Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books Ledizioni Di/Segni Bridges to Scandinavia “der sagata mir ze wara”: Iceland...

Bridges to Scandinavia

 | 
Andrea Meregalli
, 
Camilla Storskog

“der sagata mir ze wara”: Iceland in the Merigarto

Paola Spazzali

Résumé

The Old High German fragment known as Merigarto contains a description of Iceland that entwines ancient literary with modern oral data. Scholars have repeatedly tried to verify the originality and reliability of the data from a historical point of view. However, the question of authenticity is also a literary one, which is posed by the author himself and solved in a way that foreshadows usages in later Latin and vernacular exempla. The most innovative literary aspect of the passage dealing with Iceland can be found in a few lines in which the poet guarantees the authenticity of Iceland’s mirabilia by briefly describing his oral source, a cleric, and the events that led to their meeting. The brief presence of a homodiegetic narrator is an important stage in the development of the author’s self-consciousness in medieval German literature.

Texte intégral

  • 1   The dating relies on the linguistic analysis and on the autobiographical references appearing in (...)
  • 2   The first mention of Thule in a German text is found in Notker: “Tánnân gât nórdert humana habita (...)
  • 3   “Haec itaque Thyle nunc Island appellatur, a glacie, quae oceanum astringit” (IV, 36; Adamus Brem (...)

1The oldest description of Iceland in a vernacular language appears in the Meri- garto, a fragment of a poetic work composed around 10801 in Old Bavarian.2 This is also the first text to associate the name Island (Iceland) with an (up-to-date) description of Thule without mentioning this Latin toponym. In the same years Adam of Bremen also deals with Iceland in his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, but he refers to the island by its Latin name.3

  • 4   It is evident that the Merigarto lacks the beginning, since the first fragment starts in the midd (...)
  • 5   Both the ruling and the presence of a catchword indicate that what we have is the outer sheet of (...)

2Unfortunately, the Bavarian description is incomplete. We have only two fragments of the Merigarto (the title of the work was given by Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben who discovered it in 1834), and these are preserved on a bifolium dating back to the first quarter of the twelfth century (Rädle 1987, 404). The beginning and the end are both missing,4 as is the section between the two fragments. Since the surviving bifolium is the external sheet of the quire,5 we have lost a portion of text corresponding to at least one internal bifolium (more likely three), the part where the description of Iceland continued.

  • 6   For the episode in Tuscany no written source has been found so far (Princi Braccini 2005, 296).

3From the extant lines we can establish that Iceland is mentioned in the Merigarto because of its mirabilia, which evoke the fascination of a Thule that is no longer mythical or inaccessible, but still distant. The bifolium, in fact, collects mirabilia related to the waters created by God: it describes seas, rivers and springs having extraordinary characteristics or properties, almost always favourable to mankind. The reference to God’s action appears in the first preserved lines, quoting Psalm 104 and evoking the separation between water and land that God performed at the beginning of Creation. The author goes on to state that God did not leave the earth deprived of water and that he gave it springs, lakes and rivers. He then exemplifies this assertion by describing the seas. On the first folio he mentions the Red Sea and – in the north – the mare concretum, followed by the description of Iceland. On the second folio we first find the narration of an episode concerning a river in Tuscany ‘reconciling’ two lords,6 followed by a list of various rivers and springs with their prodigious properties. This last part follows most closely the author’s literary sources, the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville or the very similar De universo by Rabanus Maurus.

  • 7   The word is used by the author himself: “daz ist ouh ein wunter, daz scribe wir hier unter” (l. 6 (...)
  • 8   For a comparison between the Merigarto and its sources, see Voorwinden 1973, 77-104; Spazzali 199 (...)

