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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 50VIII (Bret 118)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 118 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 50)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 86.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

‘Þá mun ríkja         réttlætis dýr,
þats eyverskir         ormar hræðask.
Ok fyr sunnan sæ         sjalfir ugga
víz rammligir         valskir turnar.

‘Þá mun dýr réttlætis ríkja, þats eyverskir ormar hræðask. Ok sjalfir valskir turnar víz rammligir ugga fyr sunnan sæ.
‘‘Then the beast of justice will rule, which the island-dwelling serpents will dread. And south across the sea the French towers themselves, redoubtable on every side, will be fearful.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 147.78-9; cf. Wright 1988, 104, prophecy 11): Succedet leo iusticiae, ad cuius rugitum Gallicanae turres et insulani dracones tremebunt ‘They will be succeeded by the lion of justice, at whose roar the towers of France and the island dragons will tremble’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 146). The reference is to Henry I (c. 1068/1069 ‑ 1 December 1135), the fourth son of William the Conqueror, who succeeded to the throne in 1100 and campaigned extensively in France and Normandy. The soubriquet ‘Lion of Justice’ refers to his judicial and financial reforms (cf. the account of William of Malmesbury: Mynors et al. 1998-9, I, 742-3, and 798-9). The expression ‘island dragons’, translated literally by Gunnlaugr, refers to ‘all British rulers of the islands belonging to Wales, Scotland and Ireland’ (Curley 1982, 241). For Henry’s Welsh campaign of 1114 see Poole (1955, 287).


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 50: AII, 29, BII, 34, Skald II, 21, NN §3217; Bret 1848-9, II, 56 (Bret st. 118); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 165.


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