Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gamlkan Has 20VII

Katrina Attwood (ed.) 2007, ‘Gamli kanóki, Harmsól 20’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 90-1.

Gamli kanókiHarmsól

Skjǫldungi róm skyldir
skýja tjalds ok aldar
greitt, sem gǫfgast mætti,
grandlausum stef vanda.
Ern skóp hauðr ok hlýrni
heims valdr sem kyn beima;
ǫrrs ok ǫllu dýrri
élsetrs konungr betri.

Róm skyldir vanda greitt stef, sem gǫfgast mætti, {grandlausum skjǫldungi {tjalds skýja}} ok aldar. {Ern valdr heims} skóp hauðr ok hlýrni sem {kyn beima}; {ǫrr konungr {élsetrs}} [e]s ǫllu betri ok dýrri.

We are [I am] obliged to fashion a free-flowing refrain, as excellent as may [be], {for the sinless prince {of the tent of the clouds}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God (= Christ)] and of mankind. {The powerful ruler of the world} [= God] created earth and heaven as well as {the kinsfolk of men} [MANKIND]; {the generous king {of the storm-seat}} [SKY/HEAVEN > = God] is better and more precious than all.

Mss: B(12v), 399a-bˣ

Readings: [3] mætti: ‘[...]tti’ B, ‘(m)ętt(e)’(?) 399a‑bˣ, ‘[...]æ’)tt[...]’(?) BRydberg, ‘(m)e᷎tt(e)’(?) BFJ    [4] grand‑: ‘[...]nd’ B, ‘(gra)nd‑’(?) 399a‑bˣ, ‘(g)[...]nd‑’(?) BRydberg, (gra)nd‑ BFJ    [6] valdr: so all others, ‘ual[...]r’ B    [8] betri: so 399a‑bˣ, ‘[...]ri’ B

Editions: Skj AI, 565, Skj BI, 553, Skald I, 268, NN §2932; Sveinbjörn Egilsson 1844, 19, Kempff 1867, 6, Rydberg 1907, 23-4, Jón Helgason 1935-6, 257, Black 1971, 190, Attwood 1996a, 226.

Notes: [1-2] skjǫldungi tjalds skýja ‘for the prince of the tent of the clouds [SKY/HEAVEN = God (= Christ)]’: Black (1971, 191) compares Isa. XL.22, where God is described as qui extendit velut nihilum caelos et expandit eos sicut tabernaculum ad inhabitandum ‘he that stretcheth out the heavens as nothing, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in’. The identical heaven-kenning occurs in 65/5-6, where God is described as vǫrðr skýtjalds ‘warden of the cloud-tent’. — [1] róm ‘we are [I am]’: The short form, rather than B’s erum, must be adopted here, otherwise the l. is unmetrical. Cf. ANG §532.3 Anm. 1. — [3] greitt ‘free-flowing’: May be taken either adjectivally (as in the translation here) or adverbially. — [5-8]: That this is the refrain (stef) is indicated by an obelos in the left-hand margin (fol. 12v, l. 31). The first couplet of the refrain is similar in both sense and sound-structure to the opening of the second Leið refrain (25/5-6), which reads: Gramr skóp hauðr ok himna | hreggranns sem kyn seggja ‘the king of the gale-house made land and skies, as well as the race of men’. Lines 7-8 recall the final couplet of the first refrain in Leið (13/7-8): Einn er siklingr sunnu | setrs hvívetna betri ‘the king of the seat of the sun is alone better than everything else’. The sense of the couplets is identical, and both feature a cpd Christ-kenning including a heaven-kenning with the base-word setr. Both also exploit the setrs : betri rhyme. — [8] betri ‘better’: Jón Helgason (1935-6, 257) supposed that the two comparatives dýrri and betri cause difficulties of a stylistic kind. He therefore emended betri to letri, from letr ‘letter’, interpreting the final couplet as meaning that God is more holy (dýrri) than any description, but this seems not a good ground for emendation.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. Attwood, Katrina. 1996a. ‘The Poems of MS AM 757a 4to: An Edition and Contextual Study’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Leeds.
  5. ANG = Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (Laut- und Flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4th edn. Halle: Niemeyer. 1st edn. 1884. 5th unrev. edn. 1970. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  6. Black, Elizabeth L. 1971. ‘Harmsól: an edition’. B. Litt. thesis. University of Oxford.
  7. Rydberg, Hugo, ed. 1907. ‘Die geistlichen Drápur und Dróttkvættfragmente des Cod. AM 757 4to.’. Ph.D. thesis. University of Lund. Copenhagen: Møller.
  8. Jón Helgason. 1935-6. ‘Til skjaldedigtningen’. APS 10, 250-64.
  9. Kempff, Hjalmar, ed. 1867. Kaniken Gamles ‘Harmsól’ (Sol i Sorgen): isländskt andligt qväde från medeltiden med öfversättning och förklaringar. Uppsala: Edquist & Berglund.
  10. 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.
  11. Internal references
  12. Not published: do not cite (FrisII)
  13. 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.

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