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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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GunnLeif Merl I 70VIII (Bret 138)

Russell Poole (ed.) 2017, ‘Breta saga 138 (Gunnlaugr Leifsson, Merlínusspá I 70)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 106.

Gunnlaugr LeifssonMerlínusspá I

‘Yppir fjǫllum         fljótt Valbreta;
munu Brútus þau         bera kórónu.
Grœnask ǫflgar         eikr Kornbreta;
fagnar slíku         fús Kambría.

‘Yppir fljótt fjǫllum Valbreta; þau munu bera kórónu Brútus. Ǫflgar eikr Kornbreta grœnask; fús Kambría fagnar slíku.

‘The mountains of French Britons will be swiftly raised up; they will bear the crown of Brutus. The mighty oaks of the Cornish Britons will grow green; eager Cambria rejoices at that.

Mss: Hb(52r) (Bret)

Readings: [2] fljótt: ‘fljot’ Hb;    Valbreta: valbreka Hb

Editions: Skj AII, 31-2, Skj BII, 38, Skald II, 24; Bret 1848-9, II, 63 (Bret st. 138); Hb 1892-6, 281; Merl 2012, 182-3.

Notes: [All]: Cf. DGB 115 (Reeve and Wright 2007, 149.112-13; cf. Wright 1988, 105, prophecy 20): tunc erumpent Armorici montes et diademate Bruti coronabuntur. Replebitur Kambria laeticia, et robora Cornubiae uirescent ‘then the hills of Brittany will burst forth and be crowned with Brutus’ diadem. Wales will be filled with rejoicing and the Cornish oaks will flourish’ (cf. Reeve and Wright 2007, 148). Geoffrey envisages an assumption of monarchical power in the British Isles on the part of the returning Bretons (cf. I 63) to the satisfaction of the British still resident in Wales and Cornwall. — [1] yppir ‘will be … raised up’: Lit. ‘there is … a raising’: From yppa ‘raise, lift up’, used impersonally. — [2] Valbreta ‘of French Britons’: Meaning ‘Bretons, Armoricans’, in apparent contrast to Kornbreta (gen. pl.) ‘Cornish Britons’ in l. 6. Emended by Scheving (as reported in Bret 1848-9) from ms. valbreka (not refreshed). Confusion between letters c and t is not uncommon and this emendation gives excellent agreement with Geoffrey’s text, since the phrase fjǫllum Valbreta corresponds neatly to Armorici montes. For the formation, compare Kornbretar ‘Cornish Bretons’ (cf. II 16/2), paraphrasing Geoffrey’s Cornubiae. Both may have been nonce-terms devised by Gunnlaugr, but Val- ‘French’ was a long-established element in the cpd Valland ‘France’, properly ‘Normandy and the lower Seine region’ (Foote 1975, 69) but extendable to other regions (cf. Sigv Víkv 6I, Note to l. 5). Bret 1848-9 and Skj B (the latter followed by Skald and Merl 2012) retain the ms. reading and explain it as part of a kenning fljót valbreka ‘river of the corpse-wave [BLOOD]’. In Bret 1848-9, ll. 1-2 are translated Fjelden hæver Valflodens Ström ‘the stream of the corpse-flood raises the mountains’ (cf. Skj B and LP: fljót). But this does not sit well with Finnur’s construal of yppir as impersonal (cf. LP: yppa) and altogether the sense is both inferior in itself and discrepant from the Latin, which has nothing to say about rivers raising mountains. For discussion of evident errors in Hb see Introduction. — [3] Brútus ‘of Brutus’: Latin nom. form, used with gen. function (cf. I 53/12, 72/4). Brutus is mentioned by virtue of his supposed status as the eponymous founder of the British people, as implied in the next stanza (cf. DGB I 21.459-60: Reeve and Wright 2007, 28-9); the Bretons are said to take on his crown because it is they who are asserting ancient British rights on behalf of all British peoples. — [6] Kornbreta ‘of the Cornish Britons’: This is the first explicit naming of the Cornish people (or Cornwall) in Merl as extant.


  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. Foote, Peter G. 1975. ‘Aachen, Lund, Hólar’. In Les relations littéraires Franco-Scandinaves au moyen âge: Actes du Colloque de Liège (avril 1972). Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres de l’Université de Liège 208. Paris: Société d’Editions ‘Les Belles Lettres’, 53-75. Rpt. in Foote 1984a, 101-20.
  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. Wright, Neil, ed. 1988. The Historia Regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth. II. The First Variant Version: A Critical Edition. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  10. Merl 2012 = Horst, Simone, ed. 2012. Merlínússpá. Merlins Prophezeiung. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag.
  11. Internal references
  12. 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.
  13. Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 6’ 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. 541.

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