4The Merigarto – i.e., the two fragments that we refer to by this name – eludes definitions. It cannot be considered a geographic text because it does not describe regions and their boundaries nor does it list toponyms. On the other hand, although it dwells upon wunter (meant here as marvel, not as miracle),7 it is far from interpreting nature in a symbolic or paraenetic way, as is the case with other texts from the Early Middle High German period, for instance the Physiologus. The opening lines mention God, but the specific marvels are not expressly attributed to him. Nonetheless, when we compare the Merigarto with its sources, it is clear that the author has selected the kind of mirabilia that are most beneficial and has described them predominantly in relation to man, showing either the economic or social advantages deriving from them or their therapeutic effects.8 The medieval audience, whose vision of the world was centred on God’s signs, would have found in the Merigarto a confirmation of the substantial goodness of His Creation.

  • 9   “wazzer gnuogiu, dei skef truogin, / dei diu lant durhrunnen, manigin nuz prungin, / der da chum (...)
  • 10   “Der fone Arabia verit in Egiptilant in sinem werva [...]” (l. 18; Spazzali 1995, 50); “One who t (...)

5Indeed, the marvellous aspects are as revealing as the realistic ones, which were part of the audience’s experience, and the author intertwines these two aspects especially in the first fragment. The more realistic aspect appears in the section where the poet introduces the waters, as he stresses the prosperity derived from seafaring, thanks to the creation of springs and rivers - an observation that was not suggested by the sources. According to him, rivers and seas “dei skef truogin” (“that carried ships”) bring a “maningin nuz” (“great advantage”)9 that would hardly exist otherwise, and a few lines later he states that people travelling for “werva” (trading) from Arabia to Egypt have to cross the Red Sea.10 Similarly, Iceland is visited for trade, as we will see.

  • 11   The order in which the two seas appear is not derived from the poet’s sources: Isidore and Rabanu (...)

6The lines dedicated to Iceland are preceded by those dealing with the “giliberot” (“coagulated”) sea, which disturbs the comforting picture of a benevolent nature. That sea, vaguely situated in the ocean “westerot” (“out west”), appears without geographical contiguity after the description of the Red Sea and before the section dealing with Iceland.11 These lines evoke a menacing piece of Creation: in the poet’s words, death will be ineluctable for the seafarers driven out into those waters by a powerful wind if God himself does not rescue them:

  • 12   The title De Lebirmere was added by the rubricator. The toponym appears also in Adam of Bremen (“ (...)
  • 13   “There is a coagulated sea out west in the Ocean. / When the strong wind throws the ships in that (...)

De Lebirmere12
Ein mere ist giliberot, daz ist in demo wentilmere westerot.
so der starche wint giwirffit dei skef in den sint,
nimagin die biderbin vergin sih des nieht irwergin,
si nimuozzin fole varan in des meris parm.
ah, ah, denne! so (ni)chomint si danne,
si niwelle got losan, so muozzin si da fulon.
(ll. 22-27; Spazzali 1995, 52)13

  • 14   For the Graeco-Roman and Latin descriptions of the mare concretum see Mund-Dopchie 2009, passim.
  • 15   “De oceano Britannico [...] magna recitantur a nautis miracula, quod circa Orchadas mare sit conc (...)

7This disquieting, radically hostile marvel is all the more menacing as we do not know what causes the shipwreck. The author is mingling two traditions: the adjective giliberot reminds us of the mare concretum of the Graeco-Roman tradition,14 first described by Pytheas and mentioned in Isidore’s Etymologiae, which in medieval times was believed to be a frozen sea or a sea thickened by salt (so for instance in the scholium 150 of Adam’s Gesta),15 whereas the strong wind and the sinking of the ship have many points of contact with the fatal vortex that Adam of Bremen places beyond Iceland, a kind of maelstrom previously described by Paul the Deacon (I, 6; Paolo Diacono 1992, 18-23).

8The connection between the “giliberot” sea and the next passage about Iceland was clear to those who knew the literature about Thule. Tradition located the mare concretum either beyond the island, at a day’s journey, or around it (as in Isidore and Rabanus Maurus; cf. Mund-Dopchie 2009, 39-41). However, in the Merigarto the connection is not made explicit, for the Lebersee does not belong to the description of Iceland’s surroundings: the “coagulated” sea and Iceland follow each other simply as mirabilia of the North and this might be a first sign of information being updated.

