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Runic Dictionary

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

3. Austrfararvísur (Austv) - 21

Sigvatr or Sighvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) is said (ÍF 27, 54) to have been the son of Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld ‘Poet of Sigvaldi’, an Icelander who served, in succession, Sigvaldi jarl Strút-Haraldsson, leader of the Jómsvíkingar, his brother Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’, who campaigned in England, and Óláfr Haraldsson, later king of Norway (r. c. 1015-30) and saint. Þórðr is listed as one of Sigvaldi’s skalds in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 259, 268), but none of his poetry survives. The family tradition of poetry can also be traced in Óttarr svarti ‘the Black’, said to have been Sigvatr’s sister’s son (ÍF 27, 144; ÓH 1941, I, 203). Sigvatr was brought up by a certain Þorkell, at Apavatn in south-west Iceland. When nearly fully grown he sailed to what is now Trondheim, where he met up with his father and joined King Óláfr’s retinue. According to Snorri (ÍF 27, 54-6; ÓH 1941, I, 81-3), Sigvatr recited Lv 2-3 at this time, and he interceded with the king on behalf of Icelandic merchants forced to pay a heavy tax in Norway (cf. Sigv Lv 4). It is also likely that this is when Þórðr provided Sigvatr with the material for Víkv (see Introduction to Sigv Víkv), which may be the poem referred to in the prose introduction to Sigv Lv 2 (Fidjestøl 1982, 118). There is no evidence that Sigvatr ever returned to Iceland, and according to the anecdote in which Sigv Lv 11 is preserved, he died on the island of Selja in north-western Norway and was buried at Kristskirkja (Kristkirken) in Trondheim. His poetry records his various journeys to Sweden, England and the Continent, as well as incidents in Norway. We know nothing of Sigvatr’s private life, except that he had a daughter called Tófa, who had King Óláfr himself as her godfather (Sigv Lv 19).

Sigvatr’s surviving poetic oeuvre is both large and remarkably diverse, encompassing different kinds of encomia not only on King Óláfr (Sigv Víkv, Sigv Nesv, Sigv Óldr, Sigv ErfÓl), but also on King Knútr of Denmark (Sigv Knútdr) and the Norwegian nobleman Erlingr Skjálgsson (Sigv Erl, Sigv Erlfl). Sigvatr was godfather to King Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson and composed some avuncular words of advice to the boy-king (Sigv BervII). All of these patrons are recognised in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 252-4, 258, 260-2, 269), where Sigvatr is also credited with having composed for the Swedish king Ǫnundr Óláfsson (although no such poetry survives, cf. Sigv Knútdr 4/6) and the Norwegian chieftain Ívarr inn hvíti ‘the White’ (cf. Context to Sigv Lv 8). Sigvatr also composed a poem on the Norwegian pretender Tryggvi Óláfsson (Sigv Tryggfl) and is unique in having composed in dróttkvætt in praise of a woman, Óláfr Haraldsson’s widow Ástríðr Óláfsdóttir (Sigv Ást). Several of Sigvatr’s poems are more or less loosely connected sequences of stanzas rather than more formal compositions, and encompass both travelogue (Sigv Austv) and political commentary (Sigv Vestv, Sigv BervII). The latter genre is also well represented in his lausavísur, which also include some remarkably personal stanzas expressing his grief at the death of King Óláfr (Sigv Lv 22-4). Sigvatr’s status as a hǫfuðskáld ‘chief skald’ was recognised in the twelfth century (cf. Esk Geisl 12/8VII). His versatility as a poet has clearly inspired a number of anecdotes focusing on the composition of poetry, mostly of doubtful authenticity (cf. Contexts to Sigv Lv 1, 8, 11, 27; also Introduction to Ótt Hfl). Apart from two fragments preserved in SnE (Sigv Frag 1-2III), Sigvatr’s poetry is transmitted in a wide range of texts within the tradition of the kings’ sagas and is therefore edited in this volume or (in the case of the late Sigv Berv) in SkP II. For general studies of Sigvatr’s life and works, see Paasche (1917), Hollander (1940) and Petersen (1946).

