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.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

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).

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 25 September 2021)

 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, 90

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

53 — GunnLeif Merl I 53VIII (Bret 121)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 121 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 53)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 90.

‘Verðr meinliga         mæki brugðit;
sék blóði ben         blása móður;
líðr mart hǫfugt         of lýða kyn.
Rýðr varðar blóð         Venedócíam,
ok síðan sex         snarpir lifra
kynsmenn drepa         Kórínéus.

‘Mæki verðr meinliga brugðit; sék ben blása blóði móður; mart hǫfugt líðr of kyn lýða. Blóð varðar rýðr Venedócíam, ok síðan drepa snarpir kynsmenn Kórínéus sex lifra.

‘The sword will be drawn with ill intent; I see the wound spurt with the mother’s blood. Much hardship will come over the race of men. The blood of the woman will redden Venedotia and then bold kinsmen of Corineus will slay six brothers.

Mss: Hb(52r) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 53: AII, 29, BII, 34-5, Skald II, 22; Bret 1848-9, II, 57 (Bret st. 121); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 168.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.86-149.87; cf. Wright 1988, 104, prophecy 11): Venedocia rubebit materno sanguine, et domus Corinei sex fratres interficiet ‘Venedotia will run red with a mother’s blood, and the house of Corineus kill six brothers’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146, 148). The historical status of this prophecy is difficult to assess. The first clause of the prophecy possibly extrapolates Geoffrey’s awareness of growing unrest against Henry I in Wales (Poole 1955, 290-1; cf. Curley 1982, 223) into the immediate future. The Lat. Venedocia corresponds to Welsh Gwynedd, the kingdom in North Wales. The mention of the house of Corineus, i.e. the successors of the legendary first ruler of Cornwall (cf. DGB I: Reeve and Wright 2007, 28-9) in the second clause of the prophecy might then personify Cornish involvement in this imagined conflict. But confused records exist concerning an atrocity in Cornwall, committed against Normans and datable to some time between 1100 and 1129 (Padel 1984, 20-7), that matches the account and hence gives the prophecy historic status. — [3-4]: To judge by their subject-matter, these lines may have originally belonged after ll. 5-6 and have come in here by way of anticipation. Previous eds signal the difficulty by placing ll. 5-6 in parentheses. — [6] lýða ‘of men’: Skj A has liða, probably by dittography, for clear ‘lyda’ in Hb (cf. Bret 1848-9 and Skj B). — [8] Venedócíam ‘Venedotia’: Gunnlaugr uses the Latin first declension acc. sg. form. Merl 2012 states that no such name exists in the British Isles and looks to Brittany for referents, but see Note to [All]. — [9-12]: The word order is somewhat convoluted, since sex ‘six’ must be taken, for sense and match with Geoffrey’s text, with lifra ‘brothers’, not snarpir kynsmenn ‘bold kinsmen’ (contrast Bret 1848‑9).

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.