9The author does not describe the surroundings of Iceland, nor does he even locate it, although geographical explorations had provided precise data by that time. Apparently he was interested in Iceland’s characteristics, not in how to reach it.

10What we have instead is an autobiographical preamble to guarantee the reliability of the information. The author states that he took refuge in Utrecht in order to flee from a conflict between two bishops, and there he met a priest, Reginpreht, a righteous and venerable man who – like other people – had told him “ze wara” (l. 35; “in truth”) that some time before he had been to Iceland and had made a fortune there:

  • 16   “I was in Utrecht fleeing from a conflict / because we had two bishops who gave us various doctri (...)

De Reginperto episcopo
Ih was z’Uztrehte in urliugefluhte,
want wir zwene piskoffe hetan, die uns menigi lere tatan.
duo nemaht ih heime wese, duo skuof in ellente min wese.
Duo ih z’Uztriehte chwam, da vand ih einin vili guoten man,
den vili guoten Reginpreht. er uopte gerno allaz reht.
er was ein wisman, so er gote gizam,
ein erhaft phaffo in aller slahte guote.
der sagata mir ze wara, sam andere gnuogi dara,
er ware wile givarn in Islant, da’r michiln rihtuom vant,
mit melwe jouh mit wine, mit holze erline.
daz chouf[in]t si zi fiure, da ist wito tiure.
da ist alles des fili, des zi rata triffit unt zi spili,
niwana daz da niskinit sunna, si darbint dero wunna.
fon diu wirt daz is da zi christallan so herta,
so man daz fiur dar ubera machot, unzi diu christalla irgluot.
damite machint si iro ezzan unte heizzint iro gadam.
da git man ein erlin skit umbe einin phenning.
damite … (ll. 28-45; Spazzali 1995, 54-56)16

  • 17   The diocese from which the poet fled might have been Augsburg or Constance (Voorwinden 1973, 120- (...)

11Scholars have long been investigating those historical references, trying to localise the Merigarto and to identify Reginpreht, without coming to conclusive results.17 There is, however, sufficient evidence that the circum- stances of his stay in Utrecht are plausible and that it was possible to meet people there who were trading with Iceland (Voorwinden 1973, 113).

12We read that his fortune comes from selling meal, wine and fire wood. The author then describes life in Iceland: there is an abundance of supplies and diversions, but the sun does not shine and the inhabitants are deprived of such joy. The absence of the sun makes the ice turn into crystal which, by glowing, helps to prepare food and to warm up the houses. The last piece of information is commercial: a log of alder wood is sold for one phenning. The fragment ends with the first word of a new sentence.

13The first question that arises when reading these data – to which scholars have been trying to give an answer as recently as Dallapiazza (2006-07) – is about their reliability and their originality. What has not been derived from ancient authors and to what extent did the situation correspond to that of Iceland in the eleventh century?

14Ancient texts are meagre. Except for Solinus, whom our author does not seem to know, Graeco-Roman sources are only concerned with the sun’s presence or absence (perpetual days and nights during the solstice or the alternation of a day and a night lasting six months). In fact, the reference to the sun is the only element from which we can infer that the poet identified Iceland with Thule; this coincidence is not obvious since there were maps and authors presenting Iceland as distinct from Thule (Mund-Dopchie 2009, 93).

  • 18   “Thyle ultima insula Oceani inter septentrionalem et occidentalem plagam ultra Brittaniam, a sole (...)

15On this point, what the Merigarto says is problematic: an eyewitness cannot have said that there was no sun in Iceland. Therefore, the author has either uncritically copied only part of the information handed down by the auctoritates, leaving out the six-month-long day (or attributing to Iceland the absence of the sun that Isidore sets beyond Thule).18 Or perhaps we should not take the statement literally: the sun is not absent – it simply does not ‘shine’.

  • 19   According to recent research, however, Iceland imported timber from Norway (Mehler 2012, 75).

16The other data seem to derive mainly from oral sources and are plausible. Iceland did actually import flour and wine and, after felling large swaths of birchwoods in the first decades of the settlement period (Mehler 2011a, 255), timber had to be imported from overseas.19 Since alder was widespread around Utrecht, it might have been sold in Iceland (Voorwinden 1973, 113).

