Bet You've Never Heard A 12th Century Icelandic Hymn BEfore

Submitted by: buttersrules 5 months ago in Entertainment


I have a number of passions in life; History, language, and music are just three of these passions. So I often listen to music which has historical and linguistic significance, and as such, I listen to a lot of stuff that many music fans wouldn't even consider...

Enter Eivør Pálsdóttir; I've been listening to her for quite a while. Not only does she have a cracking voice, she sings a lot of interesting stuff. Her native language is Faroese, a descendant of Old Norse, but in this song she sings in Icelandic (also a derivitive of Old Norse). Here is "Heyr Himna Smiður", roughly translated means "Listen, Smith of Heavans" (but 'smith' could also be translated as 'creator'). A poem from the 13th Century...

The lyrics translate, I believe, to the following (I don't speak Icelandic; It's not my translation, I can't confirm the correctness of it. Translation is from here)....

Listen, smith of the heavens,
 what the poet asks.
 May softly come unto me
 your mercy.
 So I call on thee,
 for you have created me.
 I am thy slave,
 you are my Lord.
 
God, I call on thee to heal me.
 Remember me, mild one,
 Most we need thee.
 Drive out, O king of suns,
 generous and great,
 every human sorrow
 from the city of the heart.
 
Watch over me, mild one,
 Most we need thee,
 truly every moment
 in the world of men.
 send us, son of the virgin,
 good causes,
 all aid is from thee,
 in my heart.

I'm not sure if this was written after conversion, or at some mid-point from the conversion from paganism to christianity. The lyrics reference the son of the virgin, and therefore, christian beliefs, but the phrasing seems to have very strong pagan imagery, so I tend to think it was still a time of flux... Personally, I'm not religious at all, but I can appreciate the beauty of a well crafted poem, and a song sung with feeling and emotion, even if I don't fully understand the language. 
There are 23 comments:
Male 1,034
BTW, glad this proved to be so popular....I'll post more along the same lines, then, as and when I get the chance.
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Male 5,417
Would be nice if they would CC a translation in these videos
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Male 1,034
thezigrat Which is why I pasted a translation into the post, providing a link to where I found it. :)  It would be great to have it subbed in the vid itself, but it's not a perfect world......It gives me food for thought, though...there is a gaelic song I've been considering posting....there are several versions, the versions with actual video have no subs, and there's a version which has a photo montageinstead of video over the audio, but has good hard-subs...I've been debating which version to post...mebbe in such cases, it would be best to embed the subbed version, but also provide a link to the unsubbed version with video? best of both worlds...
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Male 5,417
buttersrules They had a link to another Icelandic.  chant I wish was cc translated. It was sung to the sounds of drums and pictures of people many in viking style dress and sounded pretty interesting
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Male 1,034
thezigrat Krummavissar (sp?)? If it's the one I'm thinking of, I'll have a look when I'm over shift-lag, and see if I have a captioned version bookmarked..
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Female 7,951
how sure are we of the sound? This is prior to current notation and I know there is a LOT of debate about how older stuff sounded. This sounds rather too 'modern'..
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Male 1,034
madduck A valid question. All languages shift and change over time. In the case of Icelandic, my understanding is that the changes from old Norse to Old Icelandic to Modern Icelandic have been very minimal. Icelandic (and Faroese) are both considered to be North Germanic languages, but they are also considered to be insular languages. The isolation from outside influence means that the languages change at a much slower rate, compared to, for example, the modern continental Scandinavian languages, or English, which has been influenced strongly from many other languages (although, Faroese has been influenced by Danish to a much larger extent than Icelandic).

From what I have read, there has been very little change to written Icelandic from the 11th centuary, only a few changes to letters and letter combinations for particular sounds. It's also my understanding that between the 12th and 16th centuary, there was a shift in spoken Icelandic, particularly relating to the pronounciation of certain vowels, including some of the dipthongs. Given that this hymn dates from the 13th century (in my  post I said 12th, but looking ito it deeper, more references are made to it being 13thC, rather than 12th), It's logical to assume that at the time it was written, the shift in phonology may have already started to occur, and, as such, the pronunciation of the language was already in a state of flux. Given that, can we really say for certain if the pronuciatiation of the hymn roday differs from that of the 13th centuary? And to further complicate it, given the changes were in the spoken language, and not the written language, and given that, as I said, it was written during the period of language shift, it's concievable that the written hymn words may have been pronounced in slightly different ways, even if read/ spoken in the same time period...eg, in the 14th C, somebody raised in a more urban area may have pronounced the words with a shift from the original sound, wheras someone from an isolated rural area may have, at the same time, pronounced it in a more conservative way, as changes in language traditionally occur with more rapidity in urban centres.

Moving away from the original pronunciation, for a moment; given that Eivors primary language is Faroese, which, whilst similar and mutually intelligable, has much more Danish influence, compared to Icelandic, I've looked up various other versions from native speaking Icelaners (such as the group Árstíðir)...I can't pick any significant prononciation variations. I have a pretty good ear for such things, but, admitedly don't speak either language.

There is an interesting video here on the development, similarities and differences of the North Germanic languages...he talks more about the continental languages of Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian than he does about the insular languages of Icelandic, Faroese, and Gutnish, but it's a good watch (even though I find his voice a little annoying)....
(for anyone interested, the langfocus channel on youtube has a HEAP of videos about languages and language development, all of which I find particularly interesting.

squrlz4ever , tagged you in 'cos I thought you might find this interesting...I might post that OE version of Luke 2 if I remember...
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Female 7,951
buttersrules - I think it is the music itself- the chords, the scale etc. having heard some of Hildegards music- and listening the early church music it is clear that music has evolved, very early stuff does sound quite plain- the beauty is not in the complexity of the notes but the rythym and the harmony.
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Male 5,417
buttersrules Ever see  Outlander? The Alien language he was speaking was actually ancient Norse and the Ancient Norse later in the movie he was speaking was actually, you'll never believe it ,was  English!
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Male 1,034
thezigrat seen it in the lists on Netflix, I think, but haven't watched it...might have to. BTW, have you seen "The Last Kingdom"? Eivør did the vocals for some of the musical score....when I watched it, I thought..."That sounds like Eivør!", and, yes, it was. I Forgot that when I made the post submission...it's only just occured to me. 
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Male 5,417
madduck Just Enjoy it and let the music move you
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Male 463
That was great, such a rich sound.
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Male 1,670
That was cool butters
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Male 1,670
I'm so glad I was listening to this while replying to the fur-flying going on here Fur-Flinging Fuck Fuck Games
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Male 3,974
insaneai "Fur-Flinging Fuck Fuck Games." That really made me laugh. Thanks for that, AI. The brouhaha seems to be winding down now, partly due to your "cooler heads" counsel.
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Male 5,417
insaneai You have to go to the Fur Flung reaches of IAB to get the cat hair out of your stuff
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Male 5,417
thezigrat I even had to hire a pool man to skim the fur and muck out of my tank each day
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Male 3,974
You go, Butters! Great post. Loved the performance and I find your remark about the mix of Pagan and Christian imagery really interesting.
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Male 8,274
Mesmerizing. Thanks butters
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Male 892
Second that.  This was fantastic.
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Male 5,417
Beautiful (I think that is the right term for it)
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Male 264
Great post.  A much-needed break from the politics.  
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Male 5,417
skeeter01 Let's politicize this. This Leftist anti-Trump Gregorian style chanting goes against everything the Trump and the republicans stand for! J/K
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