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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 54VIII (Bret 122)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 122 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 54)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 91.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

text and translation

‘Þá munu gumnar         gráta á nóttum
ok þjóð gera         þægjar bœnir.
Þá munu hǫlðar         til himins kosta;
fá it langa líf         lǫfðar nýtir.

‘Þá gumnar munu gráta á nóttum ok þjóð gera þægjar bœnir. Þá munu hǫlðar kosta til himins; nýtir lǫfðar fá it langa líf.
‘‘Then men will weep at night and people will say acceptable prayers. Then men will strive after heaven; worthy men will obtain the long life.

notes and context

Cf. DGB 113 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 149.87-9; cf. Wright 1988, 104, prophecies 12 and 13): Nocturnis lacrimis madebit insula, unde omnes ad omnia prouocabuntur. Nitentur posteri transuolare superna, sed fauor nouorum sublimabitur ‘The island shall be soaked in nightly tears, and so all men will be provoked to all things. Their progeny will try to fly beyond the heavens, but the favour of new men will be raised up’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 148). The prophecy describes the reaction of the British people to the atrocities described in the previous stanza. Following this, two paragraphs of prophecy in Geoffrey’s text (13, except for its first sentence, and 14) have no counterpart in Merl (cf. Bret 1848-9), possibly because of loss of stanzas in the transmission of Merl. There is likewise no counterpart in Merl to the added sentence Vae tibi Neustria, quia cerebrum leonis in te … a patrio solo eliminabitur ‘Woe to thee, Neustria [Normandy], … for the brain of the lion in thee … will be banished from its native soil’ found in mss Y and G, whose claims to authenticity remain unresolved (Reeve and Wright 2007, 149 n. to l. 88). — [7-8]: If nýtir ‘worthy’ is correct, Gunnlaugr appears to sidestep Geoffrey’s politically charged comment about ‘new men’ (see Note to I 51 [All]) in favour of a pious sentiment that ‘worthy men’ go on to the eternal (lit. ‘long’) life in heaven.


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 54: AII, 29, BII, 35, Skald II, 22; Bret 1848-9, II, 57-8 (Bret st. 122); Hb 1892-6, 280; Merl 2012, 169.


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