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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl II 46VIII (Bret 46)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 46 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 46)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 174.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá II

text and translation

‘Es á hans dǫgum         hǫggormr alinn,
sás fyrðum vill         fjǫrspell gera.
Svá es hann langr,         at of Lundúnir
heiðar hvalr         hring of mælir
ok svá óðr,         at urðar sigðr
umlíðendr         alla gleypir.

‘Hǫggormr es alinn á dǫgum hans, sás vill gera fyrðum fjǫrspell. Hann es svá langr, at {hvalr heiðar} of mælir hring of Lundúnir, ok svá óðr, at {sigðr urðar} gleypir alla umlíðendr.
‘‘In his days a serpent will be born who will bring about an end to life for men. It is so long that the whale of the heath [SNAKE] will measure a circle around London and so ferocious that the sickle of the cairn [SNAKE] will devour all passers-by.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 155.204-6; cf. Wright 1988, 110, prophecy 45): In diebus eius nascetur serpens, quae neci mortalium imminebit. Longitudine sua circuibit Lundoniam et quosque pretereuntes deuorabit ‘In its time will be born a snake which will threaten men with death. It will coil itself around London and devour all who pass by’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 154). — [7]: A trisyllabic line, like ll. 9 and 11. Kock suggests (NN §§2163B; Skald) filling out l. 7 with initial at, shifted from the previous line, to yield regular fornyrðislag metre. But this unnecessarily complicates the word order and obscures the sense. He further suggests filling out l. 9 with es hann, on the analogy of l. 5 and would regularise l. 11 into fornyrðislag by reading umlíðanda. But the occurrence of three short lines in the one stanza militates against emendation, and it may be that Gunnlaugr is foreshadowing the sequence of kviðuháttr stanzas from II 62 onwards that concludes Merl II.


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 I 46: AII, 18, BII, 19, Skald II, 12, NN §§2163B, 2820; Bret 1848-9, II, 32 (Bret st. 46); Hb 1892-6, 275-6; Merl 2012, 109-10.


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