism. In the OE text, and its Lat. source Epistola Salvatoris Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Priebsch 1899, 130-4), Christ is anointed with both oil and chrism, while Leið mentions only chrism. Although the Lat. text includes no account of Christ’s salutation as the Son of God, the OE indicates that, after John had baptised and anointed him, an angel came from heaven and announced: Þis is min leofa sunu, on þæm ic me wel gelicode, geherað him wel ‘This is my dear son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen carefully to him’ (Napier 1883, 229). Leið credits John only with the baptism itself and asserts that the Holy Spirit performed the anointing (24/5-8).


  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. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  6. DI = Jón Sigurðsson and Jón Þorkelsson et al., eds. 1857-1976. Diplomatarium Islandicum. Íslenzkt fornbréfasafn. 16 vols. Copenhagen: Möller; Reykjavík: Félagsprentsmiðju.
  7. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. Napier, Arthur, ed. 1883. Wulfstan: Sammlung der ihm zugeschrieben Homilien nebst Untersuchungen über ihre Echtheit. Sammlung englischer Denkmäler in kritischen Ausgaben 4. Berlin: Weidmann.
  9. 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.
  10. Internal references
  11. Not published: do not cite (FrisII)
  12. Not published: do not cite (SkmIII)
  13. 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.
  14. R. D. Fulk 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Skáldþórir, Lausavísa’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 353.

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