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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, 82

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

47 — GunnLeif Merl I 47VIII (Bret 115)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 115 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 47)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 82.

‘Sá mun lofðungr,
es liði stýrir,
brátt brezkum her
byggva jarðir.
Mun sáð tekit
snáks ins hvíta
endr ór órum
aldingǫrðum.

 

The lord who leads the army will swiftly settle the lands with British people. The white snake’s seed will be taken once more out of our orchards.

notes: Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.73-4; cf. Wright 1988, 103, prophecy 9): Restaurabit pristinis incolis mansiones, et ruina alienigenarum patebit. Germen albi draconis ex ortulis nostris abradetur ‘They [the people from Normandy] will restore the original inhabitants to their dwellings, and the ruin of the foreigners will be plain to see. The seed of the white dragon will disappear from our gardens’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). Gunnlaugr appears to have worked from a source ms. that contained the reading albi draconis ‘of the white dragon’, characteristic of the Ω group of mss (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147); see Introduction. With the phrase lofðungr, es stýrir liði ‘The lord who leads the army’ Gunnlaugr makes more explicit reference to William the Conqueror than does Geoffrey. Geoffrey’s notion of a Breton resumption of residency in Britain may be owed in part to an awareness that William brought over a large Breton contingent as part of his army, with the support of the Breton aristocracy (cf. Stenton 1971, 594). Many Breton lords and their followers were given lands in England during the two decades after the Conquest (Stenton 1971, 629).

texts: Bret 115

editions: Skj Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá II 47 (AII, 28; BII, 33); Skald II, 21, NN §103; Bret 1848-9, II, 55 (Bret st. 115); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 163.

sources

AM 544 4° (Hb) 51v, 28 - 51v, 29 (Bret)  transcr.  image  image  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated