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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, 77

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

40 — GunnLeif Merl I 40VIII (Bret 108)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 108 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 40)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 77.

‘Mun sáð koma
sinni ǫðru
útlent yfir
óra garða.
En samt yfir
á svǫlum barmi
eylands þrumir
ormr inn rauði;
fær hann lítit
af landinu.

 

Foreign seed will come a second time over our precincts. And still the red snake remains on the cool fringe of the island; he will gain little from the land.

notes: Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.63-4; cf. Wright 1988, 103, prophecy 6): Replebuntur iterum ortuli nostri alieno semine, et in extremitate stagni languebit rubeus ‘Our gardens will be filled again with foreign seed and the red dragon will languish at the pool’s edge’. This prophecy alludes to the restriction of British occupation to Wales, narrated in DGB XI (Reeve and Wright 2007, 280-1). Gunnlaugr replaces the symbolic pool with the literal island and appears to freely add the notion that the British king will gain little from his occupation of Wales, in a theme of land use and productivity that appears occasionally elsewhere; for other instances see Note to I 32/5-8. DGB speaks disparagingly about the British dynasties in Wales but does not address this specific point (Reeve and Wright 2007, 280-1). — [9-10]: Previous eds have placed these lines at the beginning of I 41, but they are clearly integral to the present stanza, just as they are clearly extraneous to the subject-matter of I 41. The stanza division in Hb, signalled by rubricated majuscule <F> initial in fær, is likely to be erroneous; for the reverse error, cf. I 34/9-10 and I 35/7-10.

texts: Bret 108

editions: Skj Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá II 40 (AII, 27; BII, 32); Skald II, 20; Bret 1848-9, II, 52 (Bret st. 108); Hb 1892-6, 279; Merl 2012, 157-8.

sources

AM 544 4° (Hb) 51v, 18 - 51v, 19 (Bret)  transcr.  image  image  image  
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