  • 20   “Nam [...] habent [...] fontes pro deliciis” (IV, 36; Adamus Bremensis 1917, 272); “For [...] the (...)
  • 21   “Est autem insula permaxima, ita ut populos infra se multos contineat, qui solo pecorum fetu vivu (...)

17Besides these precise data, we also find the generic statement that on the island there was an abundance of supplies and diversions. Such prosperity is confirmed by archaeological research – Iceland did not lack meat, dairy products, bird eggs and fish, thus assuring a sufficient and balanced nutrition (Mehler 2011b, 173-76) – and saga literature testifies that there were various forms of entertainment (Spazzali 1995, 126-27). Adam, too, mentions forms of amusement (connected to “springs”)20 but he emphasises the frugal, idealised way of life of an uncorrupted people,21 in order to highlight the diocese of Bremen, to which the Icelandic clergy was subordinated (Dallapiazza 2006-07, 26).

  • 22   “De qua etiam hoc memorabile ferunt, quod eadem glacies ita nigra et arida videatur propter antiq (...)
  • 23   The author might have heard for instance of stones being taken out of the fireplace and used to h (...)

18There have been various attempts to explain the reference to glowing crystals used for cooking and heating. In the mid-twentieth century it was suggested that it might have been quartz or lignite (Jones 1936; Foote 1956, 414); from excavations and sagas we understand that homes were heated by burning driftwood, peat, dung and seaweed and that the hearth was used both for heating and cooking, as the Merigarto reports. More recently, however, Dallapiazza (2006-07, 23) has pointed out a contradiction (why would they use crystal to warm up their houses if they already bought wood “zi fiure”?) and he assumes that the author may have taken the information about crystal originating from ice from written sources and may have wanted to complete it in a utilitarian way (2006-07, 29-30). Adam of Bremen also mentions the glowing ice, but he does not talk of its use.22 It seems likely to me that encyclopaedic knowledge has been added to an imperfect oral transmission.23

  • 24   Unexpectedly, we do not read of volcanoes or geysers, but they might have been mentioned in the p (...)

19On the whole, the picture outlined by the author in the extant lines seems more oriented towards natural conditions24 than towards the island’s inhabitants, unlike Adam’s Historia, with which it shares some elements. This depends on the significance that Iceland has in the Merigarto, in accordance to which the author has chosen and presented his information about it.

20The author is critical in his role as mediator between the information available to him and the public: studies aimed at verifying the reliability of the description should focus on him and on his intention, while keeping in mind that the medieval concept of reliability differs from the modern one. Otherwise, we risk twisting our interpretation and we may be led to read, for example, the ambiguous statement that “the sun does not shine” as compatible with reality only because the other data concerning Iceland are trustworthy.

21Here, as in other medieval works, natural elements and mirabilia coexist, more with the intention of creating sense than giving information (Boureau 1993, 34). In the eyes of both the author and the medieval audience, when constructing sense, the data regarded as truthful have the same dignity as the plausible data, and an oral source may have the same value as a written source.

  • 25   Gautier Dalché (2001, 131-43) has pointed out that scholars should approach medieval geographic t (...)
  • 26   “Contract of belief.”

22These categories will have to be taken into account if we wish to distinguish the data on the basis of reliability or originality, an operation that is important for historical purposes25 or in order to understand how the author structured a passage. In the Merigarto, however, the problem of reliability is not only a concern for scholars. Interestingly, it is the author who raises it by not confining himself to giving an account of what he has heard: he also states that what he reports was told to him “in truth” (“ze wara”). The poet evidently wishes his description to be believed: the whole prologue that culminates in “ze wara” is intended to help to negotiate a “contrat de croyance” (Boureau 1993, 35)26 with his audience, which is necessary for his ultimate goal.

