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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 45VIII (Bret 113)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 113 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 45)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 81.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

‘Mun gull glóa         guðs húsum á,
en lǫgðis veðr         lægir þeygi.
Mun trautt taka         tálsamr dreki
híð sín mega,         þvíat honum nálgask
víti fyr vélar,         þats hann verðr bera.

‘Gull mun glóa á húsum guðs, en {veðr lǫgðis} lægir þeygi. Tálsamr dreki mun trautt mega taka híð sín, þvíat víti nálgask honum fyr vélar, þats hann verðr bera.
‘‘Gold will shine in God’s houses, but the storm of the sword [BATTLE] will not cease. The treacherous dragon will scarcely manage to reach its lairs, since retributions for its machinations will come upon it, that it will have to endure.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.69-71; cf. Wright 1988, 103, prophecy 8): Erit deauratio in templis, nec acumen gladiorum cessabit. Vix obtinebit cauernas suas Germanicus draco, quia ultio prodicionis eius superueniet ‘There will be gilding in the temples, nor will the sharpness of sword-blades decline. The Germanic dragon will be hard put to keep possession of its caves, since retribution will be visited on its treason’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). Gunnlaugr renders cauernas ‘caves’ as híð ‘lairs’, here differing from his interpretation of the earlier occurrence of cauernas as ‘lands’ (see I 21 Note to [All]). He seems to have had the majority reading draco ‘dragon’ in his source ms., not the minority variant vermis ‘worm, serpent’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 147). The mention of enriched decoration of churches might relate to the very large endowments to religious foundations from Cnut and, later in the C11th, Edward the Confessor. The treachery Geoffrey alludes to might be both the generalised perfidy of the Saxons, as seen from a British perspective, and the more specific perceived failure of Earl Harold Godwineson to keep his oath to Duke William, as interpreted by, for instance, the C12th commentator John of Cornwall (Curley 1982, 237; on Harold’s oath see Stenton 1971, 577-8).


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 45: AII, 28, BII, 33, Skald II, 21; Bret 1848-9, II, 54 (Bret st. 113); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 161-2.


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