Austrfararvísur (‘Verses on a Journey to the East’) — Sigv AustvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur’ 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. 578. <> (accessed 25 June 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 3. Austrfararvísur, 1019 (AI, 233-40, BI, 220-5)

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Hkr, ÓH, ÓHHkr

SkP info: I, 578

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


1 Hugstóra biðk heyra
hressfœrs jǫfurs, þessar
— þolðak vás — hvé vísur,
verðung, of fǫr gerðak.
Sendr vask upp af ǫndrum
austr (svafk fátt í hausti)
til Svíþjóðar (síðan)
svanvangs í fǫr langa.
I ask the mighty-hearted retinue of the energetic ruler [Óláfr] to hear how I composed these verses about a journey; I endured hardship. I was sent up from the skis of the swan-plain [SEA > SHIPS] on a long journey east to Sweden; I slept little after that in the autumn.
2 Létk til Eiðs, þvít óðumk
aptrhvarf, dreginn karfa
(vér stiltum svá) valtan
vátr (til glœps á báti).
Taki hlœgiskip hauga
herr; sákat far verra;
létk til húms á hrúti
hætt; fór betr an vættak.
Wet, I had the unsteady vessel dragged to Eið, because I dreaded turning back; we had managed so badly in the boat. May the host of burial mounds [TROLLS] take the laughable ship; I never saw a worse craft; I courted danger on the ram of the sea [SHIP]; it went better than I had expected.
3 Vasa fý*st, es rannk rastir
reiðr of skóg frá Eiðum
— menn of veit, at mœttum
meini — tolf ok eina.
Hykka fót án flekkum
— fell sár á il hvára —
— hvast gengum þó þingat
þann dag — konungsmǫnnum.
It was not [my] desire when I ran, angry, twelve leagues and one through the forest from Eiðar; people know that we met with harm. I think not a foot of the king’s men was without sores; a wound landed on each sole; still, we travelled keenly there that day.
4 Réðk til Hofs at hœfa;
hurð vas aptr, en spurðumk
— inn settak nef nenninn
niðrlútt — fyrir útan.
Orð gatk fæst af fyrðum,
(flǫgð baðk) en þau sǫgðu
— hnekkðumk heiðnir rekkar —
heilagt (við þau deila).
I resolved to aim for Hof; the door was barred, but I made enquiries from outside; resolute, I stuck my down-bent nose in. I got very little response from the people, but they said [it was] holy; the heathen men drove me off; I bade the ogresses bandy words with them.
5 ‘Gakkat inn,’ kvað ekkja,
‘armi drengr, en lengra;
hræðumk ek við Óðins
— erum heiðin vér — reiði.’
Rýgr kvazk inni eiga
óþekk, sús mér hnekkði,
alfablót, sem ulfi
ótvín, í bœ sínum.
‘Do not come any farther in, wretched fellow’, said the woman; ‘I fear the wrath of Óðinn; we are heathen.’ The disagreeable female, who drove me away like a wolf without hesitation, said they were holding a sacrifice to the elves inside her farmhouse.
6 Nú hafa hnekkt, þeirs hnakka
(heinflets) við mér settu,
(þeygi bella þollar)
þrír samnafnar (tíri).
Þó séumk hitt, at hlœðir
hafskíðs myni síðan
út, hverrs Ǫlvir heitir,
alls mest, reka gesti.
Now three namesakes have driven [me] away, they who turned their backs on me; not at all do the firs of the whetstone-platform [SWORD > MEN] display praiseworthiness. However, I fear this above all, that every loader of the ocean-ski [SHIP > SEAFARER] who is named Ǫlvir will henceforth chase strangers away.
7 Fórk at finna bôru
— fríðs vættak mér — síðan
brjót, þanns bragnar létu,
bliks, vildastan miklu.
Grefs leit við mér gætir
gerstr; þás illr inn versti,
— lítt reiðik þó lýða
lǫst — ef sjás inn bazti.
