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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl II 11VIII (Bret 11)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 11 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 11)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 144.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá II

‘Hon þá drekkr         it dýra vatn,
ok máttr við þat         magnask brúðar.
Berr hon í hœgri         hendi sinni,
kynstór kona,         Kolídónis skóg,
en í lófa man         Lundúna borg.

‘Hon drekkr þá it dýra vatn, ok máttr brúðar magnask við þat. Hon, kynstór kona, berr skóg Kolídónis í hœgri hendi sinni, en man Lundúna borg í lófa.

‘She will then drink the precious water and the woman’s strength will increase with that. She, the woman of high lineage, will bear the forest of Colidon in her right hand and the maiden [will bear] the city of London in her palm.

Mss: Hb(49r-v) (Bret)

Editions: Skj AII, 12, Skj BII, 12, Skald II, 8, NN §§94, 1281; Bret 1848-9, II, 18 (Bret st. 11); Hb 1892-6, 272; Merl 2012, 76-7.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 151.157-153.159; cf. Wright 1988, 108, prophecy 33): Exin, ut sese salubri liquore refecerit, gestabit in dextera sua nemus Colidonis, in sinistra uero murorum Lundoniae propugnacula ‘Next, refreshing herself with healing water, she will bear in her right hand the forest of Colidon and in her left the battlements of London’s walls’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 150-2). — [5] hon … berr ‘she … will bear’: Skj B deletes hon, but Kock (NN §94) defends the parallelism of noun and pronominal, pointing out internal inconsistencies in the treatment of pron. subjects in Skj B. Cf. Note to II 10/7. — [8] Kolídónis ‘of Colidon’: Gunnlaugr retains the Latin gen. sg. Cf. I 63/2. The identity of the forest is unknown (cf. Tatlock 1950, 16-17). — [9] man ‘the maiden’: The difficulties raised by this reading have not so far been satisfactorily resolved. This edn follows Kock (NN §1281; Skald) in retaining ms. man (not refreshed), construed as a noun, ‘maiden’, in parallel structure with kona ‘woman’ in l. 7; so too Merl 2012. For the syntax cf. Note to II 10/7. The reading man is also retained in Bret 1848-9, which translates l. 9 as i den hule Haand ‘in the cupped hand’, with a note explaining that this interpretation is prompted by the Latin. No such sense of man is attested (unless an otherwise unknown heiti for ‘hand’ from Lat. manus, Fr. main is to be posited), but a mention of the maiden’s left hand would indeed be expected, so as to complement that of her right hand, as presupposed by both the Latin and l. 5 of the present stanza. Skj B emends to mun, presumably understood as an auxiliary verb with assumed bera.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. Hb 1892-6 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1892-6. Hauksbók udgiven efter de Arnamagnæanske håndskrifter no. 371, 544 og 675, 4° samt forskellige papirshåndskrifter. Copenhagen: Det kongelige nordiske oldskrift-selskab.
  6. Bret 1848-9 = Jón Sigurðsson. 1848-9. ‘Trójumanna saga ok Breta sögur, efter Hauksbók, med dansk Oversættelse’. ÅNOH 1848, 3-215; 1849, 3-145.
  7. 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.
  8. Tatlock, J. S. P. 1950. The Legendary History of Britain. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  9. Wright, Neil, ed. 1988. The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth. II. The First Variant Version: A Critical Edition. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  10. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.
  11. Internal references
  12. 2017, ‘ Unattributed, Breta saga’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38. <> (accessed 5 August 2021)

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