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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).

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.

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   69   70   71   72   73   74   75   76   77   78   79   80   81   82   83   84   85   86   87   88   89   90   91   92   93   94   95   96   97   98   99   100   101   102   103 

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

SkP info: VIII, 71

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

34 — GunnLeif Merl I 34VIII (Bret 102)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 102 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 34)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 71.

‘Sá, es slíkt gerir,         mun sjalfr taka
eirmann á sik,         aldar stjóri;
ok of hô hliði         hilmir síðan
eirhesti á         ítarligr sitr.
Gætir Lundúna         lofsæll konungr.

‘{Sá stjóri aldar}, es gerir slíkt, mun sjalfr taka eirmann á sik; ok hilmir sitr síðan ítarligr á eirhesti of hô hliði. Lofsæll konungr gætir Lundúna.

‘{That ruler of the people} [KING = Caduallo] who does this will take a copper form upon himself, and thenceforward the ruler will sit in splendour on a copper horse above the high gate. The renowned king will watch over London.

Mss: Hb(51v) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 34: AII, 26, BII, 30-1, Skald II, 19; Bret 1848-9, II, 50 (Bret st. 102); Hb 1892-6, 279; Merl 2012, 152-3.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.55-6; cf. Wright 1988, 102, prophecy 4): Qui faciet haec aeneum uirum induet et per multa tempora super aeneum equum portas Londoniae seruabit ‘He who achieves this will don a man of bronze and for many years guard the gates of London upon a bronze steed’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). This prophecy alludes to the placing of the body of King Caduallo inside a bronze effigy, narrated in DGB XI (Reeve and Wright 2007, 276-7). The effigy combined with its mount would have made up an equestrian statue (cf. Tatlock 1950, 375). — [3] eirmann ‘a copper form’: Lit. ‘copper man’. The word is a hap. leg. (LP, ONP: eirmaðr). — [7] eirhesti ‘a copper horse’: The word is attested only here and in Bret (ONP: eirhestr). — [9-10]: The <G> in Gætir is majuscule in the ms., presumably to indicate that in the belief of the copyist a new stanza began at this point. But the grouping of the narrative material speaks for the division of stanzas adopted here and by all previous eds.

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