I went afterwards to find a breaker of the gleam of the wave [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN], one whom warriors counted by far the most excellent; for myself I expected something fine. The minder of the hoe [FARMER] looked at me annoyed; then the worst is bad [indeed], if this is the best; yet I broadcast people’s faults little.
8 Mista ek fyr austan
Eiðaskóg á leiðu
Ôstu bús, es æstak
ókristinn hal vistar.
Ríks fannka son Saxa;
saðr vas engr fyrir þaðra
(út vask eitt kveld heitinn)
inni (fjórum sinnum).
I missed [felt the want of] Ásta’s farm on the way east of Eidskogen when I asked the unchristian man for lodging. I did not meet the son of powerful Saxi; no truth was present in that place; I was ordered out four times in one evening.
9 Kátr vask opt, þás úti
ǫrðigt veðr á fjǫrðum
vísa segl í vási
vindblásit skóf Strinda.
Hestr óð kafs at kostum;
kilir ristu men Lista,
út þás eisa létum
undan skeiðr at sundi.
I was often cheerful when a harsh wind out in the fjords raked the wind-blown sail of the ruler of the Strindir [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr] in a drenching storm. The horse of the deep [SHIP] advanced at a fine pace; the keels cleft the necklace of Lista [SEA] when we let the warships dash away out at sea.
10 Snjalls létum skip skolla
skjǫldungs við ey tjǫlduð
fyr ágætu úti
ǫndvert sumar landi.
Enn í haust, es hestar
hagþorns á mó sporna
(ték ýmissar) Ekkils,
(íðir) hlýtk at ríða.
We let the ship of the valiant monarch [Óláfr] skulk with its awnings up at the beginning of summer out by an island opposite some excellent country. But it is my lot to ride in autumn, when the horses of Ekkill <sea-king> [SHIPS] tread on the hawthorn’s moor [LAND]; I report various doings.
11 Jór rinnr aptanskœru
allsvangr gǫtur langar;
vǫll kná hófr til hallar
— hǫfum lítinn dag — slíta.
Nús, þats blakkr of bekki
berr mik Dǫnum ferri;
fákr laust drengs í díki
— dœgr mœtask nú — fœti.
[My] famished steed runs on the long tracks in the twilight; the hoof can tear the ground on the way to the hall; we have little daylight. Now it is that [my] dark mount carries me over streams far from the Danes; the good fellow’s [my] charger struck with its foot [stumbled] in a ditch; night and day meet now.
12 Út munu ekkjur líta,
allsnúðula, prúðar,
— fljóð séa reyk — hvar ríðum
Rǫgnvalds í bý gǫgnum.
Keyrum hross, svát heyri
harða langt at garði
hesta rôs ór húsum
hugsvinn kona innan.
Fine ladies will look out where we ride very quickly through Rǫgnvaldr’s town; the women will see the dust-cloud. Let’s spur our horses so that a wise-minded woman may hear [our] steeds’ race to the manor at a very great distance from inside the buildings.
13 Átt hafa sér, þeirs sóttu,
sendimenn fyr hendi
Sygna grams, með sagnir
siklinga, fǫr mikla.
Spǫrðumk fæst, en fyrða
fǫng eru stór við gǫngu;
vǫrðr réð nýtr, þvís norðan,
Nóregs, þinig fórum.
The messengers of the lord of the Sygnir [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr], who sought out lords with messages, have had a big journey on their hands. I spared myself very little, but men’s baggage is large along the way; the able guardian of Norway [= Óláfr] determined that we went from the north in that direction.
14 Drjúggenginn vas drengjum
— drengr magnar lof þengils —
austr til jǫfra þrýstis
Eiðaskógr á leiðu.
Skyldit mér, áðr mildan
minn dróttin komk finna,
hlunns af hilmis runnum
hnekkt dýrloga bekkjar.
Eidskogen was a long slog for the good fellows on the way east to the compeller of princes [RULER = Rǫgnvaldr]; the good fellow [I] strengthens the praise of the lord. I should not have been driven off by the bushes of the precious flame of the bench of the launcher [SEA > GOLD > MEN] of the ruler before I arrived to find my generous lord.
