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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 28VIII (Bret 96)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 96 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 28)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 66.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

‘Ok ôttungar         ins ítra grams
laða at lofðungi         landi ok þegnum.
En eptir þat         orms ins hvíta
verðr meira vald         en verit hafði.

‘Ok ôttungar ins ítra grams laða landi ok þegnum at lofðungi. En eptir þat verðr vald ins hvíta orms meira en hafði verit.
‘‘And the descendants of the illustrious king will attract land and subjects to the ruler. But after that the power of the white snake will become greater than it had been.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145.43-4; cf. Wright 1988, 102, prophecy 3): Sex posteri eius sequentur sceptrum, sed post ipsos exsurget Germanicus uermis ‘His six successors will wield the sceptre, but after them the German [i.e. Germanic] worm will rise’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 144). The idea of ‘six’ is absent from Merl. The variant reading sed, for sex, is found in mss O and G (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145; cf. xlv and xlvii for identifications of these mss); Gunnlaugr’s copy-text may have been related to them, but polygenetic error is also thinkable (Reeve and Wright 2007, xviii). Equivalents of the term ‘sceptre’ do not occur in Merl (cf. I 33). In reckoning with an increase in territorial sway on the part of Arthur’s successors, Gunnlaugr may have drawn on the narrative in DGB XI (J. S. Eysteinsson 1953-7, 100; for text see Reeve and Wright 2007, 254-5).


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 28: AII, 25, BII, 29, Skald II, 18; Bret 1848-9, II, 48 (Bret st. 96); Hb 1892-6, 278-9; Merl 2012, 148.


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