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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 2VIII (Bret 70)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 70 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 2)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 49.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

Jǫrð vas forðum         fyrr kend Bretum,
sús Englum es         eignuð síðan,
þvíat in enska þjóð         áðan vélti
breks ósama         brezka lýði.

Jǫrð, sús es eignuð Englum síðan, vas fyrr kend Bretum forðum, þvíat in enska þjóð vélti áðan brezka lýði ósama breks.
‘The land, which has since been assigned to the English, was previously called after the Britons in former days, for the English people beforehand deceived the British people, [who were] averse to the extortion of land.

notes and context

The notion of deception derives from the tradition that when Vortigern invited a select corps of Saxons to protect his kingdom they seized the opportunity to conquer the country, despite oaths to the contrary (Bede HE I, 15: Colgrave and Mynors 1969, 50-1; cf. Henry of Huntingdon, largely quoting Bede, in HA 1996, 80-1).


Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínússpá II 2: AII, 22, BII, 24, Skald II, 15; Bret 1848-9, II, 39 (Bret st. 70); Hb 1892-6, 277; Merl 2012, 130.


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