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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, ‘(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

41 — GunnLeif Merl I 41VIII (Bret 109)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 109 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 41)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 77.


Þá kórónask         kapps hvítdreki,
ok saxneskir         seggir ríkja.
En eirjǫfurr         ofan at stíga
verðr af brǫttum         borgararmi.

Þá kórónask hvítdreki kapps, ok saxneskir seggir ríkja. En eirjǫfurr verðr at stíga ofan af brǫttum borgararmi.

Then the white serpent of belligerence will be crowned and Saxon men will rule. And the copper lord has to climb down from the sheer city wall.

Mss: Hb(51v) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 41: AII, 27-8, BII, 32, Skald II, 20; Bret 1848-9, II, 53 (Bret st. 109); Hb 1892-6, 279; Merl 2012, 158. 

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.65; cf. Wright 1988, 103, prophecy 7): Exin coronabitur Germanicus uermis et aeneus princeps humabitur ‘Then the Germanic worm will be crowned, and the prince of bronze buried’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). Gunnlaugr’s elaboration on the passing of the bronze prince raises the question of whether his copy-text contained the variant reading humiliabitur ‘will be humbled’, found in mss O and M, as also in mss a, H and R of the First Variant Version and the commentary by Alain de Flandres (Wille 2015, 129), rather than the standard reading humabitur ‘will be buried’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147, Wright 1988, 103). Alain explains the bronze horseman allegorically, as representing the British people (Wille 2015, 129), and Gunnlaugr’s understanding, in speaking of this figure climbing down, may have been similar. — [5] eirjǫfurr ‘the copper lord’: Referring to the effigy of Caduallo mentioned in st. 34. — [8] borgararmi ‘city wall’: Printed separately as borgar armi by all previous eds, but the cpd form borgararmr, referring especially to the outer wall of a fortress or city, is standard (ONP: borgararmr).

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