23How does the poet of the Merigarto confer authority to the text? We know that the reliability of the statements depended on the authoritativeness of the sources and their authors, the auctoritates, to varying degrees (Boureau 1993, 35-36): at the top was the truth revealed by the Sacred Scriptures, then - in a decreasing order - the authorised texts (i.e., those told by the Fathers of the Church) and the authenticated texts in which the narrator establishes the truth as a direct or indirect witness of the event he relates. Underneath lie facts reported without any guarantee, but which are true in their substance, and finally those passed on only in oral and unstable form.

  • 27   The audivi-model of text transmission appears in historical texts (Mula 2001, 163-64).

24The passage describing Iceland is authenticated by the author not as a direct witness, in the form of the audivi, which has the same value because the eyewitness (i.e., Reginpreht), whom the poet himself has listened to, is a priest deemed venerable for his virtues.27 It is the same method adopted by Gregory the Great in the Dialogues and later by Bede, for example, but subsequently ignored, only to reappear in the collections of Latin exempla of the twelfth century (Zink 1985, 100). Additionally, the same qualities erhaft ‘venerable’ and guot ‘upright, good, worthy’ used by Gregory the Great, who attributed his accounts to “bonis ac fidelibus uiris” and to the words of “uirorum uenerabilium” (Gregorio Magno 2005, I, 10), appear in the description of the direct witness Reginpreht. The cleric’s trustworthiness is ensured by his status and qualities: he is a just and “wise” man, “pleasing to God” (“er uopte gerno allaz reht. / er was ein wisman, so er gote gizam”, ll. 32-33).

25Authority is thus built up in a way that foresees a later usage. Equally unexpected are some other features that will characterise the vernacular exempla of thethirteenth century (Zink 1985, 100-01): the events narrated are said to have occurred recently; they appear to be historical and verifiable (the flight from a diocese, the cleric’s name) and they are set in a well-known place (Utrecht).

  • 28   “Now we first tell about [the sea, how it is].”
  • 29   “This too I heard, I will not conceal it.”

26Besides the contemporary, fully reliable eyewitness, a further and more relevant element of innovation is introduced once again to reinforce authentication. This is the most original aspect of the Merigarto: the author emerges in the three autobiographical lines to explain the circumstances that made him meet his oral source. The poet no longer confines himself merely to selecting the sources and making room for orality: he appears on the scene, he represents himself. The narrator becomes the object of the narration. It is not simply the passage from the indistinct wir of the first page (“Nu sage wir z’erist fon [demo mere, so iz i]st”, l. 14; Spazzali 1995, 48)28 to an ih that we can also find in the second fragment’s formulaic line, “Daz ih ouh horte sagan, daz niwill ih nieht firdagan” (l. 46; Spazzali 1995, 58),29 as significant as it may be.

27The ih emerges from complete darkness by recounting his adversities in order to confer authority to a qualified source. Those three lines make clear that a new, self-conscious idea of authorship is beginning to show: the author is no longer disappearing behind the auctoritas, but on the contrary he authorises, he establishes the authority of others.

28Here, the author becomes a homodiegetic narrator to guarantee the authenticity of the mirabilia – those of contemporary Iceland, not those of ancient Thule. Whether his data may be truthful or plausible, or whether they may go back to ancient traditions, they bring the audience closer to an island previously known to the author as a mythical and abstract boundary of the oecumene and they make it known as a place which – with its unusual and surprising aspects – is inhabited and is in prosperous conditions, a concrete and contemporary example of a Creation favourable to mankind.

Bibliographie

Adam of Bremen. 2002. History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, ed. Francis Tschan. New York: Columbia University Press.

Adamus Bremensis. 1917. Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, ed. Bernhard Schmeidler. Hannover: Hahn (Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores rerum Germanicarum 2).

Boureau, Alain. 1993. L’événement sans fin. Récit et christianisme au Moyen Âge. Paris: Les Belles lettres.

Dallapiazza, Michael. 2006-07. “Island im Merigarto und bei Adam von Bremen.” Jahrbuch der Oswald von Wolkenstein Gesellschaft 16: 17-32.

Foote, Peter. 1956. “Merigarto and Adam of Bremen.” The Modern Language Review 51: 413-14.

