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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl II 19VIII (Bret 19)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 19 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 19)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 153.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá II

‘Mun bjarnígull         borg upp gera;
smíðar hæsta         hǫll landreki.
Hana mun remma         ríkr oddviti
fimm hundruðum         fagra turna.

‘Bjarnígull mun gera upp borg; landreki smíðar hæsta hǫll. Ríkr oddviti mun remma hana fimm hundruðum fagra turna.

‘A hedgehog will restore the city; the ruler will build the highest hall. The mighty leader will strengthen it with five hundred fine towers.

Mss: Hb(49v) (Bret)

Editions: Skj AII, 13-14, Skj BII, 14-15, Skald II, 9; Bret 1848-9, II, 21 (Bret st. 19); Hb 1892-6, 273; Merl 2012, 85.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 153.172, 173-4; cf. Wright 1988, 108, prophecy 36): Reaedificabit eam hericius…Adiciet palacium ingens et sexcentis turribus illud uallabit ‘The city will be rebuilt by a hedgehog … He will add a huge palace and will fortify it with six hundred towers’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 152). This prophecy appears to be an extrapolation from an upsurge of castle-building and circumvallation in Geoffrey’s time (cf. Eales 2003, 50); for castle-building and re-building at Winchester contemporary with Geoffrey see Kenyon (2005, 31). The elements of DGB’s prophecy 36, 1) rebuilding of Winchester, 2) possession of apples, 3) bolstering of defences at London, 4) concealment of apples at London, are redistributed in Merl between II 19 and 21 in the order 1, 3, 2, 4. Possibly st. 21 originally preceded st. 20. Merl, in common with the Ω class of mss, omits a sentence of prophecy found in the Π class (Reeve and Wright 2007, ix, 153). — [1] bjarnígull ‘a hedgehog’: A hap. leg. in poetry; prose occurrences are rare and confined to learned contexts, as are also those of the simplex ígull (see ONP: ígull). — [7] fimm hundruðum ‘with five hundred’: No doubt Gunnlaugr’s copy-text had .d. ‘500’, not .dc. ‘600’, parallel to ms. H of the First Variant Version (Wright 1988, 108) but most probably through coincident error, as arises frequently with numerals.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. ONP = Degnbol, Helle et al., eds. 1989-. A Dictionary of Old Norse Prose / Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog. 1-. Copenhagen: The Arnamagnæan Commission.
  4. 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.
  5. Bret 1848-9 = Jón Sigurðsson. 1848-9. ‘Trójumanna saga ok Breta sögur, efter Hauksbók, med dansk Oversættelse’. ÅNOH 1848, 3-215; 1849, 3-145.
  6. 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.
  7. Wright, Neil, ed. 1988. The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth. II. The First Variant Version: A Critical Edition. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  8. Eales, Richard. 2003. ‘Royal Power and Castles in Norman England’. In Liddiard 2003, 41-68.
  9. Kenyon, John R. 2005. Medieval Fortifications. London: Continuum.
  10. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.
  11. Internal references
  12. 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Unattributed, Breta saga’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38.

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