Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Líkn 16VII

George S. Tate (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Líknarbraut 16’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 247-8.

Anonymous PoemsLíknarbraut

Nisti ferð í frosti
fárlunduð við tré sáran
— vasa hann verðugr písla —
várn græðara járnum.
Glymr varð hár af hömrum
heyrðr, þá er nagla keyrðu
hjálms gnýviðir hilmi
hófs í ristr ok lófa.

Fárlunduð ferð nisti várn sáran græðara járnum við tré í frosti; hann vasa verðugr písla. Hár glymr varð heyrðr af hömrum, þá er {{hjálms gný}viðir} keyrðu nagla í ristr ok lófa {hilmi hófs}.

A harm-minded host nailed our wounded Saviour with irons to the tree in the frost; he was not deserving of torment. High clanging was heard from hammers, when {the trees of {the din of the helmet}} [(lit. ‘din-trees of the helmet’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] drove nails into the insteps and palms {of the prince of moderation} [VIRTUOUS RULER = Christ].

Mss: B(11v), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [6] keyrðu: ‘keyr[...]’ B, ‘keyṛð̣ụ’ 399a‑bˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 153, Skj BII, 164, Skald II, 87; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 40, Rydberg 1907, 14, 49, Tate 1974, 61.

Notes: [1] nisti ‘nailed, pinned’: The verb is often used in the sense of ‘to pin, transfix’ with a spear or arrow, which is consonant with the warrior imagery of the st. Except in 32/4 nista does not appear to be used of the Crucifixion elsewhere in ON until late medieval poetry: see Píslargrátur 37/4, Krossvísur I, 9/3 and 40/4 and Krossvísur II, 8/3-4 (ÍM I.2, 204, 254, 260, 263). — [1] í frosti ‘in the frost’: LP translates as ved vintertid ‘in winter-time’, but winter does not square well with the season of Holy Week. Coldness is often glossed in a moral sense as infidelity or as malice or absence of charity (see Hill 1968, 522-32); cf. the prayer in the OIcel. ember-days homily that God might drive grimléics frost ‘the frost of cruelty’ from our hearts (HómÍsl 1993, 17r; HómÍsl 1872, 36). Later poetry extends the moral sense, e.g. frost glæpa ‘frost of sins’ Lil 81/8; related is C15th jockul synda ‘glacier of sins’ Máríublóm 3/8 (ÍM I.2, 173). Closest to Líkn, in the context of Passion narrative, is the late medieval Niðrstv 19/5, which refers to Christ’s being beaten bædi j grimd ok frosti ‘both in fierceness and frost’ (ibid. 228). — [2] fárlunduð ‘harm-minded’: Line 2 is unmetrical. Rydberg 1907, 49 (following Nj 1875-8, II.1, 257 and II.3, 925) emends to fárlynd to achieve a six-syllable l.; Skj B and Skald to fárlund. — [3] vasa ‘was not’: Both B and 399a-bˣ read ‘vara’; the older form vasa is required by skothending with písla, but contrast the ertu : hjarta rhyme at 40/5. — [4] hömrum ‘hammers’: Lindow 1994, 493 notes as rare this use of hamarr in a context that does not involve Þórr, where it is typically a weapon rather than hammer per se. — [7] hjálms gnýviðir ‘trees of the din of the helmet [lit. din-trees of the helmet] [BATTLE > WARRIORS]’: The kenning draws together each dominant image of the st.: the glymr ‘clanging’ of the hammers, the tree (tré) of the Cross, and the hilmir ‘prince [lit. helmet-granter]’ who is Christ. The relationship of hjálms ‘helmet’s’ and hilmi ‘prince, helmeter’ at either end of the l. is underscored not only by alliteration but also through polyptoton, the close repetition of a word or stem but in different form. Cf. Glúmr Gráf 4/1I. — [7, 8] hilmi hófs ‘of the prince of moderation [VIRTUOUS RULER = Christ]’: Etymologically hilmir ‘prince’ means ‘helmeter’; with reference to Christ this may also have a religious sense, for Eph. VI.17 exhorts men to put on the galea salutis ‘helmet of salvation’. Christ’s ‘moderation’ (hóf) contrasts with the extremes of frost and loud ringing.


  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. Nj 1875-89 = Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson. 1875-89. Njála: Udgivet efter gamle håndskrifter. Íslendingasögur udgivne efter gamle haandskrifter af Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskrift-selskab 4. Copenhagen: Thiele.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 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. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. Tate, George S. 1974. ‘Líknarbraut: A Skaldic Drápa on the Cross’. Ph.D. thesis. Cornell University. DAI 35:6112A.
  8. Hill, Thomas D. 1968. ‘The Tropological Context of Heat and Cold Imagery in Anglo-Saxon Poetry’. NM 69, 522-32.
  9. HómÍsl 1872 = Wisén, Theodor, ed. 1872. Homiliu-bók: Isländska homilier efter en handskrift från tolfte århundredet. Lund: Gleerup.
  10. HómÍsl 1993 = de Leeuw van Weenen, Andrea, ed. 1993. The Icelandic Homily Book: Perg. 15 4° in the Royal Library, Stockholm. Íslensk handrit/Icelandic Manuscripts Series in quarto 3. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi.
  11. ÍM = Jón Helgason, ed. 1936-8. Íslenzk miðaldarkvæði: Islandske digte fra senmiddelalderen. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  12. 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.
  13. Internal references
  14. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Drápa af Máríugrát 15’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 770-1.
  15. George S. Tate 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Líknarbraut’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 228-86.
  16. Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 81’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 653-4.
  17. Alison Finlay (ed.) 2012, ‘Glúmr Geirason, Gráfeldardrápa 4’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 252.
  18. Not published: do not cite ()

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