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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, ‘ Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=1223> (accessed 6 August 2021)

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

SkP info: VIII, 61

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

20 — GunnLeif Merl I 20VIII (Bret 88)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 88 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 20)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 61.

Grét gumna vinr,         es hann greiða bað
þengill gǫfugr         þessa hegju.
Ok eptir þat         aldar snytrir
rǫkstælta spá         rekkum sagði.

Vinr gumna grét, es gǫfugr þengill bað hann greiða þessa hegju. Ok eptir þat sagði {snytrir aldar} rekkum rǫkstælta spá.

The friend of men wept when the noble king bade him explain this happening. And after that {the teacher of the people} [PROPHET = Merlin] spoke well-grounded prophecy to the men.

Mss: Hb(51r) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 20: AII, 24, BII, 28, Skald II, 17; Bret 1848-9, II, 45-6 (Bret st. 88); Hb 1892-6, 278; Merl 2012, 143.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 111 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145.32-3): Mox ille, in fletum erumpens, spiritum hausit prophetiae et ait ‘He burst into tears and was inspired to prophesy thus’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 144). Gunnlaugr’s added characterisations of the prophet (‘teacher of the people’) and the prophecy (‘well-grounded’) may be part of his determined advocacy of the material’s veracity, seen most explicitly in I 95‑102. — [7] rǫkstælta spá ‘well-grounded prophecy’: Cf. LP: rǫkstæltr; this would mean literally ‘prophecy reinforced by signs’; cf. Note to II 3/7.

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