Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mansongr, again!

I first blogged about this piece of love poetry in November 2012. I am blogging about it again today to present a new recording of the song.

"If a man composes a love-verse on a woman, then the penalty is full outlawry. The case lies with the woman if she is twenty or older. If she [is younger or] will not have it prosecuted, then the case lies with her legal administrator." - Gragas II, p. 198, K § 238.

A love-verse or mansǫngr was a ticket to a death-sentence in Commonwealth Iceland. As Gunnora, The Viking Answer Lady, says at her site:
The prohibitions against love poetry help to explain why courtships were little practiced in the Viking period. While the goddess Freyja was the patroness of *mansongar*, and delighted in love poetry, mortal women had to be more cautious. Love poems were viewed in law as a distinct slur upon a woman's reputation, suggesting that the poet had had a more intimate knowledge of his beloved than was considered seemly (Foote and Wilson, p. 112). The reputation of a woman reflected upon the honor of her family: if her honor was tarnished, so was that of her father, brothers, uncles, cousins and sons. Any dalliance with a woman's reputation was likely to bring down the wrath of her entire lineage upon the hapless suitor!
Unlike our more lenient society, the Icelanders were very concerned with the appearance of rectitude, especially when it pertained to unmarried women. An unmarried woman could be viewed as "social capital" and anything that would make her less than marriageable was a threat to the economic well-being of her family and herself.

However, there likely would not be a law prohibiting the writing of mansǫngar unless the problem existed. In the poem/song I present to you today, I have tried to imagine what such a mansongr might sound like.

Below, you have the poem which has been set to music, the score, and the standard recording. The melody is a variation on a modernization by Åke Persson of the 14th century Danish melody, Drømde mig en drøm i nat.

Please leave comments at the bottom. Enjoy!


Old Norse VersesPoetic Translation
Silki logi skýja
Sága vakir svæla
singrað kvikligr sǫngr
skyli hjartinn fylla

Grásvíðr liðmjjukr gráreygn
grænblað dýrhallr fagrbuínn
spenja á þin svefna
skirdræpr Freya hýrlega.

Gefa minna gáfar
gulla hornstraum fulla
Horna gjallar hvítings
hlátr fylgja sálsgata

Hrein seiði hǫrbrekka
hjartataugar tugu
skírdræpt sæt fagrgala
sverðsegg gullin skerpa


Beina rausta mína
Njorun silkiskorðu
Beina astir mína
Æskiselja ǫls.

Silken gods-flame
Saga wakes you sultry
Singing brisk song
shall the heart fill.

Willow deer-slope grey-eyed
green-blade lithe bright-dressed
Draw (me) to your dreaming
dazzling Freya smiling.

Give my gifts to me
golden horn-storms full
Horna's ringing ale horn
laughter guides souls-path.

Pure enchanting flax-slope
You tug at my heart-strings
Dazzling soft love song
sharpens golden sword-edge.


My voice rises to you
Goddess of Silk-trees
My love rises to you
Ale's wishing-willow.



Kennings Used
Silki Sága > Silken Goddess > WOMAN
logi skýja > gods-flame > SUN
Grásvíðr dýrhallr > Willow deer-slope > WOMAN
grænblað > green blade > WOMAN
skirdræpr Freya > dazzling Freyja > WOMAN
hornstraum > horn-storms > SONGS
Horna gjallar hvítings > Horn's ringing ale-horn > WOMAN
sálsgata > soul's gate > HEART
hǫrbrekka > flax-slope > WOMAN
fagrgala > love song > WOMAN
sverðsegg > sword's edge > MAN'S LOVE
Njorun silkiskorðu > Goddess of the silk-tree > WOMAN
Æskiselja ǫls > Ale's wishing willow > WOMAN


Like It? Hate It? Got Questions?
Write in the box down there ☟☟☟ or send me an e-mail 

1 comment:

  1. I am sure you would have left quite a few flaxen-haired silken goddesses sighing in their eiderdown after singing this mansǫngr to them. The message fit the tune quite well, and the imagery is quite rich. I enjoyed listening. A fine job, brother!