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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Hartman

Old Norse Music - Did it Survive? How?

I have been collecting activity ideas for children using my own ideas and recommendations from many pagan community groups I am in. One recommendation was an Old Norse/Viking music piece. This made me wonder, how did Old Norse music survive? How would we know a song if we saw it written in an old runic alphabet?

The answers are found in the last page of the Codex Runicus. The song was found in Denmark and is the oldest known musical notation from Scadinavia. It does not have any rhythmatic style and it is written on a four-line staff.

So, what is the Codex Runicus? The Codex Runicus is a medieval manuscript survived from the late Medieval Age of Scandinavia. It dates back to the year 1300. Using an ancient runic alphabet, the Old Norse recorded their notes on calfskin (because they did not have paper yet). Note: The Viking Age ended in 1066, but the runes were still used in parts of Scandinavia until the early 12th century. Prior to the Codex Runicus, Old Norse runes were wriiten in one of two ancient alphabets: Elder Farthuk or Younger Farthuk. The Codex Runicus was documented using younger farthuk, but it also used 27 Latin sounding letters; probably because the Latin era was moving in. This tells us the Codex Runicus may have been part of a runic revivalist effort.

Blah Blah, ok that's enough. You're here for the music, right?

The song is called, Drømde mig en drøm i nat (‘I dreamt a dream last night).

I found it after Professor, Dr. Jackson Crawford released a video of his students covering the song.

Here is the music piece for “Drømte Mig En Drøm” from the Codex Runicus:

And here is the sheet music offered by Sheila Louise Wright on :

Finally, here is a YouTube clip featuring the song with English captions:

And lastly, here is the sheet music with both translations:

1. Drømte Mig En Drøm i nat om silke ogærlig pæl, Bar en dragt så

Dreamed me a dream this night of silk and fine furs. Wore a dress so

let og glat isolfaldets strålevæld -nu vågner den klare morgen light and smooth in the sunset's radiance -now the clear morning is waking

2. Til de unges flok jeg gik, jeg droges modsang og dans. Trøstigt mødte jeg

To the young crown I went, I was drawn to song and dance. Comfortably I met

hans blik og jeg hans blik og lagde min hånd i hans -nu vågnerden klare morgen

his eye and put my hand in his -now the clear morning is waking

3. Alle de andre på os så, de smilede og delo. Snart gik dansen

All the others watched us, they smiles and they laughed. Soon the dance

helt i stå, der dansedekun vi to -nu vågner den klare morgen

fully stopped, only us two were left dancing -now the clear morning is waking

4. Drømte mig en drøm i nat om silke og ærligpæl. Fjernt han hilste

Dreamed me a dream this night of silk and fine furs from far away

med sin hat og grå gikmin drøm på hæld -nu vågner den klaremorgen

he waved his hat and grey went my dream of happiness - now the clear morning is waking. Translation offered by ErikBertelsen, although some words were altered by Jennifer Hartman with the help of Google Translate during fact-checking.

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