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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 30VIII (Bret 98)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 98 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 30)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 68.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

‘Líðr byskups stóll         Lundúnum ór
í ina breiðu         borg Kantara.
Ok langa tígn         Légíónum
taka mun in mæta         Menelógía.

‘Stóll byskups líðr ór Lundúnum í ina breiðu Kantaraborg. Ok in mæta Menelógía mun taka langa tígn Légíónum.

‘The bishop’s seat will move from London to the broad Canterbury. And the splendid Menelogia will take over the long-held distinction of Caerleon.

Mss: Hb(51v) (Bret)

Editions: Skj AII, 26, Skj BII, 30, Skald II, 19; Bret 1848-9, II, 48-9 (Bret st. 98); Hb 1892-6, 279; Merl 2012, 149-50.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 112 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 145.46-7, 48-9; cf. Wright 1988, 102, prophecy 3): et transmutacio primarum sedium fiet. Dignitas Lundoniae adornabit Doroberniam … Meneuia pallio Vrbis Legionum induetur ‘and archbishoprics will be displaced. London’s honour will adorn Canterbury … St David’s [sic] will wear the pallium of Caerleon’ (Reeve and Wright 2007, 144). London is described by Geoffrey as the seat of an archbishop in Romano-British times (DGB VI: Reeve and Wright 2007, 112-3; cf. Tatlock 1950, 264). The existence of a see of Caerleon and its pre-eminence in Britain before the arrival of the Saxons appear to be inventions on Geoffrey’s part (Tatlock 1950, 264-5, 266). Geoffrey recounts the death of David, archbishop of Caerleon, at Menevia (Welsh Mynyw), subsequently St Davids (Welsh Tyddewi) in DGB XI (Reeve and Wright 2007, 254-5). The prophecy appears to foreshadow the expression of Welsh aspirations to restore this see to the status of an archbishopric (cf. Tatlock 1950, 266, 415; Curley 1982, 220, 223; see II 16 Note to [All]). As noted in Bret 1848-9, two other locations mentioned in Geoffrey’s text, York and Ireland, are not represented in Merl, at least as extant. — [4] Kantaraborg ‘Canterbury’: Lit. ‘city of the Kentish people’. Kantaraborg is the normal Old Norse name for Canterbury, here as elsewhere with the elements reversed in order to conform to the requirements of alliteration; cf. Ótt Hfl 10/4I and Note there. — [6] Légíónum ‘of Caerleon’: Latin ‘of the legions’. Gunnlaugr retains the Latin gen. pl. form. — [8] Menelógía ‘Menelogia’: In the form menologion, pl. menologia this is a term for a Greek Orthodox calendar of saints’ lives (OED: menologion), but here evidently used in error for the perhaps unfamiliar p. n. Menevia, ‘St Davids’. The error is unlikely to be Gunnlaugr’s, given the general high level of his Latinity. As the reading is unrefreshed it can be added to the list of probable errors already present in Hb. Bret 1848-9 emends to Menevia accordingly but Skj B retains, as do Merl 2012 and the present edn. (LP, presumably in error also, records the Latin name as Menovia.)


  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. OED = Murray, J. A. H. et al., eds. 1884-1928. The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon. 2nd edn 1989. Simpson, J. A. and E. S. C. Weiner, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  6. Hb 1892-6 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1892-6. Hauksbók udgiven efter de Arnamagnæanske håndskrifter no. 371, 544 og 675, 4° samt forskellige papirshåndskrifter. Copenhagen: Det kongelige nordiske oldskrift-selskab.
  7. Bret 1848-9 = Jón Sigurðsson. 1848-9. ‘Trójumanna saga ok Breta sögur, efter Hauksbók, med dansk Oversættelse’. ÅNOH 1848, 3-215; 1849, 3-145.
  8. 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.
  9. Tatlock, J. S. P. 1950. The Legendary History of Britain. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  10. Wright, Neil, ed. 1988. The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth. II. The First Variant Version: A Critical Edition. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  11. Curley, Michael J. 1982. ‘A New Edition of John of Cornwall’s Prophetia Merlini’. Speculum, 217-49.
  12. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.
  13. Internal references
  14. 2017, ‘(Introduction to) Unattributed, Breta saga’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 38.
  15. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 10’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 753.
  16. Not published: do not cite (HemII)
  17. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Hauksbók (Hb)’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. clxvi.

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