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.

Data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas

login: password: stay logged in: help

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, ‘(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.

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, 182

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

57 — GunnLeif Merl II 57VIII (Bret 57)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 57 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 57)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 182.

‘Lifir in danska         drótt at holdi,
gerir eyvit sér         ǫlðri at móti.
Því munu in tígnu         tíðmǫrk himins
ljósi sínu         frá lýð snúa.

‘In danska drótt lifir at holdi, gerir eyvit sér at móti ǫlðri. Því munu {in tígnu tíðmǫrk himins} snúa ljósi sínu frá lýð.

‘The Danish people will live on meat, do nothing to resist ale-drinking. Therefore {the glorious time-markers of heaven} [HEAVENLY BODIES] will turn their light away from the nation.

Mss: Hb(50v) (Bret)

Readings: [4] ǫlðri: ǫlð Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá I 57: AII, 20, BII, 21-2, Skald II, 13-14; Bret 1848-9, II, 35 (Bret st. 57); Hb 1892-6, 276; Merl 2012, 118-19.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 159.287-8; cf. Wright 1988, 114, prophecy 72): Ab eis uultus auertent sydera et solitum cursum confundent ‘The planets will look away from men and disrupt their customary paths’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 158). — [1-2] in danska drótt ‘the Danish people’: The apparently anti-Danish polemics are Gunnlaugr’s contribution; the foundation of a metropolitan see in Norway in 1153 severed older allegiances of the Icelandic bishoprics with Lund in what was then Denmark (cf. Foote 1975, 73). However, the adj. dansk may sometimes apply to Scandinavians generally, especially in the phrase dǫnsk tunga ‘Danish tongue’, which acquired the generalised meaning ‘Scandinavian language’ at least as early as the C11th (cf. Sigv Víkv 15/8I and Note; see also SnE 1998, I, 52, 80). — [4] ǫlðri ‘ale-drinking’: Emended from ms. ǫlð (refreshed) (Poole 2009, 312). The Hb text features regular use of superscript contraction for <ri>, e.g. in eit<ri> (fol. 51r l. 16), which could easily be obscured by refreshing. For the sentiment, compare ofdrykkja ‘excessive drinking’ (II 56/7); also II 52/3-4. The ms. reading is retained in Bret 1848-9, Skj B and Skald, evidently in the sense of ‘people’; in Skj B ll. 3-4 are translated loosely as og gör intet mod sig selv (sine lyster) ‘and does nothing against itself (its pleasures)’ (Bret 1848-9 similarly). Merl 2012 also retains the ms. reading, but with translation of ǫlð as Schicksal ‘fate’, which is hard to account for unless by confusion with ørlǫg ‘fate’.

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