This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

Note to stanza

8. Breta saga 9 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II, 9) [Vol. 8, 142]

[All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 151.155-6; cf. Wright 1988, 108, prophecy 32): Ad haec ex urbe canuti nemoris eliminabitur puella ut medelae curam adhibeat ‘At this, a girl will be sent forth from the city of the hoary forest to bring curing medicine’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 150). The city Geoffrey had in mind, though not identified in previous scholarship, is probably Lichfield (OE Liccidfeld), which was founded close to and partially takes its name from the Romano-British settlement Letocetum ‘Grey forest’ (cf. Watts 2004, 372; for this location see also Stenton 1970, 259). In Anglo-Latin the adj. form canutus/kanutus is used to mean ‘grey’, in parallel with the classical Latin form canus. Gunnlaugr appears to infer a connection with the name Knútr, no doubt via the Anglo-Norman (Latinised) form of this name, Canutus/Kanutus, and this is also done by some modern scholars, e.g. Faral (1929, II, 60), followed by Thorpe (1966, 177) and Merl 2012. Tatlock (1950, 77) lists the location as unknown. DGB shows a keen interest, some of it reflected by Merl, in the vicissitudes and rival claims of dioceses and diocesan cities; cf. (e.g.) I 30 (London, Canterbury, Carlisle, St Davids), II 5-8 (Winchester) and II 16-18 (Winchester and St Davids). A reference to Lichfield can be explained in those terms: already the seat of a bishop, the city had in Offa’s time been proposed as the seat of the southern archbishop. It was briefly and very controversially the seat of an archbishop under Hygeberht from 787 to 799 (officially dissolved in 803), as a result of opposition on the part of Offa, King of Mercia, to domination by Canterbury (Stenton 1971, 217-18; Kirby 2000, 142; Brooks 1996, 118–19). In the late C11th Lichfield lost its bishop (though not its cathedral status) to Chester, as part of reforms proposed by Lanfranc (see Note to I 59/2); nevertheless its fortunes were reviving in Geoffrey’s time,  with the construction of a Norman cathedral (cf. Barrow 1956, 63). Gunnlaugr’s added assertion of the status of ‘Canute’s wood’ as an exceedingly prosperous centre (l. 3) rather than a mere rural retreat, augmenting Geoffrey’s claim for its salvific influence on Winchester, may be seen as a piece of advocacy for the city fully in keeping with C12th English practice: cf. II 16 Note to [All].


© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.