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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Pét 13VII

David McDougall (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Pétrsdrápa 13’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 806-7.

Anonymous PoemsPétrsdrápa

Baptista* hlaut hæstan
háleitr skírnarmála
veg, sá er, lasta lægir,
lífs greinum fremr sveina.
Sýn tjár fingri frænda
fystr, og iðran lysti,
guð; tveir fyrðar fróðir
fóru í brott með drotni.

Háleitr Baptista*, {lægir lasta}, sá er fremr sveina greinum lífs, hlaut hæstan veg skírnarmála. Fystr tjár sýn fingri, frænda guð, og lysti iðran; tveir fróðir fyrðar fóru í brott með drotni.

The sublime Baptist, {oppressor of vices} [HOLY MAN], who advances [his] disciples in the teachings of life, obtained the highest honour of baptisms. He reveals first the sight with his finger, [that] his kinsman [is] God, and he desired repentance; two wise men went away with the Lord.

Mss: 621(58r)

Readings: [1] Baptista*: Baptistam 621

Editions: Skj AII, 502, Skj BII, 548, Skald II, 300, NN §1719; Kahle 1898, 81.

Notes: [4] greinum lífs ‘in the teachings of life’: See LP: lífsgrein. Or perhaps ‘in the branches of life’ = ‘in life, salvation’; cf. Mdr 34/6 greinar lífs (= lífs); see LP: grein 6; Finnur Jónsson 1926-8: grein; Björn K. Þórólfsson 1934, 206; Schottmann 1973, 132; Davíð Erlingsson 1974, 38-9. — [4] sveina ‘disciples’: Cf. Pétr 2/11-12: Þessi orð hins signaða Johannis heyrðo .ii. hans lærisveinar ‘Two of his disciples heard these words of the blessed John’; John I.25: ex discipulis eius duo ‘two of his disciples’. — [5-7]: Both Finnur Jónsson and Kock emend ms. ‘syn’ to synd to provide skothending with frænda. Finnur (Skj B) translates: sin synd tilstår han først for gud og forkyndte sin anger? ‘he first confesses his sin before God and proclaimed his repentance?’. Kock (NN §1719) instead takes the ll. to mean that John revealed the sin of Peter and Andrew (synd ... frænda gen. pl.) and proclaimed their repentance before God (accepting Finnur’s emendation in Skj B of guð [l. 7] to guði). Neither of these interpretations, however, is supported by either the gospels or Pétr and neither takes account of the word fingri (l. 5). (The two disciples of John mentioned in Pétr 2/12-13 are not ‘the kinsmen’ Andrew and Peter, but Andrew and annarr er eigi [er] nefndr ‘another [man], who is not named’; cf. John I.40.) The passage undoubtedly refers to John’s affirmation of the divinity of Christ at John I.29, 36; cf. Pétr 2/6-11: ꜳ einum degi, þa er sæll Johannes baptista stoð i þeim stað, er hann veitti monnum skirn i Jordan, sa hann varn herra Jesum Kristum koma til sin, ok mællti sva til hans: ‘See her lamb guðs þat er tekr syndir af heiminum’ ‘On a certain day, when the blessed John the Baptist stood in that place where he baptized men in the Jordan, he saw our Lord Jesus Christ come to him, and he spoke thus to him: “Behold here the Lamb of God, which takes away sins from the world.”’. That John did not merely proclaim the advent of Christ with words, but pointed him out ‘with his finger’ is a commonplace found, for instance in JBapt2A 927/1-2: syndi Jesum með eiginligum fingri ... þa er hann sagði: Se her lamb guðs ‘he revealed Jesus with his own finger ... when he said: Behold here the Lamb of God’, and Andr2A 354/24-5: drottin varn ... auðsyndi með sinum fingri ‘with his finger he revealed ... our Lord’. The detail appears in the hymn Antra deserti, attributed to Paul the Deacon, which was sung at Matins on the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist (AH 50, 120 §96, st. 7; DH 327-8 §86/2, st. iii): tu quidem mundi scelus auferentem indice prodis ‘with your forefinger you make known the one who takes away the sin of the world’. Cf. Ordo Nidr. 354/22. For further examples of the motif, see Ælfric, Catholic Homilies (Clemoes 1997, XXV.136-8, XXXVI.52-4; Godden 2000, 206 and 301). — [5] frænda ‘kinsman’: Christ is John the Baptist’s kinsman (cf. Luke I.36). — [6]: See Note to st. 10/5. Finnur Jónsson prints fystr ... lysti (with short y), but translates the verb as if 3rd pers. sg. pret. indic. of lýsa (forkyndte ‘proclaimed’); Kock (Skald) prints fyrstr ... lýsti with skothending for expected aðalhending. With fystr ... lysti cf. st. 35/2: fyst ... lystir. The phrase lysti iðran ‘he desired repentance’ refers to the recurrent theme of John’s preaching (Matt. III.1-2, venit Iohannes Baptista ... dicens paenitentiam agite ‘John the Baptist comes ... saying: do penance’; cf. Matt. III.8, 11; Mark I.4; Luke III.3; Acts XIII.24, XIX.4). With the use of normally impers. lysti with ellipsis of a pronominal object, cf. again st. 35/2 and Þry 27/1 lysti at kyssa ‘desired to kiss’. Cf. perhaps st. 32/5-6 alt ... það er lysti lund, where the particle er can stand for either an acc. or a gen. object (cf. Fritzner: er 1c.β and δ). — [8]: Cf. Pétr 2/13: Þeir sneru ꜳ veg með varnum herra ‘They turned away from our Lord’; John I.37: secuti sunt Iesum ‘they followed Jesus’.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 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. 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.
  7. Björn K. Þórólfsson. 1934. Rímur fyrir 1600. Safn fræðafjelagsins um Ísland og Íslendinga gefið út af hinu íslenska fræðafjelagi í Kaupmannahöfn 9. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. Clemoes, Peter, ed. 1997. Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies. The First Series. Text. Early English Text Society, Supplementary Ser. 17. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. Davíð Erlingsson. 1974. Blómað mál í rímum. Studia Islandica/Íslensk Fræði 33. Reykjavík: Bókaútgáfa Menningarsjóðs.
  10. DH = Milfull, Inge B. 1996. The Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church: A study and edition of the ‘Durham Hymnal’. Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 17. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  11. Schottmann, Hans. 1973. Die isländische Mariendichtung. Untersuchungen zur volkssprachigen Mariendichtung des Mittelalters. Münchner germanistische Beiträge 9. Munich: Fink.
  12. Finnur Jónsson. 1926-8. Ordbog til de af samfund til udg. af gml. nord. litteratur udgivne Rímur samt til de af Dr. O. Jiriczek udgivne Bósarímur. SUGNL 51. Copenhagen: Jørgensen.
  13. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  14. Godden, Malcolm. 2000. Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies. Introduction, Commentary and Glossary. Early English Text Society, Supplementary Ser. 18. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  15. Kahle, Bernhard, ed. 1898. Isländische geistliche Dichtungen des ausgehenden Mittelalters. Heidelberg: Winter.
  16. Internal references
  17. Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Máríudrápa 34’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 506.
  18. Not published: do not cite ()

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