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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl II 54VIII (Bret 54)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 54 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 54)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 180.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá II

text and translation

‘Verst es í heimi;         veitat sonr fǫður;
slíta þeir sifjum         svá synir við feðr.
Kannask engi         við kunna menn
né nána frændr         Nirðir bauga.

‘Verst es í heimi; sonr veitat fǫður; þeir synir slíta svá sifjum við feðr. Engi kannask við kunna menn né [kanna] {Nirðir bauga} nána frændr.
‘‘It will be worst in the world; the son will not know the father; the sons will thus break the bonds of kinship with fathers. No one will recognise familiar people, nor will the Nirðir <gods> of rings [MEN] [recognise] any kinsmen.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 116 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 157.230; cf. Wright 1988, 111, prophecy 53): Nesciet pater filium proprium ‘A father will not recognise his own son’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 156). — [3-4]: The difficulties posed by these lines have not so far been satisfactorily resolved. This edn follows Skj B (Bret 1848-9 reads similarly but with emendation of feðr to feðra) in adhering to the ms. readings (refreshed). The placement of svá is difficult, however, since regardless of whether it is assigned to l. 3 (with Bret 1848-9, also Merl 2012) or l. 4 (with Skj B) it generates an extra potentially alliterating syllable. Moreover, ll. 3-4 seem curiously repetitive of ll. 1-2. Kock suggests (NN §100) that svá synir may represent a misunderstanding of the adj. svásir, used substantivally, and proposes the emendation slíta þeir sifjum, | svásir, við feðga, translated as och frändskap slita de, de nära, med far och son ‘they sever kinship ties, the near and dear, between father and son’ (Skald is similar, with omission of þeir). He notes that ON svás, OE swǣs was particularly used with nouns denoting ‘close blood-relative’ (cf. Ásm 4/1-2), the latter often in collocation with gesibb, corresponding to sifjum here, a noun that denotes relationships by marriage (as noted by Merl 2012). De Vries (1964-7, II, 75 n. 179) compares l. 3 with Vsp 45/4.


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 54: AII, 19, BII, 21, Skald II, 13, NN §100; Bret 1848-9, II, 34-5 (Bret st. 54); Hb 1892-6, 276; Merl 2012, 115-17.


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