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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).

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, 108

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

72 — GunnLeif Merl I 72VIII (Bret 140)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 140 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 72)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 108.

‘Mun villigǫltr         vígdjarfr koma
ór kynstórri         Kónus ætt
sá vigra konr         Vallandi á.
Høggr yngva sonr         eikr ór skógi;
þó mun hilmir         hollr smáviði.

‘Villigǫltr, sá konr vigra, mun koma vígdjarfr ór kynstórri ætt Kónus á Vallandi. Sonr yngva høggr eikr ór skógi; þó mun hilmir hollr smáviði.

‘A wild boar, that scion of pigs, will issue, daring in combat, from the mighty lineage of Conan in France. The prince’s son hews down oaks from the forest; yet the ruler will be kindly to small trees.

Mss: Hb(52r) (Bret)

Readings: [4] nus: ‘Kominus’ Hb    [5] vigra: ‘viga‑’ Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 72: AII, 32, BII, 38, Skald II, 24; Bret 1848-9, II, 64 (Bret st. 140); Hb 1892-6, 281; Merl 2012, 184-5.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 115 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 149.114-17; cf. Wright 1988, 105-6, prophecy 21): Ex Conano procedet aper bellicosus, qui infra Gallicana nemora acumen dentium suorum exercebit. Truncabit namque quaeque maiora robora, minoribus uero tutelam praestabit ‘From Conanus will come forth a warlike boar, who will exercise the sharpness of his tusks on the forests of France. He will cut short all the tallest trees, but give protection to the smaller’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 148). Geoffrey envisages the resurgent British monarchy gaining power in France. Gunnlaugr amplifies on the glory of the boar king’s lineage, probably with Arthur, the greatest of the boar kings, in mind: cf. I 24/4. — [4] nus ‘of Conan’: Emended by Bret 1848-9, followed by subsequent eds, for ms. ‘Kominus’ (refreshed). The reference is to Conan Meriadoc: see I 64 Note to [All]. — [5] konr vigra ‘scion of pigs’: The latter word is emended in this edn from ms. ‘viga-‘ (refreshed). The heiti vigrir ‘boar’ occurs in Þul Galtar 1/7III; see Note there; cf. LP: vigr, where an etymology based on med tænder som spyd ‘with spear-like teeth’ is tentatively suggested. Scheving (reported in Bret 1848-9) emended the words viga konr more drastically to vígtǫnnum ‘with battle tusks’, guided by the wording of DGB. This solution was adopted in Bret 1848-9 and Skj B and may well be correct. Other possibilities, however, are that Gunnlaugr omitted the mention of tusks, as he evidently does in II 30/5-8, perhaps in order to rationalise the allegory, or that there is a lacuna after l. 6, in which the boar’s tusks could have been mentioned. In Skald ‘viga-’ is read as víga, without explanation: Merl 2012 adopts this reading, translating konr víga as Mann der Kämpfe [= dieser Krieger] ‘man of battles [= this warrior]’, but such a periphrasis would be unidiomatic; also, konr as a heiti for ‘man’ in general is very rarely attested as against the numerous attestations in the sense of ‘scion, descendant, heir’ (LP: konr). — [6] Vallandi ‘France’: This is the hitherto unrecognised ms. reading (refreshed). Above the first vowel, which as refreshed might be either <a> or <i>, is a stroke sloping downwards and rightwards that appears to have been part of an original <a>. A pen stroke runs across the <lld> of valldi, descending rightwards somewhat to merge with <d>. It is distinct from the ascender of <d>, as is shown by comparison with I 35/7 veldi and I 66/8 skildi, and might be interpreted as a mark of contraction, thus ‘landi’. A similar pen stroke, reaching leftwards from the ascender of <d> so as to cross the <l> or occasionally placed above both <l> and <d>, is seen in such refreshed readings as II 13/2 ‘landi’, II 15/4 ‘Bretlands’, II 19/4 ‘landreki’ and II 31/4 ‘landher’. This stroke can usually but not always be distinguished from the stroke seen elsewhere in association with preceding <l> or <ll> which is merely a run-in to the <d>, and where no contraction is involved (e.g. I 38/10). Sometimes, however, the abbreviated form of land lacks any mark of contraction, as in the refreshed readings II 1/6 and II 2/2, and this may have been the norm in the original hand (cf. I 12/6, I 23/4, I 28/4 and I 37/4). Regardless of how the pen stroke is interpreted, then, expansion to ‑landi seems secure and there are no indications that the refreshing is other than accurate on this occasion. Earlier eds, not recognising the reading, are led into tentative emendations. Scheving is reported in Bret 1848-9, without further explanation, as conjecturing valdastar ‘mightiest’ or vildastar ‘choicest’, in reference to the eikr (f. acc. pl.). Bret 1848-9 emends to valskar ‘French’, likewise qualifying eikr. Finnur Jónsson reads villdi a (Skj A) and emends to vildjá.. (sic: left untranslated), with ellipses to show that the line was metrically deficient (Skj B, followed by Skald and Merl 2012).

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