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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Mey 54VII

Kirsten Wolf (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Heilagra meyja drápa 54’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 925.

Anonymous PoemsHeilagra meyja drápa

text and translation

Tíu þúsundir tígnar meyja
tel eg greinandi riett og eina;
Ussula var fyr öllum þessum
Einglands blóm, er fór til Róma.
Vænar meyjar hjuggu Húnir;
hrottar skýfðu brúðir drottins;
dýrkuð er nú Kolnis kirkja
kraftarík af þeira líkum.

Greinandi riett, tel eg tíu þúsundir og eina tígnar meyja; Ussula, blóm Einglands, er fór til Róma, var fyr þessum öllum. Húnir hjuggu vænar meyjar; hrottar skýfðu {brúðir drottins}; kirkja Kolnis, kraftarík, er nú dýrkuð af líkum þeira.
‘Recording correctly, I count 11,000 [lit. ten thousand and one] maidens of distinction; Ursula, the flower of England, who went to Rome, was the leader of them all. The Huns slew the beautiful maidens; the swords slashed the brides of the Lord [HOLY WOMEN]; the church of Cologne, rich in miracles, is now worshipped because of their bodies.

notes and context

The story of S. Ursula and her 11,000 virgin martyr companions has some similarities to that of Sunniva. It was known in Iceland from Breta sögur (first half of C13th), a translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britaniae (c. 1136). There is also a brief epitome of the legend in a C14th ms. (Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 335). On the cult in Iceland, see Cormack 1994, 29, 34-5, 158. In its elaborated form, the legend of Ursula grew out of a veneration of a small number of unnamed virgins at Cologne in C4th, but, by the C12th, Ursula had become the daughter of a king of Britain. She, together with 11,000 virgins, went on a pilgrimage to Rome and, on their return journey they were murdered by the Huns at Cologne on account of their Christian faith.



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 54: AII, 537, BII, 595, Skald II, 330, NN §§2764, 2970B.


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