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

Gunnlaugr Leifsson (GunnLeif)

13th century; volume 8; ed. Russell Poole;

VIII. 2. Merlínusspá II (Merl II) - 68

Skj info: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Islandsk munk, d. 1218 (AII, 10-36, BII, 10-45).

Skj poems:
Merlínússpá I
Merlínússpá II

Gunnlaugr Leifsson (GunnLeif, d. 1218 or 1219) was a monk at the Benedictine house of Þingeyrar, a monastery near the shores of Húnaflói, in northern Iceland, that maintained close relations with the seat of the bishop at Hólar (Turville-Petre 1953, 135). Nothing is known concerning Gunnlaugr’s place of birth, upbringing or social origins. He was regarded in his own time as a man of singular Latin learning (LH II, 394-5) and worked in a distinguished historiographic and hagiographic milieu (de Vries 1964-7, II, 246). In a rare personal anecdote, perhaps apocryphal, Arngrímr Brandsson, a Benedictine monk and abbot at Þingeyrar (d. 1361 or 1362), tells that Gunnlaugr attempted to recite his new history of Saint Ambrose at the church at Hólar but was rebuffed by Bishop Guðmundr Arason (LH II, 394-5; Ciklamini 2008, 1). The two men were evidently on good terms at an earlier stage, however (Ciklamini 2004, 66), and, while bishop at Hólar, Guðmundr commissioned Gunnlaugr to prepare a life of Jón helgi ‘the Saint’ Ǫgmundarson and an account of portents and miracles pertaining to Þorlákr Þórhallsson, both in Latin (LH II, 394-5). 

Works ascribed to Gunnlaugr that survive in one form or other include the Latin life of Jón helgi, represented by a close Icelandic translation; the account of Þorlákr’s miracles; a Latin expansion of Gunnlaugr’s Þingeyrar colleague Oddr Snorrason’s life of King Óláfr Tryggvason, extant in the shape of excerpts translated into Icelandic; an Icelandic original version of Þorvalds þáttr víðfǫrla ‘The Tale of Þorvaldr the Far-traveller’ that may at one time have formed part of the life of Óláfr; and a now entirely lost life of Saint Ambrose (LH II, 394-403; Turville-Petre 1953, 194-200; Bekker-Nielsen 1958; de Vries 1964-7, II, 245-7; Würth 1998, 205-6; Ciklamini 2004, 66; Katrín Axelsdóttir 2005). The only work ascribed to Gunnlaugr that appears to survive in a relatively complete state is Merlínusspá ‘The Prophecies of Merlin’ (Merl I and II). It is also the sole medieval instance of a direct verse translation into Icelandic from Latin prose (Würth 1998, 206).

no FJ abbr

Merlínusspá II — GunnLeif Merl IIVIII (Bret)

Russell Poole 2017, ‘ Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 134. <> (accessed 28 June 2022)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   41   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   56   57   58   59   60   61   62   63   64   65   66   67   68 

Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá I, fri oversættelse (AII, 10-21, BII, 10-24); stanzas (if different): 43, 45/1-4 | 44 | 45/5-8

SkP info: VIII, 144

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — GunnLeif Merl II 11VIII (Bret 11)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 11 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 11)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 144.

‘Hon þá drekkr         it dýra vatn,
ok máttr við þat         magnask brúðar.
Berr hon í hœgri         hendi sinni,
kynstór kona,         Kolídónis skóg,
en í lófa man         Lundúna borg.

‘Hon drekkr þá it dýra vatn, ok máttr brúðar magnask við þat. Hon, kynstór kona, berr skóg Kolídónis í hœgri hendi sinni, en man Lundúna borg í lófa.

‘She will then drink the precious water and the woman’s strength will increase with that. She, the woman of high lineage, will bear the forest of Colidon in her right hand and the maiden [will bear] the city of London in her palm.

Mss: Hb(49r-v) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá I 11: AII, 12, BII, 12, Skald II, 8, NN §§94, 1281; Bret 1848-9, II, 18 (Bret st. 11); Hb 1892-6, 272; Merl 2012, 76-7.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 151.157-153.159; cf. Wright 1988, 108, prophecy 33): Exin, ut sese salubri liquore refecerit, gestabit in dextera sua nemus Colidonis, in sinistra uero murorum Lundoniae propugnacula ‘Next, refreshing herself with healing water, she will bear in her right hand the forest of Colidon and in her left the battlements of London’s walls’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 150-2). — [5] hon … berr ‘she … will bear’: Skj B deletes hon, but Kock (NN §94) defends the parallelism of noun and pronominal, pointing out internal inconsistencies in the treatment of pron. subjects in Skj B. Cf. Note to II 10/7. — [8] Kolídónis ‘of Colidon’: Gunnlaugr retains the Latin gen. sg. Cf. I 63/2. The identity of the forest is unknown (cf. Tatlock 1950, 16-17). — [9] man ‘the maiden’: The difficulties raised by this reading have not so far been satisfactorily resolved. This edn follows Kock (NN §1281; Skald) in retaining ms. man (not refreshed), construed as a noun, ‘maiden’, in parallel structure with kona ‘woman’ in l. 7; so too Merl 2012. For the syntax cf. Note to II 10/7. The reading man is also retained in Bret 1848-9, which translates l. 9 as i den hule Haand ‘in the cupped hand’, with a note explaining that this interpretation is prompted by the Latin. No such sense of man is attested (unless an otherwise unknown heiti for ‘hand’ from Lat. manus, Fr. main is to be posited), but a mention of the maiden’s left hand would indeed be expected, so as to complement that of her right hand, as presupposed by both the Latin and l. 5 of the present stanza. Skj B emends to mun, presumably understood as an auxiliary verb with assumed bera.

© 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.