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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, 159

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

26 — GunnLeif Merl II 26VIII (Bret 26)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 26 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 26)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 159.

‘En fogl ept þat         ferr vestr í dal,
þanns Gálábes         gumnar kalla.
Hann mun hefjask         í it hæsta fjall,
ok þar uppi         í eikr limum
hreiðrask hegri;         hann es fogla verstr.

‘En fogl ferr vestr í dal ept þat, þanns gumnar kalla Gálábes. Hann mun hefjask í it hæsta fjall, ok hegri hreiðrask þar uppi í limum eikr; hann es verstr fogla.

‘But after that the bird will go westwards into the valley that people call Galabes. It [the valley] will raise itself into the highest mountain and up there the heron will nest on the branches of an oak; it is the worst of birds.

Mss: Hb(49v) (Bret)

Readings: [6] í it: ‘[…]’ Hb, í it HbJS    [8] limum: ‘‑limv’ Hb    [9] hreiðrask: ‘treiðr[…]’ Hb;    hegri: ‘[…]’ Hb, hegri HbJS    [10] es: ‘a’ Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá I 26: AII, 15, BII, 15, Skald II, 9-10; Bret 1848-9, II, 24-5 (Bret st. 26); Hb 1892-6, 274; Merl 2012, 90-1.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 153.185-3; cf. Wright 1988, 109, prophecy 40): At cum calamitas tanta cessauerit, adibit detestabilis ales uallem Galahes atque eam in excelsum montem leuabit. In cacumine quoque ipsius plantabit quercum atque infra ramos nidificabit ‘When this great calamity is over, the accursed bird will visit the valley of Galahes and raise it into a lofty mountain. At the summit the heron will plant an oak and nest in its branches’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 152). In Merl the heron is not credited with planting the oak, merely with nesting in it. — [3] Gálábes: This is the reading of some mss of Geoffrey, against majority Galahes (Wright 1988, 109, cf. 111), and therefore presumably stood in Gunnlaugr’s source. — [6, 9]: See Introduction for readings no longer visible in Hb that could be read by earlier eds. — [8] limum ‘the branches’: Emended in this edn from ms. ‘limv’ (refreshed). Use of the pl. form is suggested by Geoffrey’s ramos ‘branches’. Skj B (followed by Skald) emends to limi ‘branch’, perhaps in view of actual nesting behaviour on the part of herons, but LP: eikrlim notes limum as a possible alternative. Bret 1848-9 retains limu, apparently as an acc. pl., translating as kviste ‘branches’, but dat. would be required syntactically, since the context requires a point of rest, not motion towards. Merl 2012 would also retain, interpreting limu ‘branch’ as sg. for pl.; this dat. sg. form is however not attested. — [9] hreiðrask ‘will nest’: Emended in Skj B (followed by Skald and Merl 2012) from ms. ‘treiðr[...]’ (partially refreshed); cf. hreiðri ‘nest’ in II 27/2. Bret 1848-9 takes the ms. reading to be ‘treiðr’ and explains as a form of treðr ‘treads’, the 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of treðja ‘tread’. — [10] es ‘is’: Emended from ms. ‘a’ (refreshed) in Bret 1848-9, followed by subsequent eds.

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