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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl II 67VIII (Bret 67)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 67 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá II 67)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 188.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá II

text and translation

Biðjum opt         bragna stilli
œztan eflð         ǫllu hjarta,
at víðfrægr         virða stjóri
dœgr ok dag         dróttar gæti.

Biðjum opt {stilli bragna}, œztan eflð, ǫllu hjarta, at {víðfrægr stjóri virða} gæti dróttar dœgr ok dag.
‘Let us often pray to the Lord of men [= God], highest power, with all our heart that the widely-renowned governor of men [= God] may watch over his following night and day.

notes and context

[3]: The interpretation of this line is not definitively resolved. While collocation of the verb efla in the sense of ‘support, strengthen’ with expressions for ‘God’ and ‘Christ’ is well attested (ONP: efla A1, cf. D5), the form eflð remains obscure. (a) No noun eflð is attested in CVC, Fritzner or ONP and it may represent a neologism designed to meet the demands of the kviðuháttr verse-form. (b) An alternative but less likely explanation is as an otherwise unattested noun derived from efla ‘strengthen’, with the suffix seen also in efnð ‘fulfilment’ (< efna) and hefnð ’revenge’ (< hefna) and parallel to Goth. -ōþu, OHG -ōd. In contrast to Old Norse, where such nouns have acquired f. gender, they remain m. in Gothic and Old High German (Wright 1954, 174). The m. form of the adj. œztan ‘highest’ in Hb might represent a retention of the older gender but is more probably a rationalisation to reflect the conventionally m. gender of guð ‘god’ (originally a neuter). On this basis the ms. reading is tentatively retained here, but emendation to œzta ‘highest’, the f. form of the adj., agreeing with the presumed f. gender of eflð, as advocated by Kock (NN §2567B; Skald), and followed by Merl 2012, is an attractive option. In other respects the interpretation adopted in this edn is that of Kock (NN §2567B; Skald), who, followed by Merl 2012, interprets ll. 3 and 4 together: æzta [sic] eflð, | ǫllu hjarta, translating as människors furste, den högsta styrkan ‘the lord of men, the greatest support’. The line has a possible source in Lat. summa potentia, part of the chant O summa potentia o summa bonitas et laude digna Maria mitis et benigna ‘Oh highest power, oh highest goodness and merciful and beneficent Mary, worthy of praise’ (Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, 388, f. 471, sequence 2 (Can 204367i in Lacoste and Koláček [n. d.], accessed 11 July 2015). By contrast, Bret 1848-9, followed by Skj B, appears to construe eflð as a noun in the dat. sg., translating den ypperste om kraft ‘the highest in power’ and ypperste i kraft ‘highest in power’ respectively; LP: eflð treats the ms. reading as corrupt but tentatively proposes ypperst ved sin hjælpende kraft ‘highest in his supporting power’.


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 67: AII, 21, BII, 23-4, Skald II, 15, NN §§30, 2567B; Bret 1848-9, II, 38 (Bret st. 67); Hb 1892-6, 277; Merl 2012, 125-6.


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