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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 35VIII (Bret 103)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 103 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 35)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 72.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

‘Þá gerisk þat         of þjóð Breta,
es þeim enn hefir         áðr of grandat,
at þeir sjalfir sízt         sáttir verða.
Deila þeir of veldi         ok of víða fold;
eru kappsamar         kindir brezkar.

‘Þá gerisk þat of þjóð Breta, es hefir enn áðr of grandat þeim, at þeir sjalfir verða sízt sáttir. Þeir deila of veldi ok of víða fold; brezkar kindir eru kappsamar.
‘‘Then it will come about for the British people, as has also harmed them in the past, that they themselves will not at all be in harmony. They will compete for power and for the wide territory; the British peoples will be in rivalry.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.56-7; cf. Wright 1988, 103, prophecy 5): Exin in proprios mores reuertetur rubeus draco et in se ipsum saeuire laborabit ‘Then the red dragon will return to its old ways and strive to tear at itself’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). Gunnlaugr elaborates on the cryptic allusion to internecine conflict in Geoffrey’s text and rationalises the allegory, on the lines seen in DGB XI (J. S. Eysteinsson 1953-7, 101-2; for text see Reeve and Wright 2007, 276-7) and Bede HE I, 22 (Colgrave and Mynors 1969, 66-9). According to Geoffrey in DGB XI, Cadualadrus (Cadwallader, referred to by Bede as Ciedwalla) succeeds Caduallo as king but falls sick, whereupon the Britons fight among themselves and suffer famine and pestilence. — [7-10]: All eds treat these lines as the conclusion of st. 35. In Hb <D> of deila is clearly majuscule, indicating the copyist’s understanding of the stanza division, but the disposition of narrative materials suggests that he was mistaken on this score. See Note to I 34/9‑10.



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 35: AII, 26-7, BII, 31, Skald II, 19; Bret 1848-9, II, 50-1 (Bret st. 103); Hb 1892-6, 279; Merl 2012, 153-4.


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