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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Líkn 34VII

George S. Tate (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Líknarbraut 34’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 266-8.

Anonymous PoemsLíknarbraut

text and translation

Stigi nefniz þú stafna
stálfríðundum smíði
traustr af tvennrar ástar
— tek ek minni þess — kinnum.
Framm kemr hverr á himna
hræskóðs ok fær góða
stétt, þá er stig þín hittir,
styrjar lundr af grundu.

Þú nefniz stigi, traustr af kinnum tvennrar ástar, smíði stafna {stálfríðundum}; ek tek minni þess. Hverr {lundr {styrjar {hræskóðs}}} kemr framm ok fær góða stétt af grundu á himna, þá er hittir þín stig.
‘You are called a ladder, trusty on account of side-poles of twofold love, a smith-work of stems for prow-adorners [SEAFARERS]; I take remembrance of this. Each tree of the tumult of the corpse-scathe [WEAPON > BATTLE > WARRIOR] advances and receives a good pathway from the earth to the heavens, when he gains your steps.

notes and context

The dominant image of the st., the Cross as ladder, is an exegetical commonplace deriving from commentary on Jacob’s vision of a ladder extending to heaven (Gen. XXVIII.12-13). E.g., in a sermon that circulated under Augustine’s authority in the Middle Ages, Caesarius of Arles (C6th) writes: Scala ipsa usque ad caelos attingens, crucis figuram habuit ‘The ladder itself extending to the heavens held the figure of the Cross’ (Sermo 87 in Morin 1953, 360; cf. Classis prima, auctor incertus [Augustinus Hipponensis?], col. 1761). The connection of Jacob’s ladder with the Cross also occurs in the late medieval Icel. Gimsteinn 102/5-03/4 (ÍM I.2, 327). Medieval commentators often gloss the parts of the ladder – e.g., the side-poles or stiles (latera) as Christ’s two natures, the two Testaments, etc. The probable source for kinnum tvennrar ástar ‘side-poles of twofold love’ (ll. 3-4), i.e. love of God and neighbour (Matt. XXII.37-9), is Honorius Augustodunensis (C12th), who was known in Iceland mainly through his Eluc and Gemma animae, both of which were translated into ON. In his sermon on Quinquagesima Sunday in Speculum ecclesiae, and again in Scala coeli minor, Honorius allegorises the parts of a ladder of love which is clearly the Cross. Of the side-poles he writes: Hujus scalae vero latera sunt geminae dilectionis, Dei scilicet et proximi dilectio ‘The side-poles of this ladder are indeed twofold love, i.e. love of God and neighbour’ (cols 869 and 1239). An analogue (noted by Paasche 1914a, 130) is in the Icel. homily on the Cross, which allegorises the arms of the Cross as óst viþ goþ oc meɴ ‘love for God and men’ (HómÍsl 1993, 17v; HómÍsl 1872, 38; cf. HómNo, 104). Árni Jónsson later borrows several details from Líkn for his GdIV, including the ‘ladder of twofold love’ elsku tvennrar stigi (72/6-7); see Tate 1978-9.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], C. 1. Líknarbraut 34: AII, 156, BII, 169, Skald II, 89, NN §1395; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 45-6, Rydberg 1907, 17, 51, Tate 1974, 79.


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