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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, 124

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

91 — GunnLeif Merl I 91VIII (Bret 159)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 159 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 91)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 124.

‘Verðr tuttugu         tjón þúsunda
ljóna ferðar         Lundúnum í.
Þeir munu drengir         drepnir allir;
gerir karla tjón         Tems at blóði.

‘Tjón tuttugu þúsunda ferðar ljóna verðr í Lundúnum. Þeir drengir munu allir drepnir; tjón karla gerir Tems at blóði.

‘The loss of twenty thousand of the host of men will come to pass in London. Those men will all be slain; the loss of men will turn the Thames to blood.

Mss: Hb(52v) (Bret)

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 91: AII, 35, BII, 42, Skald II, 27, NN §3144; Bret 1848-9, II, 70-1 (Bret st. 159); Hb 1892-6, 282; Merl 2012, 199.

Notes: [All]: The stanza divisions for I 91, 92, and 93, as printed in this edn, following Bret 1848-9 and Skj B, are uncertain. Hb has a capital <V> with red colouring at I 91/1, a small <m> with no colouring at I 92/1, a capital <E> with red at I 91/5 and a small <h> without colouring at I 93/1. It might be that Gunnlaugr had only two stanzas here, each of 12 lines, but I 92/5-8 would be awkward to sever from the previous helmingr and similar stanza division errors have been detected elsewhere in the ms. (see Notes to I 34/9-10 and I 35/7-10). Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 151.144-5; cf. Wright 1988, 107, prophecy 30): Lundonia necem uiginti miliorum lugebit, et Tamensis in sanguinem mutabitur ‘London will grieve for the demise of twenty thousand, and the Thames will turn to blood’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 150). — [7] tjón karla ‘the loss of men’: Kock (NN §3144; Skald) would reverse the order of these two nouns in the line so as to give the noun alliterating on <t> the position of greatest metrical prominence.

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