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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. 1. Merlínusspá I (Merl I) - 103

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 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, 64

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

25 — GunnLeif Merl I 25VIII (Bret 93)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 93 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 25)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 64.

‘Fersk undir hann
foldu grœnni
ok eyja fjǫlð
í úthafi,
Íra ok Engla
ok Út-Skota,
víðum lǫndum
valskra þjóða,
Nóregs síðu
ok Norðr-Dana.

 

Under him is brought the green land and a multitude of islands in the outer ocean, of the Irish and the English and the outlying Scots, extensive territories of the French people, the coast of Norway and [lands] of the northern Danes.

notes: Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145.41; cf. Wright 1988, 102, prophecy 2): Insule occeani potestati ipsius subdentur, et Gallicanos saltus possidebit ‘The islands of the ocean will fall under his sway and he will occupy the glades of France’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 144). As noted by J. S. Eysteinsson (1953-7, 99), Gunnlaugr appears to draw on a wider knowledge of legends of Arthur’s conquests than this Latin sentence would supply, taken on its own, and shows interest in the North Atlantic and Scandinavian regions. This, along with the mention of the Romans in I 26, could have been derived direct from DGB IX-XI (see Introduction). It could also, however, with much greater convenience have been derived from a commentary. Alain de Flandres, for instance, annotates as follows (Wille 2015, 161): Hyberniam namque, Islandiam, Scotiam, Orcadum insulas, Gothlandiam, Norguegiam, Datiamque sub iugum misit et suo subiecit imperio ‘For he subjugated Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, the Orkney islands, Gotland, Norway and Denmark and subjected them to his imperial rule’ (cf. Hammer 1935, 26, and, for another commentary with similar content, Hammer 1935, 8). Arthurian incursions into Scandinavian territories would not necessarily have been judged improbable or incongruous by Gunnlaugr’s audience; Haukr Erlendsson makes occasional changes to the text of Bret ‘in order to reveal connections with Scandinavian history, particularly with Norwegian royal dynasties’ (Tétrel 2010, 494). On the other hand, there is no mention in Merl, at least as extant, of Iceland, which both Geoffrey and the commentators included in Arthur’s dominions (cf. Tatlock 1950, 107). Gunnlaugr appears to correct the designation of Denmark and Norway as islands, which again is a designation in Geoffrey that is reproduced by the commentators (cf. Tatlock 1950, 107), instead placing them in explicit parallel (Denmark) or implicit parallel (Norway) with France.

texts: Bret 93

editions: Skj Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá II 25 (AII, 25; BII, 29); Skald II, 18; Bret 1848-9, II, 4 (Bret st. 93); Hb 1892-6, 278; Merl 2012, 145-6. 

sources

AM 544 4° (Hb) 51r, 28 - 51r, 29 (Bret)  transcr.  image  image  image  
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