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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Mey 53VII

Kirsten Wolf (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Heilagra meyja drápa 53’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 924-5.

Anonymous PoemsHeilagra meyja drápa

text and translation

Sunnefa stökk með Seljumönnum;
sætu lýður Írland flýði;
austr um haf fór jungfrú Kristi;
eyjar til kom fylgi meyjar.
Frúin skínandi fór til bænar;
fellu á þau stórir hellar;
brúðar stendr í Björgvin miðri
blómligt skrín að helgum dómi.

Sunnefa stökk með Seljumönnum; lýður sætu flýði Írland; {jungfrú Kristi} fór austr um haf; fylgi meyjar kom til eyjar. Skínandi frúin fór til bænar; stórir hellar fellu á þau; blómligt skrín brúðar stendr að helgum dómi í miðri Björgvin.
‘Sunniva took to flight with the men of Selja; the people of the woman fled Ireland; the virgin of Christ [HOLY WOMAN] went east across the sea; the followers of the maiden came to an island. The shining lady went to pray; large rocks fell on them; the magnificent shrine of the woman stands in the sanctuary in the middle of Bergen.

notes and context

S. Sunniva and her companions from the Norw. island of Selja (ON Selja) were among the relatively few Scandinavian saints venerated in Iceland. Selje, on the Stadt peninsula opposite the island, was an early Benedictine foundation, dedicated to S. Alban (before 1150), near the episcopal see of Bergen. Although the saints of Selje are among the oldest local Norw. saints (Johnsen 1968), Sunniva herself seems not to have become prominent until her relics were transferred from Selje to Bergen cathedral in 1170. For Icel. evidence of the cult, see Cormack 1994, 15, 19, 24, 34, 35, 154. The story of Sunniva is recounted in Icel. translations of Oddr Snorrason’s Lat. saga of Óláfr Tryggvason c. 1190 (ÓTOdd 1932, 96-103; Andersson 2003, 76-9; Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 333). Sunniva is said to have been the daughter of a king of Ireland, oppressed by a marauding viking. Rather than marry or fight him (the two choices he gave her), she and her followers fled east over the sea and came to land on the previously uninhabited islands of Selja and Kinn, where they lived in caves and where local people used to pasture their herds. The latter complained to Jarl Hákon, who set out with a large force to kill the intruders. Before this could happen, however, the community was engulfed by the caves collapsing over them. Eventually, in the reign of Óláfr Tryggvason, their Christian sanctity was recognised.



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 XIV], [B. 12]. Af heilogum meyjum 53: AII, 537, BII, 595, Skald II, 330, NN §§1849A, 3397N.


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