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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, 173

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

44 — GunnLeif Merl II 44VIII (Bret 45)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 45 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 44)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 173.

‘Ok svíns at þat         á sik hami
brigðr ok brœðra         bíðr slœgliga.
En, es þeir koma         kosti at fœra,
bítr hann báða tvá         ok banar hlýrum.

‘Ok brigðr á sik hami svíns at þat ok bíðr brœðra slœgliga. En, es þeir koma at fœra kosti, bítr hann báða tvá ok banar hlýrum.

‘And with that he will take on the form of the boar and wait slyly for the brothers. But when they come to bring their offerings he will bite both of them and will slay the siblings.

Mss: Hb(50r) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá I 45/5-8: AII, 8, BII, 19, Skald II, 12; Bret 1848-9, II, 31-2 (Bret st. 45); Hb 1892-6, 275; Merl 2012, 108.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 155.202-4; cf. Wright 1988, 110, prophecy 44): Exin transuertet sese in aprum et quasi sine membris expectabit germanos. Sed et ipsos postquam aduenerint subito dente interficiet ‘Next it will disguise itself as the boar and as if without its members await its brothers. But when they arrive, it will swiftly bite them also to death’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 154). In other words, the fox, now de facto a king, takes on the semblance of the deposed and assassinated boar-king in order to dispose of its brothers, the bear and the wolf. This stanza and II 45 appear in reverse order in Hb, followed by Bret 1848-9, Skj B and Skald, but the announcement of the end of the saga þengils ‘story of the king’ in II 45/5-8 should logically come at the point when indeed nothing remains to be added to his story. The reversal of stanza-order can be explained on the basis of eye-skip from one helmingr-initial ok to another, followed by retrospective insertion of the missing stanza (Poole 2009, 316-17; cf. Merl 2012). — [6] kosti ‘their offerings’: Referring to the substitutes for the boar’s missing body parts that the wolf and bear have promised to bring. — [7] hann ‘he’: Omitted in Skald.

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