15 Oss hafa augu þessi
íslenzk, kona, vísat
brattan stíg at baugi
bjǫrtum langt in svǫrtu.
Sjá hefr, mjǫð-Nanna, manni
mínn ókunnar þínum
fótr á fornar brautir
fulldrengila gengit.
These black Icelandic eyes have shown us [me], woman, a steep path a long way to a bright ring. This foot of mine has walked most bravely on ancient ways, unknown to your husband, mead-Nanna <goddess> [WOMAN].
16 Búa hilmis sal hjǫlmum
hirðmenn, þeirs svan grenna
(hér sék) bens, ok brynjum
(beggja kost á veggjum).
Því á ungr konungr engi
— ygglaust es þat — dyggra
húsbúnaði at hrósa;
hǫll es dýr með ǫllu.
Courtiers, who feed the swan of the wound [RAVEN/EAGLE], decorate the hall of the ruler with helmets and mail-shirts; here I see the choicest of both on the walls. And so no young king has worthier hangings to boast of; that is without a doubt; the hall is costly in every respect.
17 Létk við yðr, es ítran,
Ôleifr, hugat môlum
rétt, es ríkan hittak
Rǫgnvald, konungr, haldit.
Deildak môl ins milda,
malma vǫrðr, í gǫrðum
harða mǫrg; né heyrðak
heiðmanns tǫlur greiðri.
I kept conscientiously, precisely, to the arrangements with you, King Óláfr, when [I met with] the excellent, when I met with the powerful Rǫgnvaldr. I dealt with very many arrangements in the courts of the generous one, guardian of metal weapons [WARRIOR = Óláfr]; I have not heard more loyal speeches of a tributary [Rǫgnvaldr].
18 Þik bað, sólar søkkvir,
sínn halda vel, Rínar,
hvern, es hingat árnar,
húskarl nefi jarla.
Enn, hverrs austr vill sinna,
— jafnvíst es þat — Lista
þengill, þínna drengja,
þar á hald und Rǫgnvaldi.
The kinsman of jarls [JARL = ? Rǫgnvaldr] bade you, sinker of the sun of the Rhine [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN], treat well each housecarl of his who wanders this way. And each of your good fellows who wishes to travel east, prince of Lista [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr], will have support there from Rǫgnvaldr; that is equally certain.
19 Folk réð of sik, fylkir,
flest, es ek kom vestan,
ætt sem áðr of hvatti
Eireks svika þeira.
En, þvít jarla frænda
eins þats tókt af Sveini,
yðr, kveðk jǫrð es nôðuð,
Ulfs bróður lið stóðusk.
Most people considered their options, chieftain, when I came from the west, as the kinsman of Eiríkr [?= Sveinn] earlier had incited [them] to that treason. But I declare that you got hold of the land only because the troop of the jarls’ kinsman [= Eilífr], Úlfr’s brother [= Eilífr], which you took away from Sveinn, supported you.
20 Spakr lét Ulfr meðal ykkar,
Ôleifr, tekit môlum
— þétt fengum svǫr — sátta
— sakar leggið it — beggja.
Þér lét, þjófa rýrir,
þær, sem engar væri
riptar reknar heiptir,
Rǫgnvaldr gefit, aldar.
Wise Úlfr caused to be adopted the peace proposals between you both, Óláfr; we [I] received watertight replies; you two are putting aside conflict. Rǫgnvaldr caused those [conflicts] to be conceded to you, destroyer of the race of thieves [JUST RULER = Óláfr], as if no enmity on account of treaty-breaking had been perpetrated.
21 Fast skalt, ríkr, við ríkan
Rǫgnvald, konungr, halda
— hann es þýðr at þinni
þǫrf nôtt ok dag — sôttum.
Þann veitk, þinga kennir,
þik baztan vin miklu
á austrvega eiga
allt með grœnu salti.
You must, powerful king, hold fast this covenant with the powerful Rǫgnvaldr; he is well-disposed to your needs night and day. In him I know you, master of assemblies [RULER], to have by far the best friend in the east all along the green brine.
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