Gautier Dalché, Patrick. 2001. “Sur l’‘originalité’ de la ‘géographie’ médiévale.” In Auctor et auctoritas. Invention et conformisme dans l’écriture médiévale. Actes du Colloque tenu à l’Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, 14-16 juin 1999, ed. Michel Zimmermann, 131-43. Paris: École des Chartes.

Gregorio Magno. 2005. Storie di santi e di diavoli, 2 vols., eds. Salvatore Pricoco and Manlio Simonetti. Milano: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla / Mondadori.

Isidore of Seville. 2008. The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, eds. Stephen Barney et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Isidorus Hispalensis. 1911. Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX, ed. Wallace Martin Lindsay. Oxonii: E. Typographeo Clarendoniano.

Jones, T.D. 1936. “Isine steina.” The Modern Language Review 31: 556.

Mehler, Natascha. 2011a. “Anpassung und Krisenbewusstsein als Überlebensstrategien: Das Beispiel Island im Mittelalter und in der Neuzeit.” In Strategien zum Überleben. Umweltkrisen und ihre Bewältigung, eds. Falko Daim, Detlef Gronenborn and Rainer Schreg, 255-64. Mainz: Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums.

—. 2011b. “From Self-Sufficiency to External Supply and Famine: Foodstuffs, their Preparation and Storage in Iceland.” In Processing, Storage, Distribution of Food. Food in the Medieval Rural Environment, eds. Jan Klápšte and Petr Sommer, 173-86. Turnhout: Brepols.

—. 2012. “Thing-, Markt- und Kaufmannsbuden im westlichen Nordeuropa. Wurzeln, Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede eines Gebäudetyps.” Mitteilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Archäologie des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit 24: 71-83.

Mula, Stefano. 2001. “Les Modèles d’autorité religieuse dans la narration profane (XIIe-XIIIe siècle).” In Auctor et auctoritas. Invention et conformisme dans l’écriture médiévale. Actes du Colloque tenu à l’Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, 14-16 juin 1999, ed. Michel Zimmermann, 161-71. Paris: École des Chartes.

Mund-Dopchie, Monique. 2009. Ultima Thulé. Histoire d’un lieu et genèse d’un mythe. Genève: Droz.

Notker Teutonicus. 1986. Boethius De consolatione Philosophiae, ed. Petrus Tax. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

Paolo Diacono. 1992. Storia dei Longobardi, ed. Lidia Capo. Milano: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla / Mondadori.

Princi Braccini, Giovanna. 2005. “La ‘Tuscane’ del Merigarto.Il Nome nel testo 7: 289-313.

Rädle, Fidel. 1987. “Merigarto.” In Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters. Verfasserlexikon, eds. Kurt Ruh and Burghart Wachinger, vol. VI, 403-06. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Spazzali, Paola. 1993. “Osservazioni codicologiche sul manoscritto del Merigarto.ACME 46 (2-3): 5-13.

—. 1995. Il Merigarto. Edizione e commento. Milano: Edizioni Minute.

Voorwinden, Norbert. 1973. Merigarto. Eine philologisch-historische Monographie. Leiden: Universitaire Pers.

Zink, Michel. 1985. La Subjectivité littéraire. Autour du siècle de saint Louis. Paris: PUF.

Notes

1   The dating relies on the linguistic analysis and on the autobiographical references appearing in the text. The author mentions his flight from a diocese, which could not have happened later than 1077, if it was from Augsburg, or 1080, if it was from Constance (Voorwinden 1973, 122-23).

2   The first mention of Thule in a German text is found in Notker: “Tánnân gât nórdert humana habitatio únz ze Tile insula [...]. Tîe dâr sízzent, tîe sízzent únder demo septentrionali polo. Dáz skînet tánnân, uuánda sô súmeliche cosmografi scrîbent, târ íst átaháfto tág per sex menses, fóne vernali aequinoctio únz ze autumnali, únde átaháfto náht per alios sex menses, fóne autumnali aequinoctio únz ze vernali” (II, 45; Notker Teutonicus 1986, 97); “From there human habitation goes as far north as the island of Thule. […] Those who live there live below the North Pole. This is shown by the fact that, as some cosmographers write, there is continuous day for six months, from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, and continuous night for the other six months, from the autumnal to the vernal equinox.” Unless otherwise indicated, translations are mine.

