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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, 76

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

39 — GunnLeif Merl I 39VIII (Bret 107)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 107 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 39)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 76.

‘Þá mun inn hvíti
hjarlþvengr fara
snót saxneska
snarráðr laða.
Ok með miklum
mannfjǫlða kemr
fjarðbyggs Skǫgul
fold at byggja.

 

Then {the white thong of the earth} [SNAKE] will travel, with swift resolution, to invite the Saxon woman. And {the Skǫgul {of fjord-barley}} [JEWEL (steinn ‘stone’) > WOMAN] will come with a great multitude of men to settle the land.

notes: Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.63; cf. Wright 1985, 75, prophecy 6): Exurget iterum albus draco et filiam Germaniae inuitabit ‘The white dragon will rise again and summon Germany’s daughter’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). The absence of this sentence from the text of the Prophecies in the First Variant Version of DGB (Wright 1988, 103) misled J. S. Eysteinsson (1953-7, 102) into supposing Gunnlaugr derived the motif of the Saxon woman from DGB XI. Geoffrey tells in DGB XI that the Saxons who survived the hardships summoned more immigrants from Germania (Reeve and Wright 2007, 278-9); the filia Germaniae is evidently a representation of these people. By contrast, Gunnlaugr’s rather specific-sounding phrase, snót saxneska, along with the second helmingr, suggests that he interpreted the representation as referring to a specific woman, perhaps prompted by Geoffrey’s account of the key role in the invasion played by Hengest’s daughter Ronwein in DGB VI (Reeve and Wright 2007, 128‑31).

texts: Bret 107

editions: Skj Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá II 39 (AII, 27; BII, 32); Skald II, 20; Bret 1848-9, II, 52 (Bret st. 107); Hb 1892-6, 279; Merl 2012, 157.

sources

AM 544 4° (Hb) 51v, 16 - 51v, 18 (Bret)  transcr.  image  image  image  
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