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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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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).

notes
no FJ abbr

Merlínusspá II — GunnLeif Merl IIVIII (Bret)

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

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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, 156

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

23 — GunnLeif Merl II 23VIII (Bret 23)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 23 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 23)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 156.

‘Þá munu ór moldu         mæla steinar
ok verþjóðar         vél upp koma.
Ey mun víðask,         en Valir skjalfa,
ok sær saman         sœkja fíkjum,
svát millim landa         mál of heyri.

‘Þá munu steinar mæla ór moldu ok vél verþjóðar koma upp. Ey mun víðask, en Valir skjalfa, ok sær sœkja saman fíkjum, svát mál of heyri millim landa.

‘Then stones will speak from the earth and the machinations of the sea-people be revealed. The island will be widened, and the French will tremble, and the sea will come together greatly so that speech can be heard between the lands.

Mss: Hb(49v) (Bret)

Readings: [1] munu: mun Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá I 23: AII, 14, BII, 15, Skald II, 9; Bret 1848-9, II, 23 (Bret st. 23); Hb 1892-6, 273; Merl 2012, 88-9.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 153.177-81; cf. Wright 1988, 109, prophecy 38): In tempore illo loquentur lapides et mare quo ad Galliam nauigatur infra breue spacium contrahetur. In utraque ripa audietur homo ab homine, et solidum insulae dilatabitur. Reuelabuntur occulta submarinorum, et Gallia prae timore tremebit ‘At that time stones will speak and the sea where one sails to France will become a narrow strait. Men on opposite shores will be within earshot and the island’s surface will grow larger. The secrets of the people beneath the sea will be revealed, and France will tremble in fear’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 152). Gunnlaugr appears to alter the sequence of ideas in DGB by associating the revelations concerning the submarini ‘people beneath the sea’ with the capacity of stones to speak rather than with the drying up of the English Channel. Through his re-use of the heiti verþjóð, Gunnlaugr clearly identifies Geoffrey’s submarini with the sea-people mentioned in II 12/8; they are presumably the Ruteni ‘Flemings’, who were frequently accused of machinations in respect of both trade and mercenary service. — [1] munu ‘will’: Emended in Skald, followed by Merl 2012 and the present edn; Bret 1848-9 and Skj B retain the ms. reading mun ‘will’ (sg.). The sg. form is possible, when a composite subject (including both sg. and pl.) follows, but is less likely here. — [5] víðask ‘be widened’: A hap leg. in poetry. Bret 1848-9 notes the rarity of this verb; both the other two attestations are from texts concerned with Bishop Þorlákr (ONP: víða). — [7-8] ok sær sœkja saman fíkjum ‘and the sea will come together greatly’: I.e. ‘the sea will shrink considerably’. These lines seem to refer to the narrowing of the English Channel, as mentioned in DGB’s mare ... breue spacium contrahetur (see Note to [All] above), translated lit. ‘the sea ... will be drawn together in a small space’.

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