”Såsom en fågel”

En liknelses metamorfoser


  • Anders Piltz Ph.D. Professor emeritus in Latin, University of Lund


The hymn “Den signade dag” (‘The blessed day’) has had a remaining endurance and popularity throughout the Nordic countries since the late Middle Ages. Its earliest textual version, in MS. C 4 of the medieval collection of manuscripts from the convent of Vadstena (15th century, now in the University Library of Uppsala), apparently a song for pilgrims, has been reshaped successively several times, for theological as well as linguistic and stylistic reasons. The persistent presence of a little bird is an intriguing feature: in the earlier versions it flies in spite of difficulties, but its function in the context remains unclear. In later adaptations of the hymn, the bird represents the ascending of the soul in prayer, in a typically Nordic manner, inviting the phenomena of the physical world, animals and plants, to praise their creator. It is argued in this study that the original meaning of the bird simile can be established with the help of a 13th century Norwegian collection of sermons. In this, it is stated that it is “a Nordic saying” that as the little bird surpasses high mountains in spite of its feeble wings, it is worthy and possible for a Christian to praise God, even if the praise is insufficient in relation to its divine object.