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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 21VIII (Bret 89)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 89 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 21)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 62.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

‘Táknar inn rauði         rás fagrsili,’
kvað bjóðr bragar,         ‘brezka lýði,
en inn hvíti naðr         ina heiðnu þjóð,
es byggja mun         brezkar jarðir.

‘{Inn rauði fagrsili rás},’ kvað {bjóðr bragar}, ‘táknar brezka lýði, en inn hvíti naðr ina heiðnu þjóð, es mun byggja brezkar jarðir.
‘‘The red fine rope of the earth [SNAKE],’ said the offerer of poetry [POET = Merlin], ‘stands for the British people, and the white snake for the heathen folk who will settle the British lands.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145.34-6; cf. Wright 1988, 102, prophecy 1): Cauernas ipsius occupabit albus draco, qui Saxones quos inuitasti significat. Rubeus uero gentem designat Britanniae, quae ab albo opprimetur ‘Its caves will be taken by the white dragon, which symbolises the Saxons whom you have summoned. The red represents the people of Britain, whom the white will oppress’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 144). Gunnlaugr rationalises the ‘caves’ as ‘lands’.



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 II 21: AII, 24-5, BII, 28, Skald II, 17; Bret 1848-9, II, 46 (Bret st. 89); Hb 1892-6, 278; Merl 2012, 143-4.


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