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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, ‘ Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=1223> (accessed 4 August 2021)

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Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá II (AII, 22-36, BII, 24-45)

SkP info: VIII, 84

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

49 — GunnLeif Merl I 49VIII (Bret 117)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 117 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 49)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 84.

‘Ríkir enn at þat
ormar tvennir;
missir annarr þar
aldrs fyr skeyti,
en annarr mun
aptr of hverfa
und skugga nafns
at skǫpum vinna.

 

After that two more snakes will rule; one will lose his life there to an arrow, but the other will return under the cover of a name to contend against the fates.

notes: Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.76-8; cf. Wright 1988, 104, prophecy 10): Succedent duo dracones, quorum alter inuidiae spiculo suffocabitur, alter uero sub umbra nominis redibit ‘Two dragons will succeed, one of which will be suffocated by the arrow of envy, while the other will return beneath the shadow of a name’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). This prophecy appears to allude to two of the sons of William the Conqueror, William Rufus, who succeeded his father as King of England in 1087, and Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, who early in William Rufus’s reign made a return to Normandy from the Crusades and competed with him for the throne; among the commentators to offer this interpretation is John of Cornwall (Curley 1982, 237).

texts: Bret 117

editions: Skj Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá II 49 (AII, 29; BII, 34); Skald II, 21; Bret 1848-9, II, 55 (Bret st. 117); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 164-5.

sources

AM 544 4° (Hb) 51v, 31 - 51v, 33 (Bret)  transcr.  image  image  image  
AM 544 4° (HbJS) 51v, 31 - 51v, 33 (Bret)  transcr.  image  image  image  
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