Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Anon Lil 51VII

Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Lilja 51’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 620-1.

Anonymous PoemsLilja

Yfirmeistarinn allra lista,
Jésús góðr, er lífgar þjóðir,
veittu mier að stilla og stýra,
steflig orð megi tungan efla.
Æfinliga með lyftum lófum,
lof ræðandi, á knie sín bæði
skepnan öll er skyld að falla,
skapari minn, fyrir ásjón þinni.

Yfirmeistarinn allra lista, Jésús góðr, er lífgar þjóðir, veittu mier að stilla og stýra, tungan megi efla steflig orð. Æfinliga með lyftum lófum er öll skepnan, ræðandi lof, skyld að falla á bæði knie sín, skapari minn, fyrir ásjón þinni.

Highest master of all arts, good Jesus, who gives people life, grant me to compose and arrange, [that] my tongue might be able to command words for a stef. Unceasingly, with lifted hands, uttering praise, all creation should fall on both its knees, my Creator, before your face.

Mss: Bb(115ra), 99a(10v), 622(32), 713(10), Vb(251), 41 8°ˣ(121-122), 705ˣ(13r-v), 4892(33r)

Readings: [3] veittu: kenndu 99a, 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 705ˣ, 4892    [4] steflig: sá stefnlig 99a, stefnlig 622, 713, svá steflig Vb, 41 8°ˣ, svá stefnlig 705ˣ, 4892;    efla: efna 99a, 705ˣ, 4892    [5] lyftum: lyktum 622, 713    [6] knie: so 99a, 622, 713, Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 705ˣ, 4892, hnie Bb    [7] skyld: skyldug 622;    falla: falli Vb, 41 8°ˣ, 4892    [8] skapari: skaparinn 99a, 622;    ásjón: so 622, 713, ásjó Bb, ásján 99a, 41 8°ˣ, 4892, ástan Vb

Editions: Skj AII, 379-80, Skj BII, 403-4, Skald II, 220.

Notes: [All]: This st., the midpoint of the drápa, introduces the second stef. Paasche comments (1957, 534-5) that form and content here fall together: the structural midpoint of the poem describes the midpoint and turning point of salvation history. Christ is on the Cross, time is suspended, and everything hangs in balance. The second half of the drápa begins like a new poem with a ‘topic of the exordium’ (Curtius 1953, 85-9), a prayer for eloquence (cf. st. 2). — [1] lista ‘arts’: Cf. listum 2/5 and Note, as well as hrærð af list ‘moved by artistry’ 93/1. Christ, commonly referred to as magister or teacher, is here invoked as the master of eloquence. — [4] steflig ‘fit a stef, in the form of a stef’: The rhyme scheme of the line (stefl- : efl-) requires the form given in Bb. The same form occurs at 2/7. — [5] æfinliga ‘unceasingly’: The word is capitalized and begins a new l. in Bb. — [5] með lyftum lófum ‘with lifted hands’: Lit. ‘with lifted palms’, lófi being the hollow or palm of the hand. The gesture was associated with prayer and would have been familiar from Scripture (Pss. XXVII.2, LXII.5, CXXXIII.3; Lam. III.41; 1 Tim. II.8). The psalmist’s formula appears in a l. from the widely-used matins hymn Rerum creator optime: Mentes manusque tollimus ‘we lift up our minds and our hands’ (AH 51, 28; Brev. Nidr., d.iiir). Liturgical books commonly use the rubric manus elevans ‘with hands upraised’ to indicate the proper posture for the priest during prayer. Cf. Geisl 9/5: Hefjum hendr ‘we lift up our hands’. These associations make lyftum preferable to the variant lyktum ‘folded’, adopted by Skj B. — [7-8]: Cf. Arngr Gd 56/7-8IV skepnan öll verðr skyld at halda | ... sínum vilja ‘all creation is obliged to observe ... his will’.


  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. 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.
  5. Brev. Nidr. = [Anonymous] Breviarium Nidrosiense. 1519. Paris: Jean Kerbriant and Jean Bienayse. Rpt. facsimile edn 1964. Oslo: Børsum.
  6. Curtius, Ernst R. 1953. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Bollingen Ser. 36. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Originally published 1948. Europäische literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter. Bern: Francke.
  7. Internal references
  8. Not published: do not cite (Arngr Gd 56IV)
  9. Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 9’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 14-15.

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