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, ‘(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.

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, 84

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

48 — GunnLeif Merl I 48VIII (Bret 116)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 116 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 48)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 84.

‘Þá mun hann gjalda         grimmra ráða;
es hans tíundat         tálaukit kyn.
Verðr hann grœna         grund at vinna,
ok hann upp frá því         aldri ríkir.
Tekr hann svá fyr svik         sárar hefnðir.

‘Þá mun hann gjalda grimmra ráða; tálaukit kyn hans es tíundat. Hann verðr at vinna grœna grund, ok hann ríkir aldri upp frá því. Svá tekr hann sárar hefnðir fyr svik.

‘Then he will pay for his savage actions; his treacherous kindred will be decimated. He will have to work the green earth and from that time onwards he will reign no more. Thus he will incur grievous retributions for his treachery.

Mss: Hb(51v) (Bret)

Readings: [6] grund at vinna: grund at vinna HbJS, ‘[…]nna’ Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 48: AII, 28, BII, 33-4, Skald II, 21; Bret 1848-9, II, 55 (Bret st. 116); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 164. 

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.75-6; cf. Wright 1988, 103, prophecy 9): et reliquiae generationis eius decimabuntur. Iugum perpetuae seruitutis ferent matremque suam ligonibus et aratris uulnerabunt ‘And the remnants of its generation will be decimated. They will bear the yoke of unending slavery and wound their mother with hoes and ploughs’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). Under the Conqueror’s rule the leading English landowners, both secular and ecclesiastical, were supplanted by Normans (Stenton 1971, 680-1). This subjugation of the English was a key element in what Curley (1982, 219) terms ‘the supposed progressive unfolding of the spes Britannorum’ (‘hope of the Britons’). Gunnlaugr tones down the maternal imagery and the notion of slavery but plays up the treachery of the white snake, i.e. the Saxon occupiers of Britain. — [6]: See Introduction for readings no longer visible in Hb that could be read by earlier eds. — [7] hann ‘he’: Omitted in Skald.

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