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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamlkan Has 1VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 1’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 73-4.

Gamli kanókiHarmsól

Hár stillir, lúk heilli
hreggtjalda, mér, aldar,
upp, þús allar skaptir,
óðborgar hlið góðu,
mjúk svát mættik auka
môl gnýlundum stála
miska bót af mætu
mín fulltingi þínu.

{Hár stillir {hreggtjalda}}, þús skaptir allar aldar, lúk mér upp {hlið {óðborgar}} góðu heilli, svát mættik auka mjúk môl mín, bót miska, {{stála gný}lundum} af mætu fulltingi þínu.

{High ruler {of the storm-tents}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God], you who created all humans, open up for me {the gate {of the fortress of poetry}} [BREAST > MOUTH] with good grace, so that I might augment my soft words, the remedy for misdeeds, for {trees {of the din of swords}} [(lit. ‘din-trees of swords’) BATTLE > WARRIORS] with your excellent help.

Mss: B(12r), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [1] Hár: ‘[...]rr’ B, ‘[...]arr’ 399a‑bˣ    [4] óð‑: so all others, ‘[...]’ B    [5] svát (‘suo at’): so 399a‑bˣ, BFJ, ‘suo [...]t’ B, ‘suo (a)t’(?) BRydberg;    auka: so 399a‑bˣ, BFJ, ‘au[...]a’ B, ‘au(k)a’(?) BRydberg    [6] gnýlundum: ‘gný[...]unndum’ B, ‘gnýunndum’ 399a‑bˣ, ‘gnýiunndum’ BRydberg, BFJ    [8] mín fulltingi: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘mi[...]lltinge’ B

Editions: Skj AI, 562, Skj BI, 548, Skald I, 266, NN §2926; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 13, Kempff 1867, 1, Rydberg 1907, 20, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 252, Black 1971, 134, Attwood 1996a, 222.

Notes: [All]: The title and authorship of the poem are given in a marginal note, in the scribal hand, beside ll. 42 and 43 of fol. 12r: ‘harmsol er gam|le orte ka|noke’. On Gamli, see Skald Biography. — [1-2] hár stillir hreggtjalda ‘high ruler of the storm-tents [SKY/HEAVEN > = GOD]’: The first in a series of kennings for God whose determinants contain circumlocutions for heaven involving hregg ‘storm, rain’, often with the adj. hár ‘high, exalted’. Cf., e.g., 5/5-6, 45/1-4 and 57/6-7. These kennings may be influenced by similar constructions in other Christian drápur, most notably Geisl, the text of which in Flat has jǫfurr hreggsalar ‘king of the storm-hall’ at 64/5-6, and Leið, which has three God-kennings with hreggrann ‘storm-house’ as the determinant (2/1-3, 17/1-2 and 25/5-6), the first two of which also contain hár. The relative complexity of the variations on the patterns in Has might indicate that the poem is somewhat later than, and influenced by, Leið (see Skard 1953, 101, 108 and the discussion of Skard’s analysis in Attwood 1996b, 236-7). That hregg- compounds were a particular favourite of Gamli’s is perhaps suggested by the appearance of jǫfurr hreggskríns ‘lord of the storm-shrine’ (so also in Anon Mgr 49/6) in his Jóndr 2/4. — [1] hár ‘high’: The beginning of this word is lost in a hole in B. The scribe’s usual practice was to leave a space for a larger initial to mark the beginning of the poem, and the indentation of ll. 42 and 43 by some 11mm suggests that this was also the case here. 399a-bˣ is certain of the second letter. — [1-4] lúk mér upp hlið óðborgar ‘open up for me the gate of the fortress of poetry [BREAST > MOUTH]’: Paasche (1914a, 143) suggests that this striking image might be an echo of Col. IV.3 orantes simul et pro nobis ostium sermonis ad loquendum mysterium Christi ‘praying withal for us also, that God may open unto us a door of speech to speak the mystery of Christ’. The resemblance between the texts, however, is somewhat oblique, and Finnur Jónsson’s intimation (LH II, 114) that the phrase is original is doubtless correct. — [6] gnýlundum (dat. pl.): Lit. ‘din-trees’. B is badly worn at this point, and one cannot be certain of the fourth letter. Finnur Jónsson and Rydberg read ‘gnýiunndum’ with confidence, while the 399a-bˣ copyist is certain of ‘gnýunndum’. There have been several attempts to make sense of this reading. Neither Sveinbjörn Egilsson nor Kempff saw any need to emend, both taking gnýundum stála to be a man-kenning, Sveinbjörn (1860, 257a) relating gnýundum to gnúa ‘to rub’ and Kempff (1867, 22) assuming it to derive from gnýja ‘to sound’. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends to gnýviðum (dat. pl.) ‘din-trees’. Jón Helgason (1935-6, 252) rejects the interpretations of both Sveinbjörn and Kempff, and notes that, since the hole in B is over what previous eds read as an ‘i’, ‘there is nothing against our assuming that this letter was an “l”, the upper part of which is now missing’. Jón’s reconstruction, which is adopted here, is therefore in accord with the spirit of Finnur’s emendation but, as he says, ‘is closer to what survives than gnýviðum’. Although the cpd gnýlundum ‘din-trees’ is not otherwise attested, gnýlundum stála would be partially paralleled by the warrior-kenning lundr stála ‘tree of spears’, which occurs in a poorly-preserved lv. attributed to Bjhít Lv 15/6V (ÍF 3, 155). — [7] miska bót ‘the remedy for misdeeds’: Sveinbjörn Egilsson and Finnur Jónsson both take bót as acc. sg. of bót ‘cure, remedy’ and connect it with miska, gen. sg. or pl. of miski ‘misdeed, offence’, as the object of auka, the subject of which is mjúk mál mín. In this, they are followed by Kock and Black (1971, 134). The present edn follows Kempff (1867, 1) in taking miska bót with mjúk mál mín as parallel objects of auka. It is clear from the general tone of Has, as well as from the lengthy confession in sts 7-17, that the entire poem is an act of penance, principally for Gamli but also for his hearers.


