This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas

login: password: stay logged in: help

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, ‘ Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38. <> (accessed 6 August 2021)

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, 80

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

44 — GunnLeif Merl I 44VIII (Bret 112)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 112 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 44)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 80.

‘Þá mun grimmum         ganga at móti
landnyrðingr hvass         lundar fjǫtri
ok blóma þá         á brott reka,
es vestrœnir         vindar grœddu.

‘Þá mun hvass landnyrðingr ganga at móti {grimmum fjǫtri lundar} ok reka þá blóma á brott, es vestrœnir vindar grœddu.

‘Then a sharp northeast wind will come against {the savage fetter of the grove} [SNAKE], and drive away the flowers that the westerly winds fostered.

Mss: Hb(51v) (Bret)

Readings: [1] grimmum: gumnum Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 44: AII, 28, BII, 33, Skald II, 20-1, NN §102; Bret 1848-9, II, 54 (Bret st. 112); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 160-1.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.68-9; cf. Wright 1988, 103, prophecy 8): Tunc exurget in illum aquilo et flores quos zephirus procreauit eripiet ‘Then the north wind will rise against it and blow away the flowers the western breeze has nurtured’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). This prophecy alludes to Viking raids in England. — [1] þá ‘then’: Merl 2012 interprets the ms. reading as þat ‘that’ and translates Das wird den Menschen und der Fessel des Waldes [= der Schlange] wie ein scharfer Nordostwind entgegenwehen ‘That will blow against men and the fetter of the grove [= the snake] like a bitter northeast wind’, but this involves the introduction of wie ‘like, as’. — [1] grimmum ‘savage’: Emended in this edn from ms. gumnum ‘to men’ (not refreshed), which is retained in all previous eds. Bret 1848-9 and Skj B leave gumnum untranslated (despite a statement to the contrary regarding Skj B in Merl 2012) but appear to have construed it as an appositional expansion to fjǫtri lundar ‘the fetter of the grove [SNAKE]’; this, although advocated by Kock (NN §102), leads to an awkward discrepancy between pl. and sg. The other cases discussed by Kock are not syntactically parallel. Merl 2012 instead posits a double object but is obliged to add und ‘and’ to the translation (see Note to l. 1 above). The emendation grimmum is palaeographically straightforward and removes these difficulties. Gunnlaugr uses the adj. grimmr ‘savage’ and adv. grimmliga ‘savagely’ elsewhere (I 16/3, I 32/9, I 48/2, I 64/5, II 28/6) and it fits well with Geoffrey’s ascription of saeuicia ‘savagery’ to the white serpent in 112.39 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147). See Introduction for apparent errors in the Hb text. — [3] landnyrðingr ‘a northeast wind’: This term is explained as originating with reference to the western coast of Norway (LP: landnorðr lit. ‘land-north’, north-east). Cf. Merl I 84/2. For scholarly discussion of this system of orientation see Stefán Einarsson (1944), Haugen (1957), Jackson (1998), Wanner (2009, 49‑50). DGB has simply ‘a north wind’.

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