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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Nesjavísur — Sigv NesvI

Sigvatr Þórðarson

Russell Poole 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur’ 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. 555.

 

Fór ór Vík á vári
válaust konungr austan,
— þeir kníðu blô báðir
borð — en jarl kom norðan.
Kannk sigrviðum segja,
sund*, hvé þeira fundir,
œrin skil, þeims ôrum,
at bôrusk, þar skôru.
 
‘The king set forth, without doubt, from the east out of Vík in spring, and the jarl came from the north; they both urged on the black planks. I am able to tell the victory-trees [WARRIORS], those who cut the sea there with their oars, sufficient information as to how their encounters took place.
Veitti sókn, þars sótti,
siklingr firum mikla
— blóð fell rautt á Róða
rein — í hǫfn at Sveini.
Snjallr helt at, sás olli,
eirlaust konungr, þeira,
en Sveins liðar, sínum,
saman bundu skip, fundi.
 
‘The king gave the men a great onslaught, where he advanced into the harbour against Sveinn; blood fell red on the strip of land of Róði <sea-king> [SEA]. The brave king, who brought about their encounter, steered on relentlessly with his [ships], and Sveinn’s supporters tied the ships together.
Þat erumk kunnt, hvé kennir
Karlhǫfða lét jarli
odda frosts fyr austan
Agðir nær of lagðan.
 
‘It is known to me, how the master of the frost of points [BATTLE > WARRIOR] had Karlhǫfði (‘Man-head’) put in position near the jarl to the east of Agder.
Vasa sigmána Sveini
sverða gnýs at frýja,
gjóðs né góðrar hríðar
gunnreifum Ôleifi,
þvít kvistingar kosta
— koma herr í stað verra —
ôttu sín, þars sóttusk
seggir, hvárirtveggja.
 
‘There was no cause [lit. it was not] to reproach Sveinn for the din of swords [BATTLE], nor the battle-glad Óláfr for the good storm of the osprey of the battle-moon [SHIELD > RAVEN/EAGLE > BATTLE], because both parties had to strive for the maiming of each other, where men attacked; the army never came into a worse place.
Teitr, sák okkr í ítru
allvalds liði falla
(gerðisk harðr) of herðar
(hjǫrdynr) svalar brynjur.
En mín at flug fleina
falsk und hjalm inn valska
(okkr vissak svá, sessi,)
svǫrt skǫr (við her gǫrva).
 
‘Teitr, I saw chill mail-shirts fall over the shoulders of us both in the glorious war-band of the mighty ruler; a hard sword-din [BATTLE] was waged. And my black hair hid itself under the Frankish helmet at the flight of barbs [BATTLE]; bench-mate, I knew us both to be thus prepared against the army.
Fekk meira lið miklu
mildr an gløggr til hildar,
hirð þás hugði forðask
heið þjóðkonungs reiði.
En vinlausum vísa
varð, þeim es fé sparði,
— háðisk víg fyr víðum
vangi — þunnt of stangir.
 
‘The generous one [Óláfr] gained a much greater force for the battle than the mean one [Sveinn], when the illustrious retinue thought to escape the wrath of the mighty king. But for the friendless leader [Sveinn], he who scrimped on payment, it became sparse around the standards; war was waged off the broad plain.
Stǫng óð gylld, þars gengum
Gǫndlar serks und merkjum
gnýs, fyr gǫfgum ræsi,
greiðendr á skip reiðir.
Þági vas, sem þessum
þengils, á jó strengjar,
mjǫð, fyr malma kveðju,
mær heiðþegum bæri.
 
‘The gilded standard advanced before the noble king, where we, suppliers of the din of the shirt of Gǫndul <valkyrie> [MAIL-SHIRT > BATTLE > WARRIORS], went enraged onto the ships under the banners. It was not then on the horse of the rope [SHIP], before the greeting of metal weapons [BATTLE], as if a maiden were bringing these retainers of the prince mead.
Vér drifum hvatt, þars heyra
hátt vápnabrak knátti,
— rǫnd klufu roðnir brandar —
reiðir upp á skeiðar.
En fyr borð, þars bǫrðusk,
— búin fengusk skip — gengu
— nár flaut ǫrt við eyri
ófár — búendr sárir.
 