  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. Attwood, Katrina. 1996b. ‘Intertextual Aspects of the Twelfth-Century Christian drápur’. SBVS 24, 221-39.
  6. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  7. Black, Elizabeth L. 1971. ‘Harmsól: an edition’. B. Litt. thesis. University of Oxford.
  8. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  9. Skard, Vemund. 1953. ‘Harmsól, Plácítúsdrápa og Leiðarvísan’. ANF 68, 97-108.
  10. Jón Helgason. 1935-6. ‘Til skjaldedigtningen’. APS 10, 250-64.
  11. Kempff, Hjalmar, ed. 1867. Kaniken Gamles ‘Harmsól’ (Sol i Sorgen): isländskt andligt qväde från medeltiden med öfversättning och förklaringar. Uppsala: Edquist & Berglund.
  12. LH = Finnur Jónsson. 1920-4. Den oldnorske og oldislandske litteraturs historie. 3 vols. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Gad.
  13. ÍF 3 = Borgfirðinga sǫgur. Ed. Sigurður Nordal and Guðni Jónsson. 1938.
  14. Paasche, Fredrik. 1914. Kristendom og kvad: En studie i norrøn middelalder. Christiania (Oslo): Aschehoug. Rpt. in Paasche 1948, 29-212.
  15. Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1844. Fjøgur gømul kvæði. Boðsrit til að hlusta á þá opinberu yfirheyrslu í Bessastaða Skóla þann 22-29 mai 1844. Viðeyar Klaustri: prentuð af Helga Helgasyni, á kostnað Bessastaða Skóla. Bessastaðir: Helgi Helgason.
  16. Internal references
  17. Not published: do not cite (FrisII)
  18. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Flateyjarbók (Flat)’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. clxi-clxii.
  19. Not published: do not cite (MberfII)
  20. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2007, ‘Anonymous Poems, Drápa af Máríugrát 49’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 793.
  21. Katrina Attwood 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Anonymous, Leiðarvísan’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 137-78.
  22. Martin Chase 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Einarr Skúlason, Geisli’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 5-65.
  23. Katrina Attwood 2007, ‘(Introduction to) Gamli kanóki, Harmsól’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 70-132.
  24. Not published: do not cite (Bjhít Lv 15V (BjH 20))

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