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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 69VIII (Bret 137)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 137 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 69)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 105.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

‘Falla fyrðar         í fleindrífu;
verðr enskri þjóð         aldrspell skipat.
Es vǫllr roðinn         en víg boðin;
hlýtr hôvan sigr         helmingr Breta.

‘Fyrðar falla í {fleindrífu}; aldrspell verðr skipat enskri þjóð. Vǫllr es roðinn en víg boðin; helmingr Breta hlýtr hôvan sigr.

‘Men will fall in {the arrow-blizzard} [BATTLE]; loss of life will be allotted for the English people. The field will be stained red and killing proffered; the forcè of Britons will win a great victory.

Mss: Hb(52r) (Bret)

Editions: Skj AII, 31, Skj BII, 38, Skald II, 24Bret 1848-9, II, 63 (Bret st. 137); Hb 1892-6, 281; Merl 2012, 182.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 115 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 149.111; cf. Wright 1988, 105, prophecy 20): Tunc erit strages alienigenarum ‘Then there will be a slaughter of foreigners’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 148). — [6] en ‘and’: Lines 5-6 comprise two parallel clauses joined by en ‘and’. Merl 2012 interprets as adv. enn, translated as wiederum ‘again’. This reading is ruled out, however, as l. 6 would then require a finite verb in metrical position 2. — [6] víg ‘killing’: The heiti can mean either ‘killing’ or ‘battle’ and it is often difficult to distinguish between these senses (cf. LP: víg), but context in this passage seems to suggest the former. Bret 1848-9 has Slagmarken den röde bedækkes af Döde ‘the red battlefield is covered with the dead’ (an atypically free translation, perhaps intended to match the end-rhyme in the original) and Skj B mandefald sker ‘slaughter of men occurs’.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  5. Bret 1848-9 = Jón Sigurðsson. 1848-9. ‘Trójumanna saga ok Breta sögur, efter Hauksbók, med dansk Oversættelse’. ÅNOH 1848, 3-215; 1849, 3-145.
  6. Reeve, Michael D., and Neil Wright. 2007. Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain. An Edition and Translation of De gestis Britonum [Historia regum Britanniae]. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  7. Wright, Neil, ed. 1988. The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth. II. The First Variant Version: A Critical Edition. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  8. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.
  9. Internal references
  10. 2017, ‘ Unattributed, Breta saga’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38. <> (accessed 21 September 2021)

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