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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, 123

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

89 — GunnLeif Merl I 89VIII (Bret 157)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 157 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 89)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 123.

‘Ok Ránar vegr         renn of ósa
Sábrínus sjau;         sék þat fyrir.
En Óskarô         — þat es undr mikit —
mun mánuðr sjau         môttug vella.
Gervisk fiskum         fjǫrtjón at því,
en ór sjǫlfum þeim         snákar verða.

‘Ok {vegr Ránar} renn of sjau ósa Sábrínus; sék þat fyrir. En Óskarô mun vella môttug sjau mánuðr; þat es mikit undr. Fjǫrtjón gervisk fiskum at því, en snákar verða ór sjǫlfum þeim.

‘And {the path of Rán <sea-goddess>} [SEA] will run through seven mouths of the Severn; I foresee that. And the river Usk will boil powerfully for seven months; that is a great marvel. Loss of life for the fish will come of that, and snakes will be engendered out of them.

Mss: Hb(52v) (Bret)

Readings: [2] ósa: ‘asa’ Hb    [11] en: er Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 89: AII, 35, BII, 42, Skald II, 26, NN §3258E; Bret 1848-9, II, 70 (Bret st. 157); Hb 1892-6, 282; Merl 2012, 197-8.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 151.141-3; cf. Wright 1988, 107, prophecy 30): Sabrinum mare per septem hostia discurret, et fluuius Oscae per septem menses feruebit. Pisces illius calore morientur, et ex eis procreabuntur serpentes ‘The Severn sea will flow out through seven channels and the river Usk will boil for seven months. The heat will kill its fish and from them snakes will be procreated’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 150). The Bristol Channel was formerly known as the Severn Sea (cf. Welsh Môr Hafren). — [1] vegr Ránar ‘the path of Rán <sea-goddess> [SEA]’: Possibly Gunnlaugr misunderstands Lat. mare as referring to the open sea rather than to the Severn estuary. — [2] ósa ‘mouths’: Emended in Bret 1848-9, followed by subsequent eds, from ms. ‘asa’ (not refreshed). — [3] Sábrínus ‘the Severn’: Nom. sg. form used as gen. — [5] Óskarô ‘the river Usk’: Rises in Brecon, Wales and flows into the sea at Newport, some fifty kilometres from the mouth of the Severn. — [11] en ‘and’: Emended from ms. er ‘which’ (not refreshed) in NN §3258E, Skald (printed as enn); not so Bret 1848-9, Skj B or Merl 2012, and the reading could perhaps stand, giving the sense ‘when’ or ‘because’, but cf. men ‘but’ in the translation in Skj B and doch ‘but, however’ in Merl 2012. For discussion of probable errors in Hb see Introduction.

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