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, 104

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

68 — GunnLeif Merl I 68VIII (Bret 136)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 136 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 68)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 104.

‘Hrapa hræva gǫr,         hátt gjalla spjǫr,
es malmþrima         mest á hjarli.
Verðr einn við einn         valkǫstr hlaðinn;
munu blóðgar ár         af bjǫðum falla,
en vígroða         verpr á hlýrni.

‘Gǫr hræva hrapa, spjǫr gjalla hátt, {malmþrima} es mest á hjarli. Einn valkǫstr verðr hlaðinn við einn; blóðgar ár munu falla af bjǫðum, en vígroða verpr á hlýrni.

‘Heaps of corpses tumble, spears scream loudly, {the weapon-tumult} [BATTLE] is greatest on the earth. One pile of slain is built up beside another; bloody rivers will fall from the lands, and the redness of battle is cast up into heaven.

Mss: Hb(52r) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 68: AII, 31, BII, 37-8, Skald II, 24, NN §2406; Bret 1848-9, II, 62-3 (Bret st. 136); Hb 1892-6, 281; Merl 2012, 180-2.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 115 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 149.111-12; cf. Wright 1988, 105, prophecy 20): tunc flumina sanguine manabunt ‘then the rivers will flow with blood’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 148). Gunnlaugr reverses the order of this and the following clause from DGB (see I 69 Note to [All]). The rest of the material represents battle commonplaces in skaldic style. — [1-2]: The end-rhyme is reminiscent of runhent but, aside from I 69/5-6, Gunnlaugr does not maintain the treatment consistently; a more thorough-going attempt is seen in II 36. — [9] en ‘and’: Treated as enn ‘once more’, introducing a new sentence, in Skald, but this violates the word order in independent clauses. — [9] vígroða ‘the redness of battle’: For the full array of attestations of this and related compounds see Kommentar IV, 726-7. It is usually interpreted as a red glow in the sky, portending battle (Bret 1848-9; Skj B; LP: vígroði; LT: vígroði; cf. NN §2406 stridens glöd ‘glow of battle’). Given the context in Merl, an additional connotation might be that blood spatters the heavens: cf. Anon Darr 1/4V(Nj 53) rignir blóði ‘it rains with blood’.

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