Fourteenth-Century Icelandic Verse on the Virgin Mary. Drápa af Maríu grát. Vitnisvísur af Maríu. Maríuvísur I–III

Edited and translated by Kellinde Wrightson, 2001, ISBN 978 0 903521 46 8

Text Series XIV

The five skaldic poems in this volume are among the finest examples of medieval literature composed in the vernacular in honour of the Virgin Mary. They are part of an extensive corpus of Old Icelandic Marian texts which is significant not merely for its size, but, more importantly, for its contribution to our understanding of the cult of the Virgin in Western Europe. Dated to the late fourteenth century, the lamentation poem Drapa of Mariugrat and the miracle poems Vitnisvisur of Mariu and Mariuvisur I-III are among the earliest extant evidence of Old Icelandic Marian poetry. There has been no lack of attention paid to these texts by scholarly editors publishing in languages other than English, from Jon Porkelsson’s Danish edition of fragments of the poems in 1888, to Bernhard Kahle and Hans Sperber’s German editions in 1898 and 1911 respectively, through to Finnur Jonsson’s Danish edition and translation in 1912-15 and Ernst A. Kock’s Swedish edition in 1946-49. While valuable in their particular ways – for instance, both Kahle and Sperber discuss the metrical features in detail – these editions have not addressed the main issues associated with this group of Marian vernacular poems. These five skaldic poems, for example, have never been edited as a set on their own, separate from other religious poetry, yet, like so much Marian literature, especially the miracles, these Old Icelandic texts lend themselves to such treatment. Nor did any of the past editions include a glossary for these texts, which contain many words and phrases associated with the Mary cult and the monastic culture in which they appear to have been composed. Perhaps most significantly, no attempt was made by the past editors to place these poems in a broader European context, to trace at least some of the source texts which make up the textual history of Drapa af Mariugrat, Vitnisvisur af Mariu and Mariuvisur I-III, and to find a legitimate place for this Old Icelandic contribution in the cult of the Virgin across Western Europe. The present edition aims to fill these needs by providing a reliable and accessible text of the five poems, while the editor is planning to publish more comprehensive studies of the sources and analogues in article form, and is also completing a new critical edition with English translations and commentary of some of the related miracle stories about the Virgin Mary in medieval Icelandic prose.

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