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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to GunnLeif Merl I 77VIII (Bret 145)

[All]: Cf. DGB 115 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 151.124-6; cf. Wright 1988, 106, prophecy 23): Fons Annae uertetur in sanguinem, et duo reges duellum propter leaenam de Vado Baculi committent. Omnis humus luxuriabit, et humanitas fornicari non desinet ‘The spring of Anna will turn to blood, and two kings will fight a duel over the lioness of Stafford. All the soil will be rank, and mankind will not cease to fornicate’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 150). The name Anna (with a common variant reading ‘Amne’) is not mentioned elsewhere in DGB and has not been identified; Gunnlaugr translates generically. Merl 2012, 190 states that this p. n. cannot be identified with any actual city, but in fact Geoffrey’s Vadum baculi is no more than a thin disguise for the English p. n. Stafford, rendered folk-etymologically as ‘ford of the stave’ (cf. gué de bastun ‘Ford of the Staff’ in the Anglo-Norman decasyllabic version; Blacker 2005, 41). Gunnlaugr seems to have recognised that a ford was involved, translating Lat. vado with the vernacular cognate vað ‘ford’, but not to have understood the allusion in Baculi. The town of Stafford (OE æt Stæfforda) in the West Midlands, site of major fortifying works in the Anglo-Saxon period under Queen Æthelflæd, assumed renewed importance under the Normans, with the construction of a castle (Stenton 1971, 605); Geoffrey appears to be extrapolating from that history into continuing prominence for this settlement under British rule in an imagined future. It is possible that the key role of Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, at Stafford in the early C10th prompted his evocation of a ‘lioness’ associated with that locality (Tatlock 1950, 27-8), as the culmination of his animadversions on women and their power over men earlier in the same prophecy. Although Gunnlaugr’s rendering apparently reduces the lioness to a simple ‘bride’ (i.e. ‘woman’), he may be continuing the theme of destructive female pride in his own way: see Note to ll. 7-8 below. Merl lacks the reference to fornication; also the duel is ‘nativised’ into a hólmganga, a ritualised single combat classically fought on an island.

References

  1. Bibliography
  2. Reeve, Michael D., and Neil Wright. 2007. Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain. An Edition and Translation of De gestis Britonum [Historia regum Britanniae]. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  3. Tatlock, J. S. P. 1950. The Legendary History of Britain. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  4. Wright, Neil, ed. 1988. The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth. II. The First Variant Version: A Critical Edition. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  5. Stenton, F. M. 1971. Anglo-Saxon England. 3rd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  6. Blacker, Jean, ed. 2005. ‘The Anglo-Norman Verse Prophecies of Merlin’. Arthuriana 15, 1-125.
  7. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.

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