The fire of 1955 destroyed part of Bryggen, the old quarter of Bergen (Norway). This made possible large scale excavations of a medieval town. Archeologists brought to light over 550 objects with runic inscriptions, dating to 1150-1350. The most of them are on wooden sticks with flattened sides. At a time when everyone had a knife, such sticks, called in Icelandic rúnakefli, served as both notebooks and a way to send a letter. Bergen inscriptions revealed much about everyday life in a society, in which runes played a very important role. Below are a few runic inscriptions from Bergen that deal with love. Throughout this post, first goes the Bergen Index number (it is also a link to a picture of the original inscription, if available) with the date, then the runic text, a transcription, the same text in normalized orthography, and an English translation.
B017, after 1248
Óst min, kyss mik
‘My love, kiss me’
Above is perhaps the most cute runic inscription I’ve ever seen.
B465, before 1198
Mun þú mik,
man ek þik.
Unn þú mér,
ann ek þér.
I remember you.
I love you’.
A naive, but also a very sincere love poem. Next goes a much more down-to-earth saying:
B039, before 1332
Smiður sarð Vigdisi af Snældubeinum
‘Smidur made love with Vigdis of the Snældubeinar’
Sounds a bit boastful. The following quote is of the same kind:
B390, before 1198
Ingibjörg unni mér þá er ek var í Stafangri
‘Ingibjörg loved me when I was in Stavanger’
The next message was possibly addressed by a worried wife to an errand husband:
B149, after 1248
Gyða segir at þú gakk heim
‘Gyda says that you are to go home’
The following lines are highly dramatic:
B644, before 1198
Ann ek svá konu mans at mér þykkir kaldr eldr.
En ek emi vinr vifs þessa.
‘I love that man’s wife so much that fire seems cold to me.
And I am that woman’s lover’
The final runic quote here shows that Scandinavians read Virgil. Isn’t it terrific to see his Latin verse written with runes:
B145, ca. 1248
Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori
‘Love conquers all; let us too yield to love.’
- Jelling Rune Stones Remain Outdoors
- Norse Runes Do Not Convey Whole Words
- Viking Runes on the Piraeus Lion in Venice
Images above are copyright © The Viking Rune