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, ‘ Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38. <> (accessed 6 August 2021)

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, 127

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

94 — GunnLeif Merl I 94VIII (Bret 162)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 162 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 94)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 127.

Þau eru ǫnnur ljóð         upp frá þessum;
†alvisk† eigi         auðs berdraugar
— biðk þjóðir þess —         við þenna brag,
þó at ek mynt hafa         mál at hætti,
þeims spár fyrir         spjǫllum rakði
malmþings hvǫtuðr,         í mǫrgum stað.

Þau eru ǫnnur ljóð upp frá þessum; {berdraugar auðs} †alvisk† eigi við þenna brag — biðk þjóðir þess —, þó at ek hafa mynt mál í mǫrgum stað at hætti, þeims {hvǫtuðr {malmþings}} rakði fyrir spár spjǫllum.

There are other songs following on from these; may {bearing logs of wealth} [MEN] not … with this poem — this I ask of people —, although I have formed my sayings in many a place after the style in which {the whetter {of the metal-meeting}} [BATTLE > WARRIOR = Merlin] recited prophecies in speeches.

Mss: Hb(52v) (Bret)

Readings: [4] ber‑: ben Hb

Editions: Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 94: AII, 35, BII, 43, Skald II, 27, NN §3258F; Bret 1848-9, II, 71-2 (Bret st. 162); Hb 1892-6, 282-3; Merl 2012, 202-3.

Notes: [1-2]: Here Gunnlaugr is referring in anticipation to Merl II (Bret 1848-9, II, 71 n. 8; see Introduction). — [3] †alvisk† ‘…’: Possibly ‘be vexed’ (?). This ms. reading (not refreshed) is obscure, though the general sense is apparent from the context. The reading is tentatively retained in Bret 1848-9 with the gloss laste ‘blame’ and Scheving’s proposed emendation to ylfisk ‘be worried’, i.e. ‘harassed’ (CVC: ylfa), is rejected. In Skj B abbisk ‘become incensed at, vexed with’ is conjectured (cf. CVC, LP, ONP: abbask; Fritzner: abbast), and followed by Merl 2012, and that remains the most plausible solution. Kock’s suggestion ǫlvisk ‘grow drunk’ (NN §3258F) is ruled out by the context. — [4] ber- ‘bearing’: Emended in Skj B, followed by Skald and Merl 2012, from ms. ben (refreshed). A determinant ben ‘wound’ would be difficult to explain in combination with auðs ‘wealth’ (gen.). For a similar confusion of ber-, ben-, cf. LP: berdraugr and Glúmr Lv 1/2I and Note there. — [4] -draugar ‘logs’: The interpretation of this heiti remains uncertain. Meissner 264-5 cites the interpretation as ‘wood’, therefore ‘tree’, in Orms Eddu-brot (SnE 1848-87, II, 497), but notes that draugr is not attested in this general sense and instead posits, following Neckel (1914), an agentive noun with the meaning ‘one who carries or draws’, from a verb *driuga ‘lead, carry out’, as the base-word for this and similar kennings (but cf. AEW: draugr 2).

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