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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 46VIII (Bret 114)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 114 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 46)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 82.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

‘Fá mun hann uppgang         afarlitla stund;
hnekkir hônum         hringserkjat lið.
Kømr sunnan sú         sveit of ægi,
es hann ríki mun         ræna miklu.

‘Hann mun fá uppgang afarlitla stund; hringserkjat lið hnekkir hônum. Sú sveit kømr sunnan of ægi, es mun ræna hann miklu ríki.
‘‘He will obtain success for a very short time; the mail-shirted army will check him. That band will come from the south across the sea, which will rob him of his great kingdom.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.72-3; cf. Wright 1988, 103, prophecy 9): Vigebit tandem paulisper, sed decimatio Neustriae nocebit. Populus namque in ligno et ferreis tunicis superueniet, qui uindictam de nequitia ipsius sumet ‘Then it will prosper for a short time, but the decimation visited on it by Normandy will injure it. A people will come in wood and tunics of iron to take vengeance on its wickedness’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). This and the ensuing prophecies resume the theme of the Norman Conquest. Between the coronation of Edward the Confessor, the first member of the native Anglo-Saxon royal dynasty to rule since Æthelred II, in 1043 (Stenton 1971, 423) and the Norman Conquest in 1066 only twenty-three years elapsed, hence Geoffrey’s paulisper. Gunnlaugr postpones mention of the alleged decimation perpetrated by Normandy upon the Saxons until st. I 48 and in general plays down the Norman identification. He may have preferred to focus on the Breton component of the invasion force, which is also covered by the vague phrase sunnan of ægi ‘from the south across the sea’: cf. I 47/3. He conveys the idea of ‘wood’, Geoffrey’s rather cryptic reference to the Norman longships, by using the more explicit phrase of ægi ‘across the sea’ (l. 6).


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 46: AII, 28, BII, 33, Skald II, 21; Bret 1848-9, II, 54 (Bret st. 114); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 162-3.


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