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Eddic, Skaldic, and BeyondPoetic Variety in Medieval Iceland and Norway$
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Martin Chase

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823257812

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823257812.001.0001

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The Sources of Merlínússpá: Gunnlaugr Leifsson's Use of Texts Additional to the De gestis Britonum of Geoffrey of Monmouth

The Sources of Merlínússpá: Gunnlaugr Leifsson's Use of Texts Additional to the De gestis Britonum of Geoffrey of Monmouth

Chapter:
(p.16) The Sources of Merlínússpá: Gunnlaugr Leifsson's Use of Texts Additional to the De gestis Britonum of Geoffrey of Monmouth
Source:
Eddic, Skaldic, and Beyond
Author(s):

Russell Poole

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823257812.003.0002

Merlínússpá is an Icelandic verse translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s prose Prophetiae Merlini by Gunnlaugr Leifsson, a Benedictine monk of Þingeyrar who died about 1218. Merlínússpá exists as a text within a text, embedded in the Icelandic translation of De gestis Britonum known as Breta sǫgur, which survives in the Icelandic codex Hauksbók. Russell Poole brings new evidence and offers hypotheses about the composition and context of Merlínússpá. He evaluates J. S. Eysteinsson’s theory that Merlínússpá draws on De gestis Britonum, and shows that while there are instances of correspondence, some of Eysteinsson’s examples are inconclusive and one of them must be discounted. Poole suggests that Merlínússpá is related to other English texts: Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum, William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum Anglorum, and perhaps Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. Merlínússpá appears to be linked to Lincoln and Bishop Robert de Chesney, and Poole considers the possibility of a connection between Lincoln and Iceland. This is Gunnlaugr’s only known poetic work, and his only work in the vernacular: he is otherwise known as an author of historical and hagiographical texts. Poole’s essay shows how nuanced an approach a twelfth-century Icelander could take to British historiography.

Keywords:   Merlínússpá, Prophetiae Merlini, De gestis Britonum, Henry of Huntingdon, Historia Anglorum, William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum, Bede, British historiography, Russell Poole

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