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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Pét 41VII

David McDougall (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Pétrsdrápa 41’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 832-3.

Anonymous PoemsPétrsdrápa

Skekr nú ráðs og reikar;
rann með varðhaldsmanni
brott, þvíað ástin ótta
ógnstærðan honum færði.
Böl fyr buðlung sólar
bar stríðandi kvíða
hæst, þó hyrfi í fystu
hann frá vizku sannri.

Nú skekr ráðs og reikar; rann brott með varðhaldsmanni, þvíað ástin færði honum ótta ógnstærðan. {Stríðandi kvíða} bar hæst böl fyr {buðlung sólar}, þó hann hyrfi í fystu frá sannri vizku.

Now his resolve is shaken and he falters; he ran away with a watchman, because love induced in him fear magnified by peril. {The fighter against anxiety} [= Peter] bore the greatest woe for {the king of the sun} [= God (= Christ)], though he turned at first from true wisdom.

Mss: 621(59r)

Editions: Skj AII, 506, Skj BII, 554-5, Skald II, 304, NN §§1742, 1743; Kahle 1898, 87, 111.

Notes: [All]: This st. should logically come directly after st. 39 (see Introduction and Note to ll. 2-3 below). — [1] skekr ráðs ‘his resolve is shaken’: Finnur Jónsson (LP: skaka) tentatively suggests a contextual sense for skaka ráðs: være usikker ‘to be uncertain’ (though he notes that the phrase is ‘obscure and perhaps corrupt’). At the same time s.v. reika he suggests that ráðs may belong with that verb. Skaka is normally transitive (see Fritzner), and here is perhaps used impersonally: ‘it shakes (him) with respect to his plan of action = his resolve is shaken’. — [2-3] rann brott með varðhaldsmanni ‘he ran away with a watchman’: Finnur Jónsson proposes a sense vogter, fængselsvogter ‘watchman, guard, prison-guard’ for varðhaldsmaðr (see LP), but does not explain precisely which prison-guard he imagines Peter eloping with (one of Christ’s captors?). The passage would appear to refer to Christ’s abandonment by his disciples at the moment of his arrest: Mark XIV.50 (cf. Matt. XXVI.56) tunc discipuli eius relinquentes eum omnes fugerunt ‘then his disciples leaving him, all fled away’. A normal sense of varðhaldsmaðr is ‘watchkeeper, watchman’ (see Fritzner; cf. varðmaðr), and since all of Christ’s followers were enjoined to keep watch in Gethsemane (Mark XIV.34 sustinete hic et vigilate; cf. Matt. XXVI.38), the term might perhaps refer ironically to one of the other disciples (or, even more obliquely, to the only other figure who is reported to have fled at the time of Christ’s capture, the adulescens of Mark XIV.51-2: adulescens autem quidam sequebatur illum ... et tenuerunt eum, at ille reiecta sindone nudus profugit ab eis ‘and a certain young man followed him ... and they laid hold on him, but he, casting off the linen cloth, fled from them naked’). But the passage remains obscure. Three gospels record only that after Christ’s arrest, Peter ‘followed him afar off’ (Matt. XXVI.58; Mark XIV.54; Luke XXII.54). John XVIII.15 notes that Peter followed Jesus together with ‘another disciple’ (Petrus et alius discipulus). In some versions of the passage, this figure is identified as John (cf. Kirby 1976-80, II, 313 [John XVIII.16f.]; Pétr 14/1). — [3-4] ótta ógnstærðan ‘fear magnified by peril’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends ms. ‘ogn stærdan’ to ógnstærð, which he takes with ástin (l. 3): den ved frygten formerede kærlighed gjorde ham bange ‘the love increased through fear made him afraid’. As Kock observes (NN §1742), it is hard to see any advantage in this. — [6] stríðandi kvíða ‘the fighter against anxiety’: Kock (NN §1743) rejects the contradictory interpretations given in Skj B (where stríðandi is taken as adj. and ll. 5-7 are construed: kummerfuld nærede han den höjeste angstens pine ‘grief-stricken he harboured fear of the greatest agony’) and LP: stríðandi (where bǫls stríðandi is listed as an agent-kenning, though neither Skj A nor B has the emended reading bǫls). Taking stríðandi kvíða as subject and hæst böl as object makes good sense without emendation. Kvíða (see Fritzner: kvíði wk. m. ‘dread, apprehension, anxiety’) may be taken as either gen. or dat. sg. object of stríðandi (see Note to 30/5-6), but since a periphrasis that characterises Peter as ‘an adversary of fear’ is slightly problematic in a st. focusing on his timorous behaviour, the phrase may instead mean ‘fighter against anxiety’ and refer here to Peter’s internal struggle against his own fear.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj A = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15a. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. A: Tekst efter håndskrifterne. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1967. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Kahle, Bernhard, ed. 1898. Isländische geistliche Dichtungen des ausgehenden Mittelalters. Heidelberg: Winter.

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