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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Líkn 40VII

George S. Tate (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Líknarbraut 40’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 275-6.

Anonymous PoemsLíknarbraut

Veit mér líkn, er læknar
ljóna kind frá blindi
hyggju túns ok hreinsar,
heims prýði, kyn lýða.
Ert fyr hvers manns hjarta
hreins við öllum meinum
hæstr ok harðri freistni
hlífiskjöldr í lífi.

{Heims prýði}, veit mér líkn, er læknar ljóna kind frá blindi {hyggju túns} ok hreinsar kyn lýða. Ert hæstr hlífiskjöldr fyr hjarta hvers hreins manns við öllum meinum ok harðri freistni í lífi.

{World’s adornment} [CROSS], grant me mercy, you who heal men’s offspring from blindness of {thought’s enclosure} [BREAST] and purify the race of men. You are the highest protective-shield before the heart of each pure man against all injuries and hard temptation in life.

Mss: B(12r), 399a-bˣ

Editions: Skj AII, 157, Skj BII, 170-1, Skald II, 90; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 47, Rydberg 1907, 18, 52, Tate 1974, 85.

Notes: [1]: The consonance of líkn ‘grace’ and lækn- ‘heal’ calls attention to their conceptual relationship, for it is through grace that healing is effected. (On Christ as læknir ‘healer’ see 31/3.) The subject of læknar is ambiguous, either líkn ‘mercy’ or the implied 2nd pers. þú ‘you’ (ms. veittu), but the tradition of the Cross as healer or medicine makes the latter perhaps more likely. In this st., the poet continues to draw upon the Icel. homily De sancta cruce (HómÍsl 1993, 18r; HómÍsl 1872, 39; cf. HómNo, 105), in which the Cross is called læcning viþ sóttom ‘a cure/medicine for illnesses’; cf. AH 8, 24 where the Cross is medicina corporalis / christianis et mentalis ‘physical and spiritual medicine for Christians’. These ideas probably depend upon Num. XXI.9, in which the brazen serpent with its healing power is a type of the Crucifixion; cf. Veraldar saga’s allegorical reading: Eitrormr sa er i tre hieck er hver vard heill er til leit. merkir Jesvm Christvm hanganda a krossinvm, er græder oll sär anda vora ‘The brazen serpent which hung on the wood, as each one was healed who looked upon it, signifies Jesus Christ hanging on the Cross, who heals all the wounds of our souls’ (Jakob Benediktsson 1944, 84). — [3-8]: The ‘h’-alliteration extends for 6 ll.; cf. 33/1-4, 37/5-8 (and 1-2). — [3] hyggju túns ‘of thought’s enclosure [BREAST]’: Tún lit. ‘hedge’ is a ‘hedged plot, field’ or simply ‘enclosure’; Guðrún Nordal 2001, 256 translates the kenning ‘field of the mind’. — [4] heims prýði ‘world’s adornment’: Cf. Alcuin’s famous acrostic hymn Crux decus est mundi ‘The Cross is the adornment of the world’ (Szövérffy 1976, 25; Dümmler 1881, 224-5), and from a later hymn salve mundi gloria / ... dulce decus saeculi ‘hail, glory of the world, ... sweet adornment of the world’ (Mone 1853-5, I, 111). Mary is called heims prýði in Mdr 11/2. — [8, 6, 7] hlífiskjöldr við öllum meinum ok harðri freistni ‘a protective-shield against all injuries and hard temptation’: This follows the homily (above) closely: heilagr cros er hlífskioldr viþ méinom ... en ęfling viþ allre freístne ‘a protective shield against injuries ... and strength against all temptation’; cf. the late medieval Gimsteinn 117/8, in which the Cross is hlíf ok skiolldur mot fiandans golldrum ‘a protection and shield against the devil’s spells’. The Cross as protection (praesidium) is also a motif in hymns, e.g. Christi crux et passio / Nobis est praesidio, / Si credamus ‘Christ’s Cross and Passion are [lit. is] to us for a protection if we believe’ (AH 54, 223); it is described as a shield in a ME lyric: Crux est ... / a targe to weren fro detly woundes ‘The Cross is a shield to protect from deadly wounds’ (Brown and Robbins 1943, no. 23).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. AH = Dreves, G. M., C. Blume and H. M. Bannister, eds. 1886-1922. Analecta hymnica medii aeui. 55 vols. Leipzig: Reisland. Rpt. 1961. New York: Johnson.
  4. Guðrún Nordal. 2001. Tools of Literacy: The Role of Skaldic Verse in Icelandic Textual Culture of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.
  5. Brown, Carleton and Rossell Hope Robbins, eds. 1943. Index of Middle English Verse. New York: Columbia University Press.
  6. Dümmler, Ernst, ed. 1881. Poetae latini aevi carolini 1. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Poetae latini medii aevi 1. Rpt. 1964. Berlin: Weidmann.
  7. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. Szövérffy, Joseph. 1976. Hymns of the Holy Cross. Medieval Classics: Texts and Studies 7. Brookline, Mass.: Classical Folia Editions.
  9. Tate, George S. 1974. ‘Líknarbraut: A Skaldic Drápa on the Cross’. Ph.D. thesis. Cornell University. DAI 35:6112A.
  10. HómÍsl 1872 = Wisén, Theodor, ed. 1872. Homiliu-bók: Isländska homilier efter en handskrift från tolfte århundredet. Lund: Gleerup.
  11. 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.
  12. HómNo = Indrebø, Gustav. 1931. Gamal norsk homiliebok, Cod. AM 619, 4°. Det norske historiske Kjeldeskrift Fond, Skrifter 54. Oslo: Dybwad. Rpt. 1966. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
  13. Jakob Benediktsson, ed. 1944. Veraldar saga. SUGNL 61. Copenhagen: Luno.
  14. Mone, Franz Joseph, ed. 1853-5. Hymni latini medii aevi. 3 vols. Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder.
  15. 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.
  16. Internal references
  17. Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Máríudrápa 11’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 487-8.
  18. Not published: do not cite ()

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