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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Gunnlaugr Leifsson — GunnLeifVIII

skalds

Vol. 8, 38 —  — ed. Russell Poole

Poetry

Merlínusspá I103

Merlínusspá II68

Biography

Russell Poole 2017, ‘(Biography of) Gunnlaugr Leifsson’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38.

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).

References

  1. Bibliography
  2. Turville-Petre, Gabriel. 1953. Origins of Icelandic Literature. Oxford: Clarendon.
  3. Vries, Jan de. 1964-7. Altnordische Literaturgeschichte. 2 vols. 2nd edn. Grundriss der germanischen Philologie 15-16. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  4. LH = Finnur Jónsson. 1920-4. Den oldnorske og oldislandske litteraturs historie. 3 vols. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Gad.
  5. Bekker-Nielsen, Hans. 1958. ‘Nova historia sancti Ambrosii. Et tabt rimofficium af Gunnlaugr Leifsson’. MM, 8-14.
  6. Ciklamini, Marlene. 2004. ‘Sainthood in the Making: The Arduous Path of Guðmundr the Good, Iceland’s Uncanonized Saint’. alv 11, 55-74.
  7. Ciklamini, Marlene. 2008. ‘Folklore and Hagiography in Arngrímr’s Guðmundar saga Arasonar’. Fabula 49, 1-18.
  8. Katrín Axelsdóttir. 2005. ‘Gunnlaugur Leifsson og Ambrósíus saga’. Skírnir 179, 337-49.
  9. Würth, Stefanie. 1998. Der ‘Antikenroman’ in der isländischen Literatur des Mittelalters. Eine Untersuchung zur Übersetzung und Rezeption lateinischer Literatur im Norden. Beiträge zur nordischen Philologie 26. Basel: Helbing & Lichtenhahn.
  10. Internal references
  11. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Biography of) Óláfr Tryggvason’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 383.
  12. (forthcoming), ‘ Anonymous, Þorvalds þáttr víðfǫrla’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. . <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=163> (accessed 26 September 2021)
  13. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Biography of) Oddr Snorrason’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 890.
  14. 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. <https://skaldic.org/m.php?p=text&i=1223> (accessed 26 September 2021)

other information

Gunnlaugr Leifsson (GunnLeif)

13th century

Skj AII, 10-36; BII, 10-45

volume 8

main editor: Russell Poole

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