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Gunnlaugr Leifsson (GunnLeif)

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

VIII. 1. Merlínusspá I (Merl I) - 103

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 I (‘The Prophecies of Merlin I’) — GunnLeif Merl IVIII (Bret)

Russell Poole 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38.

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Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá II (AII, 22-36, BII, 24-45)

SkP info: VIII, 133

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

102 — GunnLeif Merl I 102VIII (Bret 170)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 170 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 102)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 133.

Varð sú in enska         ætt fyr stundu
veldis missa;         nús valskr konungr.
Þós þeygi enn         þeira hætti
liðit af láði,         né lýðs Breta
hvǫssum mæki         hjarl eignaðisk.

Sú in enska ætt varð missa veldis fyr stundu; nús valskr konungr. Þós þeygi enn hætti þeira liðit af láði, né eignaðisk hjarl lýðs Breta hvǫssum mæki.

The English people had to lose their dominion some time ago; now there is a French king. Yet their character has still in no way vanished from the land, neither has the land of the people of the British been taken over by the sharp sword.

Mss: Hb(53r) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 102: AII, 36, BII, 45, Skald II, 28; Bret 1848-9, II, 75 (Bret st. 170); Hb 1892-6, 283; Merl 2012, 208-9.

Notes: [All]: Gunnlaugr appears to refer to two developments that might be seen as prophesied by Merlin and due for fulfilment: 1) the obliteration of the English race and culture from Britain, 2) the conquest of Wales by the descendants of the Norman dynasty. Although a full conquest of Wales did not occur until some decades after the turn of the thirteenth century, i.e. after the probable date of composition of Merl, such a development must have seemed inevitable and indeed imminent from much earlier (Thomas 2008, 62-3). — [4] nú es valskr konungr ‘now there is a French king’: As noted in Merl 2012, the reference is to the Plantagenet dynasty of the House of Anjou, though which of the Angevin kings, Henry II (r. 1154-89), Richard I (r. 1189-99) and John (r. 1199-1216), Gunnlaugr had in mind is uncertain.

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