‘We pressed, enraged, keenly up on to the ships, where the loud clash of weapons could be heard; reddened blades split the shield. And wounded farmers went overboard, where they fought; the well-appointed ships were captured; not a few corpses floated swiftly by the land-spit.
Ǫld vann ossa skjǫldu
(auðsætt vas þat) rauða,
(hljóms) þás hvítir kómu
(hringmiðlǫndum) þingat.
Þar hykk ungan gram gǫngu
(gunnsylgs), en vér fylgðum,
(blóðs fekk svǫrr) þars slæðusk
sverð, upp í skip gerðu.
 
‘Men made our shields red, that came there white; that was obvious to the sharers of the sword-clamour [(lit. ‘sword-sharers of clamour’) BATTLE > WARRIORS]. There I think the young king made his advance up on to the ship, where swords were blunted, and we followed; the bird of blood [RAVEN/EAGLE] gained a battle-draught [BLOOD].
Sjalfr bað svartar kylfur
Sveinn harðliga skeina
— nær vas áðr í óra
auðvôn róit hônum —,
þás til góðs, en gjóði
gǫrt fengusk hræ svǫrtum
Yggs, lét herr of hǫggvit
hrafni skeiðar stafna.
 
‘Sveinn himself commanded the black stem-fittings be cut off ruthlessly — previously the rowing was close to him in our expectation of riches —, when [his] army had the stems of the ship hewn off, to the benefit of the raven, and corpses were provided amply for the black osprey of Yggr <= Óðinn> [RAVEN/EAGLE].
Þess getk meir, at missi
morðôrr, sás fór norðan,
harða margr í hǫrðum
heimkvômu styr þeima.
Sǫkk af sunda blakki
sunnu mǫrg til grunna
(satts, at Sveini mœttum)
samknúta (vér úti).
 
‘I declare this, moreover, that very many a battle-envoy [WARRIOR], who travelled from the north, will be missing out on his homecoming in that hard battle. Many a one joined with the sun sank from the dark steed of the sounds [SHIP] to the bottom; true it is, that we met Sveinn offshore.
Frýrat oss í ári
innþrœnzk, þótt lið minna,
— gǫrt hugðak svá — snertu
snotr mær, konungs væri.
Brúðr mun heldr at háði
hafa drótt, þás framm sótti,
— fold ruðum skers — ef skyldi,
skeggi, aðratveggju.
 
‘The wise inner-Trøndelag maiden does not reproach us for our effort in a hurry, although the king’s force was less; I thought so decidedly. The woman will rather hold in derision the company that lunged forward with their beards, if she should [deride] one or the other; we reddened the land of the skerry [SEA].
Né hœfilig, hreifa,
hykk dróttinssvik þóttu,
elds, þeims allvel heldu
orð sín, viðir, forðum.
 
‘I do not think, trees of the fire of the hand [GOLD > MEN], betrayal of one’s lord seemed becoming to those who kept their word very well in the past.
Afli vex, þvít efla
Upplendingar sendi
— Sveinn, funduð þat — þenna
þilblakks konung vilja.
Raun es hins, at Heinir
(hrælinns) megu vinna
(þeir œxla frør) fleira
fjǫlrekks an ǫl drekka.
 
‘[His] strength increases, because the Upplendingar want to support this launcher of the plank-horse [SHIP > SEAFARER = Óláfr] as king; Sveinn, you discovered that. There is proof of this, that the Heinir can do more than drink the ale of the man with many warriors; they augment the frost of the corpse-snake [SWORD > BATTLE].
Hirð Ôleifs vann harða
hríð, en svá varðk bíða
(peitneskum feltk) páska,
palmsunnudag (hjalmi).
 
‘Óláfr’s following won a hard battle on Palm Sunday, and thus I had to await Easter; I put on a Poitou-made helmet.
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