3   “Haec itaque Thyle nunc Island appellatur, a glacie, quae oceanum astringit” (IV, 36; Adamus Bremensis 1917, 272); “This Thule is now called Iceland, from the ice which binds the ocean” (Adam of Bremen 2002, 217).

4   It is evident that the Merigarto lacks the beginning, since the first fragment starts in the middle of a sentence (“… demo mere duo gab”, l. 1). Both form and content indicate that the text continued on a new quire: the last word of the second folio (“chusit”) is a catchword and the author would hardly have ended the poem without mentioning God or at least adding “Amen” as in most Early Middle High German texts.

5   Both the ruling and the presence of a catchword indicate that what we have is the outer sheet of the quire. Thirty holes left by the pricking can be clearly seen on the outer margins of fols. 1v and 2r. The bifolium was ruled in hardpoint from 1r to 1v and from 2v to 2r; each of the thirty lines is covered by script (Spazzali 1993, 7-9).

6   For the episode in Tuscany no written source has been found so far (Princi Braccini 2005, 296).

7   The word is used by the author himself: “daz ist ouh ein wunter, daz scribe wir hier unter” (l. 66; Spazzali 1995, 74); “this, too, is a marvel, we write it here below”. The German language does not distinguish between ‘miracle’ and ‘marvel’.

8   For a comparison between the Merigarto and its sources, see Voorwinden 1973, 77-104; Spazzali 1995, 101-57.

9   “wazzer gnuogiu, dei skef truogin, / dei diu lant durhrunnen, manigin nuz prungin, / der da chum ware, ub iz an demo skeffe dar nichome” (ll. 6-8; Spazzali 1995, 44); “enough waters, that carried ships, / that flowed across the countries [and] brought great advantage / that would have hardly existed, if it had not arrived there by ship.”

10   “Der fone Arabia verit in Egiptilant in sinem werva [...]” (l. 18; Spazzali 1995, 50); “One who travels from Arabia to Egypt for his trading [...]”. On that route Christians were not allowed to travel, though, nor is there any evidence of trading between western Europe and the East at that time (Spazzali 1995, 110).

11   The order in which the two seas appear is not derived from the poet’s sources: Isidore and Rabanus Maurus mention them in different books (Voorwinden 1973, 87).

12   The title De Lebirmere was added by the rubricator. The toponym appears also in Adam of Bremen (“lingua nostra Liberse vocatur”; “in our language it is called Liberse”) at the scholium 150 (IV, 36; Adamus Bremensis 1917, 270).

13   “There is a coagulated sea out west in the Ocean. / When the strong wind throws the ships in that direction, / the skilful seafarers cannot prevent / their ending in the womb of the sea. / Alas, then! They do not get away. / If God does not want to free them, they will have to foul there.”

14   For the Graeco-Roman and Latin descriptions of the mare concretum see Mund-Dopchie 2009, passim.

15   “De oceano Britannico [...] magna recitantur a nautis miracula, quod circa Orchadas mare sit concretum et ita spissum a sale, ut vix moveri possint naves, nisi tempestatis auxilio” (IV, 36; Adamus Bremensis 1917, 270); “Sailors relate marvels about the British Ocean [...]: that in the vicinity of the Orkneys the sea is congealed and so thickened with salt that ships can hardly move except with the help of strong winds” (Adam of Bremen 2002, 215).

