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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, ‘(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.

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

SkP info: VIII, 110

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

74 — GunnLeif Merl I 74VIII (Bret 142)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 142 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 74)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 110.

‘Sitr ept hilmi
hafr at lǫndum;
hans esat skilja
skap frá vífni.
Berr hann á hǫfði
horn ór gulli;
es skegg skata
skapat ór silfri.

 

A he-goat will preside over the lands after the king; his temperament cannot be separated from desire for women. He will bear on his head horns of gold; the leader’s beard will be formed from silver.

notes: Cf. DGB 115 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 149.118-51.119; cf. Wright 1988, 106, prophecy 22): Succedet hircus Venerii Castri, aurea habens cornua et argenteam barbam ‘The goat of the Fortress of Venus, with golden horns and a silver beard, will succeed him’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 148‑50). The reference to Venus in DGB is not taken up explicitly in Merl, at least as extant (cf. I 76 Note to [All]), but the concept of her castle is conveyed indirectly in the words kastra kvensemi ‘castles of desire for women’ (I 76/5-6). — [3-4]: The sense is that the king cannot be prevailed on (e.g. by his counsellors) to give up his predilection for women – an accusation frequently made against Henry I by churchmen and other contemporaries (see I 51 Note to [All]). Merl 2012 would instead modify the normally accepted ms. reading hans erat to hann sérat, translating er versteht es nicht ‘he does not understand it’, but the required sense of sjá seems to occur only in combination with prepositions (LP: séa; Fritzner: sjá).

texts: Bret 142

editions: Skj Gunnlaugr Leifsson: Merlínússpá II 74 (AII, 32; BII, 39); Skald II, 24; Bret 1848-9, II, 65 (Bret st. 142); Hb 1892-6, 281; Merl 2012, 186-7.

sources

AM 544 4° (Hb) 52r, 34 - 52r, 36 (Bret)  transcr.  image  image  image  
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