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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 20VIII (Bret 88)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 88 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 20)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 61.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

Grét gumna vinr,         es hann greiða bað
þengill gǫfugr         þessa hegju.
Ok eptir þat         aldar snytrir
rǫkstælta spá         rekkum sagði.

Vinr gumna grét, es gǫfugr þengill bað hann greiða þessa hegju. Ok eptir þat sagði {snytrir aldar} rekkum rǫkstælta spá.

The friend of men wept when the noble king bade him explain this happening. And after that {the teacher of the people} [PROPHET = Merlin] spoke well-grounded prophecy to the men.

Mss: Hb(51r) (Bret)

Editions: Skj AII, 24, Skj BII, 28, Skald II, 17; Bret 1848-9, II, 45-6 (Bret st. 88); Hb 1892-6, 278; Merl 2012, 143.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 111 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145.32-3): Mox ille, in fletum erumpens, spiritum hausit prophetiae et ait ‘He burst into tears and was inspired to prophesy thus’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 144). Gunnlaugr’s added characterisations of the prophet (‘teacher of the people’) and the prophecy (‘well-grounded’) may be part of his determined advocacy of the material’s veracity, seen most explicitly in I 95‑102. — [7] rǫkstælta spá ‘well-grounded prophecy’: Cf. LP: rǫkstæltr; this would mean literally ‘prophecy reinforced by signs’; cf. Note to II 3/7.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  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. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.
  8. Internal references
  9. 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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