16   “I was in Utrecht fleeing from a conflict / because we had two bishops who gave us various doctrines. / I could not stay at home, I established my dwelling in a foreign land. / When I arrived in Utrecht, I found a very upright man there, / the most worthy Reginpreht. He willingly fulfilled all that is right. / He was a wise man, [and] thus pleasing to God, / a venerable priest, upright in all respects. / He told me in truth, like many others there, / that he had once been to Iceland, where he had found great fortune / with flour and wine, too, with alder wood, / which they buy to make fire. Firewood is expensive there. / There is an abundance of supplies and diversions / but the sun does not shine there: they lack this joy. / Therefore the ice gets so hard that it turns into crystal / so that one lights the fire on it, until the crystal glows. / Thus they prepare their food and heat their houses. / There you sell a log of alder wood for one phenning. / Thus ...”

17   The diocese from which the poet fled might have been Augsburg or Constance (Voorwinden 1973, 120-23). It is more difficult to identify Reginpreht; according to Voorwinden (1973, 114-20) he might have been abbot Reginbert of Echternach, who probably went to Utrecht repeatedly.

18   “Thyle ultima insula Oceani inter septentrionalem et occidentalem plagam ultra Brittaniam, a sole nomen habens, quia in ea aestivum solstitium sol facit, et nullus ultra eam dies est” (XIV, 6, 4-5; Isidorus Hispalensis 1911, 566); “Ultima Thule (Thyle ultima) is an island of the Ocean in the northwestern region, beyond Britannia, taking its name from the sun, because there the sun makes its summer solstice, and there is no daylight beyond (ultra) this” (Isidore of Seville 2008, 294).

19   According to recent research, however, Iceland imported timber from Norway (Mehler 2012, 75).

20   “Nam [...] habent [...] fontes pro deliciis” (IV, 36; Adamus Bremensis 1917, 272); “For [...] they have [...] springs as their delights” (Adam of Bremen 2002, 217).

21   “Est autem insula permaxima, ita ut populos infra se multos contineat, qui solo pecorum fetu vivunt eorumque vellere teguntur; nullae ibi fruges, minima lignorum copia. Propterea in subterraneis habitant speluncis, communi tecto [et victu] et strato gaudentes cum pecoribus suis. Itaque in simplicitate sancta vitam peragentes, cum nihil amplius quaerant quam natura concedit, laeti possunt dicere cum apostolo, ‘habentes victum et vestitum, his contenti simus’” (IV, 36; Adamus Bremensis 1917, 272); “This island, however, is so very large that it has on it many people, who make a living only by raising cattle and who clothe themselves with their pelts. No crops are grown there; the supply of wood is very meager. On this account the people dwell in underground caves, glad to have roof and food and bed in common with their cattle. Passing their lives in holy simplicity, because they can joyfully say with the Apostle: ‘But having food, and wherewith to be covered, with these we are content’” (Adam of Bremen 2002, 217).

22   “De qua etiam hoc memorabile ferunt, quod eadem glacies ita nigra et arida videatur propter antiquitatem, ut incensa ardeat” (IV, 36; Adamus Bremensis 1917, 272) ; “About this island they also report this remarkable fact, that the ice on account of its age is so black and dry in appearance that it burns when fire is set to it” (Adam of Bremen 2002, 217).

23   The author might have heard for instance of stones being taken out of the fireplace and used to heat water or milk in wooden tubs. “This was probably the most widely used boiling technique” (Mehler 2011b, 182). In this case, too, a material, although different from ice, both helped to keep warm and – when brought to a high temperature – to prepare food.

24   Unexpectedly, we do not read of volcanoes or geysers, but they might have been mentioned in the part of text that has gone missing.

25   Gautier Dalché (2001, 131-43) has pointed out that scholars should approach medieval geographic texts by going beyond the criterion of originality and that they should consider the intellectual needs of their authors as well as those of their audience.

26   “Contract of belief.”

27   The audivi-model of text transmission appears in historical texts (Mula 2001, 163-64).

28   “Now we first tell about [the sea, how it is].”

29   “This too I heard, I will not conceal it.”

Auteur

Università degli Studi di Milano – is Associate Professor of Germanic Philology at the University of Milan. Her research investigates the language and literature of Early Middle High German and Early New High German (with a particular focus on vocabularies, Marian prayers, binomials). She teaches history of the German language and German linguistics

Acheter

Volume papier

amazon.fr
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search