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Gunnlaugr Leifsson (GunnLeif)

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

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

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 5 August 2021)

stanzas:  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, 168

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

38 — GunnLeif Merl II 38VIII (Bret 38)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 38 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 38)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 168.

‘En galti þat         gengr at reyna;
blæss hann í andlit         ok í augu gram.
En refr við þat         ræðr á galta;
fær hann af hánum         fót inn vinstra
hlust ina hœgri         ok hryggjar nes.

‘En galti gengr at reyna þat; hann blæss í andlit ok í augu gram. En refr ræðr á galta við þat; hann fær inn vinstra fót af hánum, ina hœgri hlust ok {nes hryggjar}.

‘And the boar will go to test that; he will blow in the face and eyes of the ruler. But thereupon the fox will attack the boar; he will take from him the left foot, the right ear, and {the headland of the back} [TAIL].

Mss: Hb(50r) (Bret)

Readings: [2] gengr: ‘egiar’(?) apparently corrected from gengr during the process of refreshing Hb    [10] ok: firi Hb;    hryggjar: ‘hrydiar’ Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá I 38: AII, 17, BII, 18, Skald II, 11, NN §2163F; Bret 1848-9, II, 29 (Bret st. 38); Hb 1892-6, 275; Merl 2012, 102-3.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 155.193-6; cf. Wright 1988, 109, prophecy 42): Mox adibit ipse cadauer et dum superstabit anhelabit in oculos eius et faciem. At ipsa, non oblita præteriti doli, mordebit sinistrum pedem ipsius totumque ex corpore euellet. Saltu quoque facto, eripiet ei dexteram aurem et caudam ‘It will at once approach the fox’s body and, standing over it, will breathe into its eyes and face. But the fox, not forgetting its old cunning, will bite the boar’s left foot and tear it from its body. Then, leaping up, it will bite off its right ear and tail’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 154). — [2] gengr ‘will go’: The refreshed reading in Hb has previously been taken as ‘eggiar’ (Hb 1892-6, 275; read as eggjar by Bret 1848-9 and Merl 2012) or emended variously to girnisk (Skj B) and getr (NN §2163F; Skald). But as refreshed the ms. seems to read ‘egiar’, with minuscule <g> and a contraction mark running above the three letters ‘egi’, rather than ‘eggiar’. On this basis, emendation to (or more precisely restoration of) gengr is proposed in the present edn. The word gengr written with a mark of contraction above the second <g> is seen in the ms. text of II 25/8 and II 31/6. This solution is more economical than those of Skj B and Skald and gives good sense in context, corresponding to DGB’s adibit ‘will approach’, as contrasted with eggjar, which Bret 1848-9 is obliged to translate freely as önsker ‘wishes’, not otherwise an attested meaning of the verb (ONP: eggja ‘sharpen, urge on, goad, incite’); Merl 2012 presupposes an otherwise undocumented intransitive use of eggja. — [3] hann ‘he’: Omitted in Skald. — [10] ok ‘and’: Emended in Bret 1848-9, followed by subsequent eds, from ms. firi (refreshed). — [10] hryggjar ‘of the back’: Emended in Bret 1848-9, followed by subsequent eds, from ms. ‘hrydiar’ (refreshed). — [10] nes hryggjar ‘the headland of the back [TAIL]’: This unusual kenning is clarified in II 40/7.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated